Module Catalogue 2021/22

LAS4001 : Inter-American Relations from the Spanish-American War (1898) to the end of the Cold War (1989/1991)

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Jens R Hentschke
  • Owning School: Modern Languages
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



In consonance with the degrees offered in the SML, this module aims:
•       to build on skills and knowledge gained at Stage 1.
•       to provide students with an in-depth knowledge of Inter-American Relations in the ‘short 20th century’ or the ‘age of extremes’ with its lasting legacies.
•       to prepare students for for postgraduate study in the areas of Political Science/International Relations, Late Modern and Contemporary History and Politics, and Socio-Cultural Studies.
•       to make aspects of the above available to students from outside the degree.

The main purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to Inter-American relations in the 20th century, to understand the long-term consequences of U.S. foreign policy until the present time, and to combine three approaches:
a) International Relations Theory: you should understand the major paradigms, or normative ideas, and the inter-paradigmatic ‘Great Debates’ shaping this field and American foreign policy in the 20th century. Furthermore, you should recognise these ideas in political doctrines.
b) Historical Method of analysis and assessment of documents: you will get copies of primary sources in English, which reveal the objectives of U.S. foreign policy and the positions of Latin Americans.
c) Empirical case studies: you will test major theories, doctrines, development aid programmes, etc. by exploring some key events in U.S.-Latin American relations on the basis of the literature.

You will learn about the continuities (constant reinterpretations of the Monroe doctrine) and discontinuities (shift from isolationism to internationalism) in U.S. policy towards Latin America and get an idea of the cyclical character of inter-American relations. Periods of ‘realist’ (or even imperialist) US foreign policies and those of Washington’s benign neglect of Latin America have regularly replaced each other. The same applies to a U.S.-dominated Pan-Americanism and an integration of Latin American countries without or against, the U.S. (Latin Americanism).

Outline Of Syllabus

The course will cover the following topics and case studies:

Week 1: Intro to Course and Inter-American Relations

Weeks 2-8 (Core):
Doctrinal Foundations of U.S. Foreign Policy in the Era of Revolution and Territorial Expansion (Latin American Independence, Mexican – American War) and Impact of America’s Economic Expansion (British Guayanan – Venezuelan border dispute);
Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘Big Stick’ (Spanish-American War, Panamá Canal Question) and Taft’s ‘Dollar Diplomacy’ (Dominican Republic);
Wilson’s ‘Watchful Waiting’ (Mexican Revolution) and F.D.Roosevelt’s ‘Good Neighbour’ Policy (Cuban Revolution of 1933, Nationalisation of Mexican Oil);
New Pan-Americanism but Benign Neglect of Latin America (OAS and Guatemalan Revolution) and Challenges to the New Pan-Americanism (Cuban Revolution of 1959);
‘Alliance for Progress’ and Benign Hegemony (Dominican Republic and Pinochet’s coup in Chile) and Carter’s Détente and Human Rights Policy (New Panamá Canal Treaties);
Reagan’s Return to Intervention (Nicaraguan Revolution), and End of the Cold War and Clinton’s Liberal Approach (‘Humanitarian Intervention’ in Haití).

Week 9: Round-up and materials Essay writing

The course will be taught and assessed in English.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

At the end of this module you will have gained a knowledge of:

Within the context of a general understanding of U.S. and Latin American history, politics, and society during the 20th century, you will gain knowledge of:
1)       the development of Inter-American relations in the 20th century and their interpretation by historians and social scientists
2)       the American Creed and the tensions between Pan-Americanism and latinoamericanismo (tercermundismo)
3)       key concepts of U.S. foreign and security policy and their application to specific test cases in Latin America
4)       continuities and discontinuities, the cyclical character, and the long-term impact of U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America
5)       fundamental concepts of International Relations Theory, combined with Historical Method and empirical case study analysis
6)       how past experiences in inter-American relations still shape the present in an ambivalent way (NISR-SCT: ‘The Past within the Present’)

Intended Skill Outcomes

By the end of this module, you will have strengthened the following cognitive and intellectual skills
1. applying your digital skills
2. taking notes efficiently
3. the close reading of texts
4. the analysis of (printed) primary sources
5. applying an analytical and comparative approach to historical subjects
6. appropriate case study selection
7. elaborating answers to pre-set questions and defend your own arguments
8. commenting on other students'arguments
9. presenting a concise essay plan

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials141:0014:00Asynchronous: Lecture materials Introduction to course in broader context: 2h Core Lectures: 12h
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion301:0030:00Preparations for the class test and final assessment
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading63:0018:00Reading of primary sources and watching of film material; guided by application of Historical Method
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching61:006:00PiP - 6 seminars (one on each teaching block)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops91:009:00PiP - 1 on planning; 2 on assessment feedback and preparation; 6 on primary source analysis
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00Synchronous online sessions – academic mentoring and tutoring
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1119:00119:00Writing up notes; preparation for presentations; general reading; revision
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

In the planning session, students will be introduced to the intellectual and organisational design of the course, learn about the applied teaching methods and how to analyse primary sources, and hear about the formative and summative assessments. This will be followed by an material that highlights the history of Area Studies and International Relations, both born out of the ashes of World War I in North America, and the relation of these fields to the systematic disciplines. Students will then learn about the similarities and divergences in the historical and contemporary development of the approximately 30 nations of Latin America and thereby better understand the regional case studies that this course includes. Finally, they will be pointed to the significance of the ‘short twentieth century’ for explaining the current, ambiguous relationship between the US and Latin America. The core of the module focuses on six major periods of transformation in inter-American relations and explores the causes for critical realignments in the US, the doctrinal and policy changes they generated, and the effects they had on Latin America. When researching exemplary test cases, the interaction between the US and Latin America will be foregrounded. Lectures will allow definition of the scope of the syllabus, an introduction to key terms and cases, and modelling of the analysis required. Workshops and tutoring sessions will give students the opportunity to train hermeneutic skills in the interpretation of documentaries and key primary sources, while the seminars will help them consolidate their knowledge and apply a comparative approach. The last week is dedicated to a round-up of the course and guidance with regard to the assessment.

In case PIP teaching were not possible in general or for this module leader workshops, seminars, and drop-ins take place in synchronous remote form.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination601M30In-class test on factual questions and an extract from a primary source.
Written Examination1201A70Students answer 1 of 6 questions.
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation1MStudents will give individual or group presentations on real exam/essay questions from previous years.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Summative assessments: In the in-class test, students should demonstrate both core knowledge of Inter-American Relations, acquired in lectures, and the ability to historically place and briefly criticise a textual extract, trained in the workshops. The formal written exam will allow them to convey good understanding of at least one broader period previously studied in a whole teaching block. They will have the opportunity to apply their knowledge to specific cases. This form of assessment provides an occasion to practice written communication as well as analytical and problem-solving skills.

Formative assessment: Presentations on the ‘real’ exam/essay questions of the previous year have become a longstanding and well-received practice. They act as a mock, and students then know exactly what type of questions they can expect in the summative assessment and that they should focus on an overarching thesis and operationalise it.

Alternative assessments: The class-test could become a 24 taking-home exam but would then have to exclude the factual questions; students would just analyse the extract from the primary source in 500 words. The written examination would become an essay of 2,500 words.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes

This course introduces students to inter-American relations during the ‘short twentieth century’, or the ‘age of extremes’. In an introductory block, students will learn about the American Creed, the political philosophy of the founding fathers, and its translation into foreign policy during the phases of territorial and economic expansion in the nineteenth century, especially with regard to Latin America’s independence from Spain and Portugal, the Mexican-American War, and the fin-de-siècle trade expansion towards the Caribbean. The core of the module will analyse the development of inter-American Relations from the Spanish-American War to the end of the Cold War. This includes the era of imperialism, with the formation of US protectorates in the Greater Caribbean; the ambiguous policy of Woodrow Wilson with regard to Mexico and Haiti; Franklin D. Roosevelt’s offer of ‘Good Neighbourship’ to Latin America; the implications of post-WWII containment of communism for Washington’s hemispheric policy, especially after the Cuban Revolution; Jimmy Carters crisis-ridden presidency, with a new human rights approach; and Ronald Reagan’s revitalisation of interventionist policies in Central America. For each period, we will look at test cases in Latin America and the region’s very own individual and collective responses. Students will understand inter-American relations and their cyclical character (oscillating between interventionism and benign hegemony/neglect), as a function of US global policy.

Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2021/22 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2022/23 entry will be published here in early-April 2022. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.