Problems Essays
HIST 4520, Fall 2012

Instructions: All the following essays are based on the readings found in Chasteen and Wood book, Problems in Modern Latin American History. By the end of the semester, you will need to have written responses to four (4) of these. There will be one or two essays associated with each weeks material. Each question indicates which readings it is associated with. Your responses should be about 500-650 words long, roughly 2.5 to three pages. 

1. Chapter 1, readings 1, 2, 4: Compare the different visions and plans for independence discussed in these three readings. What are the major themes that emerge? What kinds of conflicts existed, and to what extent was their broad agreement amongst people in the independence movements.

2. Chapter 1, readings 3, 5: These articles discuss the role of women and people of African descent in the independence era. What kind of role did these traditionally marginalized groups play in independence? How did it change, if at all, their roles in society? Where these roles and changes similar or notably different?

3. Chapter 2, readings 4, 5: These essays discuss slave life in Brazil and Cuba during the 19th century, one written by a modern historian and one by a former slave. Compare the different ways the two authors handle the subject. What's different about what the focus on and the details and concepts they discuss? What's different, if anything, about the tone and structure of their separate accounts? What can we learn from them?

4. Chapter 3, readings 1, 2, 3: These three essays discuss the caudillos in different ways: As scourge, as economic maximizers, and culture heroes. Compare the arguments that the three authors are making. Do you find any similarities, or are the distinctions so great as there is little common ground? Do you find one of them more persuasive than the others, or do they all have more-or-less equal plausibility?

5. Chapter 3, readings 4, 5, 6. Two of these are personal testimonies of important caudillos, the other is a from a famous description of yet another cauldillo. What similar themes do you find, and what distinguishes them? Do the two caudillos writing about themselves (Paz and Santa Anna) present themselves in similar ways, or not? How does this compare to Sarmiento's discussion of the caudillo Rosas?

6. Chapter 4, readings 1, 2, 3, 4. These readings concern the relationship between Liberals and the Catholic Church in the 19th century. 1 and 2 look at Liberal ideas on the Church, 4 looks at Liberal policy towards the Church and Church response, and 3 discusses the conflict from the Church's perspective. What were the key elements in this conflict? What strengths and weaknesses do you find in the arguments of both sides?

7. Chapter 4, reading 5 (It will be useful to have read 1-3). This reading is actually excerpts from three documents: A statement from a young Liberal (Francisco Bilbao) on the Church, a statement from his prosecutor on charges of blasphemy, and and an excerpt from Bilbao's defense. What are Bilbao's principle arguments about the church, and how well does he make?  What do you make of the indictment -- is it persuasive? Does Bilbao's response seem adequate?

8. Chapter 5, readings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Read the two excerpts taken from novels (3 and 4). Consider how race and/or ethnicity is treated in these two readings. Compare them to the descriptions of elite attitudes as found in 1, 2, and 5 (1 and 5 are from scholars, 2 is from an elite of the period). How well do 3 and 4 match the descriptions and attitudes highlighted in the other readings? Consider 3 and 4 separately - can they be thought of as a good example of one of the other three readings?

9. Chapter 6, 1, 2 plus readings selected by student: Read the fist two excerpts, which are scholarly discussions of late 19th and early 20th century economic development in Latin America. Then select at least two of the remaining readings, which are all travel narratives written by Europeans or people from the United States written during this era. Do the scholars and the travelers seem to be describing the same world? Could these travel narratives be used as evidence to support some of the ideas in the scholarly pieces?


Further essays will be added soon.