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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: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Jens R Hentschke
  • Owning School: Modern Languages
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


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

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00PiP - core lectures
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 teaching81:008:00PiP - 6 seminars on core teaching blocks and 2 on documentary analysis
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops111:0011:00PiP - 1 on planning; 1 on methodology; 6 on core primary source analysis; 2 on assessment preparation (1 for test, 1 for exam); 1 on test feedback
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery21:002:00PiP 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. Online lectures will allow definition of the scope of the syllabus, an introduction to key terms and cases, and modelling of the analysis required (note taking). These materials, which deal with a complex matter, will remain part of the 33 contact hours. Students have expressed very high regard for these high-quality recordings because they can work through them in their own time and well in advance of the workshops and seminars, and this has also proven to be very beneficial for those with SSPs. 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.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination602M30In-class test on factual questions and an extract from a primary source.
Written Examination1202A70Students answer 1 of 6 questions.
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation2MStudents 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.

Reading Lists