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

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • 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


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.

Teaching Methods

Please note that module leaders are reviewing the module teaching and assessment methods for Semester 2 modules, in light of the Covid-19 restrictions. There may also be a few further changes to Semester 1 modules. Final information will be available by the end of August 2020 in for Semester 1 modules and the end of October 2020 for Semester 2 modules.

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion301:0030:00Writing of the essay
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials182:0036:00Week 1: Intro to subject in broad context. Weeks 2-8 (core). Week 9: only Essay Writing materials
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading63:0018:00Weeks 2-8 (core), except for film week.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching91:009:00Online synchronous
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities121:0012:00Weeks 2-8 (core), except film week
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops91:009:00Weeks 1-9 (synchronous, on campus) Academic mentoring + tutoring sessions to discuss essay plans
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study186:0086:00Other independent study (a bibliography for free reading is provided)
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

In an introductory seminar, 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 the study of material that embeds the course in a broader context. It 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. Asynchronous teaching materials will allow definition of the scope of the syllabus, an introduction to key terms and cases, and modelling of the analysis required. Synchronous workshops/academic mentoring and tutoring sessions will give students the opportunity to discuss essay plans and train hermeneutic skills in the interpretation of documentaries and key printed primary sources, while the synchronous seminars will help students consolidate their knowledge and apply a comparative analysis. The last week is dedicated to a round-up of the course and guidance with regard to essay writing.

Assessment Methods

Please note that module leaders are reviewing the module teaching and assessment methods for Semester 2 modules, in light of the Covid-19 restrictions. There may also be a few further changes to Semester 1 modules. Final information will be available by the end of August 2020 in for Semester 1 modules and the end of October 2020 for Semester 2 modules.

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M100Essay of 2,500 words. Students get six questions, one on each bloc of teaching (see syllabus outline)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation2MStudents will prepare essay plans/presentations on real exam questions from previous years.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Formative essay plans/presentations on the ‘real’ exam/essay questions of the previous year have become a long-standing and always positively 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. In the workshops, they will acquire another skill needed for a good essay: to historically contextualise a primary source and comment on this voice of protagonists with a critical distance.

The essay will allow students to demonstrate their understanding of at least one broader period in inter-American Relations previously studied. 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.

Reading Lists