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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 Stages 1 and 2.
- To provide students with an in-depth knowledge of Inter-American Relations during the ‘short twentieth century’, or ‘age of extremes’, with its lasting legacies.
- To prepare students 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 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 and should buy a documentary history, both 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 well-chosen 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 even against, the U.S. (Latin Americanism).

Outline Of Syllabus

The course will cover the following topics and case studies:

Doctrinary 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 Neighbor’ Policy (Cuban Revolution of 1933/5, 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);

‘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).

The course will be taught and assessed in English.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture11:001:00In-class test
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture12:002:00Intro lecture/seminar
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00Lectures as specified in the outline syllabus.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical21:002:00Film class.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching61:006:00Seminars on each of the 6 blocks of the course. Students research a topic & give a presentation.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops12:002:00Workshop on preparation for exams and feedback on test.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops61:006:00Linked to each block of lectures,to consolidate students’ knowledge,using documentary film material
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops11:001:00Planning session.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00Surgeries can be used for revision consultations
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1164:00164:00Writing up lecture notes, revision, preparation of presentations and general reading.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The planning session will be followed by an interactive introductory lecture that places this course into a broader perspective. It is especially designed for students who did not previously enrol in LAS2030 or have never studied either Latin America or History and Politics (the majority). The class will start by highlighting 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 study the similarities and divergences in the historical and contemporary development of the ca. 30 nations of Latin America and thereby better understand the regional case studies that this course undertakes. 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 a body of knowledge, and modelling of the analysis required (note-taking). Workshops, which are linked to the lecture blocks, will consolidate students’ knowledge and train their skills in analysing documentaries and a variety of printed primary sources. Seminars will give them the opportunity of researching a topic individually and in small groups, trying out their knowledge, presenting a concise theses paper, and asking questions (interpersonal communication and presentations). The workshop on exam preparation is to provide students with advice about how to read exam questions and give a concise and well-argued answer. There will also be time for questions.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1202A70Students have to answer one of six questions. There will be one question on each of the 6 comparative blocks (see syllabus outline).
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M30The class test consists of a limited number of factual questions on the entire course to that point. *See below for more information
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation1MIn seminars, students will give ind. or group presentations (in form of short theses papers)on real exam questions of previous years
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The in-class test wants students to demonstrate both core knowledge of inter-American Relations and the ability to historically place and criticise a textual extract in a limited space.

The formal written exam will allow students to demonstrate their understanding of at least one broader period in inter-American relations previously studied in two lectures, one workshops, and one seminar. 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.

* (but limited to terms, names, and dates that are listed on the last slide of each Power-Point presentation) and a quotation from a historical document. Students have to answer all factual questions (30 % of the test) and comment on the citation, placing the source in context (70% of the test).

Reading Lists