F2017 Syllabus – Texas Wesleyan University

Instructor: Chris Ohan

HIS 4340-01 Modern Latin America

Office: PMC 244


Meeting: Thurs 1:30-4

Location: McF 205

Phone: 817-531-4913

Office Hours: Mon/Wed 11-12; 1:30-3:30; Tues 2:30-5; Thurs 9:30-1:00, or by appointment.

Web: www.historymuse.net

E-mail: cohan@txwes.edu



“The U.S. will do anything for Latin America, except read about it.”

-James Reston, political commentator


The Course: A study of Latin America from roots of independence to the present with particular attention to economic, social, and political developments and cultural achievements.


Learning Outcomes: 


Learning Objectives                                                        History Program Goals

Objective 1: Upon successful completion of this class, you should have a fuller and more balanced view, a greater appreciation and understanding of the complexity of the Latin American experience. 

1. Develop a general knowledge of human history, including a basic chronology of both western and non-western societies covering time periods from the ancient to the modern.

Objective 2: a. You should be able to compare, analytically, historic events and issues and trace them to contemporary concerns, especially within the American hemisphere.

b. To make these comparisons, you should be familiar with various types of sources from the period, including text, art and artifact. 

C. This course will provide students with an understanding of the period through a discussion several types of sources relevant to the period: historical interpretation, literary, and even hagiography.

2.  Understand Historical Interpretation and Historiography.


Objective 3: a. Through the readings, in-class discussions and writing assignments, you should acquire the ability to distinguish between and use primary and secondary sources for the period.

b. Through the exam essays you should be able to apply basic historical methods of research to interpret the period. 

3. Learn the various skills associated with the craft of history. These skills include:

a. Reading Comprehension and Cognitive Skills

b. Historical Thinking Skills

c. Research Skills

d. Written Communication Skills

e. Oral Communication Skills

f. Computer Literacy

Objective 4:  This course is optional for history majors and satisfies the 3-hour degree requirement for a Modern Latin American history class.  It will help prepare those who go into teaching on the middle and secondary levels.

4. Students completing a major in the Department of History will be prepared to enter graduate programs in History, teach History in secondary or middle schools, or enter other careers open to graduates with degrees in the Liberal Arts.


Required Materials:

Chasteen, Born in Blood and Fire, a concise history of Latin America (Norton, 4th)


Chasteen, Born in Blood and Fire, Latin American Voices, a reader (Norton, 2nd)

Márquez, The General in His Labyrinth (Penguin)

Ball, Blessed Miguel Pro

Rabe, The Killing Zone (Oxford)


Instructional Methods/Class Format:  Most classes will consist of lecture and discussions of texts from the reader.  Do not hesitate to bring up relevant questions and comments.  On the university level, and especially in a senior-level class, I assume that you will complete the assigned readings for each week.  It is also assumed that you will attend all classes.


Class Schedule: See p. 5 below.


Evaluation and Grading: Your grade for the semester will be based on two take-home exam essays (midterm and final) each counting one-sixth of the semester grade.  Three critical book reviews will each be worth one sixth.  The final sixth of the semester grade will be based on in-class participation.  (Note: one sixth is approximately 17%.)


Grades will be assigned according to the following percentages: 90-100=A; 80-89=B; 70-79=C; 60-69=D; 0-59=F


Exams:  Exams will be out-of-class written essays answering a series of questions provided one week prior to the due date.  The midterm essay will be due by the start of class on 12 October.  The final exam is due 7 December by 1pm.  Both will be submitted by the due date/time in Blackboard.


Book Reviews:  You are responsible for completing three book reviews.  The book reviews will be submitted in Blackboard by the start of class as follows: Márquez (2 October), Ball (2 November), Rabe (30 November).  See guidelines/format below.


Class Participation:  A large portion of class time will be devoted to discussion.  Discussions will draw primarily on the readings from the reader as well as the three texts assigned for critical review.  Your class participation grade will consist of my evaluation of your preparedness and the level of your participation in these discussions.  Obviously, if you are not present or don’t talk, your participation grade will be low. 


Attendance is mandatory.  If you miss more than 1 class (for us, the equivalent of one week) consider the effect on your grade.  Should you miss more, please do not offer excuses, notes or request special consideration.  Keep in mind a) that “dropping a course” is perfectly legitimate when circumstances arise that prevent you from completion, and b) that I should not be expected to change class expectations based on your circumstances.  You are responsible for all class assignments regardless of attendance.  Quizzes covering assigned readings may be given at any time and factored into the course grade at the discretion of the instructor.  If you are unable to complete this course, you must withdraw from it.  Please note that if you miss more than the equivalent of one-week’s worth of class, I reserve the right to drop you from the course.  The drop date this term is Tuesday, November 14.


Class Participation.  A large portion of class time will be devoted to discussion.  Discussions will draw primarily on the primary source readings from the Chasteen reader and monographs.  Your class participation will consist of my evaluation of your preparedness and the level of your participation in these discussions.  Obviously, if you are absent on a discussion day you will be unable to participate very effectively. 


Internet/Blackboard:  Feel free to send email to the address above.  Please assume I have no idea who you are so include your name and course number in the message.  Keep in mind that I will not entertain discussion about grades, missed classes &etc over email—that’s why faculty have office hours.  In addition, this syllabus, the lecture/reading schedule, some of the course readings and any other class handouts will be posted on the above web address.  Announced changes to the lecture/reading schedule will be reflected in the schedule’s online version.  All student work will be turned in through Blackboard.


Academic Integrity:


Familiarize yourself with Wesleyan’s Honesty Policy.  Academics are not only devoted to learning, research, and the advancement of knowledge, but also to the development of ethically sensitive and responsible persons. By accepting membership in this class, you are joining a community characterized by free expression, free inquiry, honesty, respect for others, and participation in constructive change.   


Academic Misconduct is a breach of university policy.  Misconduct includes:

  1. Plagiarism, representing the work of another as one's own work;
  2. Preparing work for another that is to be used as that person's own work;
  3. Cheating by any method or means;
  4. Knowingly and willfully falsifying or manufacturing scientific or educational data and representing the same to be the result of scientific or scholarly experiment or research;
  5. Soliciting, aiding, abetting, concealing, or attempting conduct in violation of this policy.


Academic Misconduct (Dishonesty of any kind on examinations or on written assignments, illegal possession of questions, the use of unauthorized notes during an examination, or obtaining information during an examination from another student are examples of cheating) will not be tolerated in this course. Any offense will result in an F in the class (not simply on the assignment) and be referred to the appropriate academic officials for adjudication. If you have any questions regarding this subject please see me.  For a detailed description and further clarification, please see “Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty” on my webpage, or pages 74-76 in the Wesleyan Catalog.



·        I grade the quality of your work rather than the amount of time and effort you spend on it.

·        I will strive to help you perform at your best.


My Goal in teaching this class is that you develop an understanding of the scope and relevance of modern Latin American history; that you can understand current issues in Latin American history in context.  In our class, ideas will hold precedence over facts, dates, and the like.  History is NOT about memorization of factual information but a discipline that analyzes, interprets and creates an account of the past.  It is important that you consider the classroom a forum for discussion—of anything related to the themes and topics of the course.  (Of course, any argument—whether spoken or written—must be supported.)  While I (or other students) may challenge beliefs/perspectives, realize that the purpose is not to change them.  That said, an open/tolerant attitude is essential in this class.  Remember—this is a college course where you ought to be able to discuss things openly and intelligently.  If you choose to be intolerant and interrupt class discussion, I reserve the right to ask you to leave the classroom.


Small Print:


Texas Wesleyan University Policies


·  Students should read the current Texas Wesleyan University Catalog and Student Handbook to become familiar with University policies.


·  Cheating, plagiarism (submitting another person’s material as one’s own), or completing assignments for another person who will receive academic credit are impermissible. This includes the use of unauthorized books, notebooks, or other sources in order to secure or give help during an examination, the unauthorized copying of examinations, assignments, reports, or term papers, or the presentation of unacknowledged material as if it were the student’s own work.  Disciplinary action may be taken beyond the academic discipline administered by the course instructor. Course exams may not be printed out. Any person possessing a hardcopy of a course exam will be in breach of copyright and may be held liable.]


·  Texas Wesleyan University adheres to a disability policy which is in keeping with relevant federal law. The University will provide appropriate accommodation as determined by the Director of the Counseling Center, Dr. Michael Ellison. Students must notify instructors of any permanent or temporary disabilities and must provide documentation regarding those disabilities prior to the granting of an accommodation. For assistance, students should consult with Dr. Ellison at mellison@txwes.edu or (817) 531-7565.


·  Course syllabi are intended to provide students with basic information concerning the course. The syllabus can be viewed as a 'blueprint' for the course; changes in the syllabus can be made and students will be informed of any substantive changes concerning examinations, the grading or attendance policies and changes in project assignments.


·  Any course taken at Texas Wesleyan University and repeated for a grade must be repeated at Texas Wesleyan University. Any course taken at another university may be repeated at Texas Wesleyan, and the most recent grade on the course will be counted. When a course is repeated, the grade point average will be computed using the most recent grade achieved.


·  As noted in the catalog under the Unified Discrimination and Harassment Policy, Texas Wesleyan University is committed to providing an environment free of all forms of prohibited discrimination and sexual harassment.  If you have experienced any such discrimination or harassment, including gender- or sex-based forms, know that help and support are available from the following resources:

o Complete online incident report at https://txwes.edu/student-life/report-a-concern/

o Contact Campus Conduct Hotline (24 hours a day): (866) 943-5787

o Campus security (24 hours a day): (817) 531-4911

o Dean of Students: deanofstudents@txwes.edu OR (817) 531-4872

o Please be aware that all Texas Wesleyan University employees, other than designated confidential resources (i.e., Community Counseling Center) are required to report credible evidence of prohibited discrimination or harassment to the University’s Title IX Coordinator, or to one of the Title IX Assistant Coordinators.  If you wish to speak to someone confidentially, please contact the Community Counseling Center at (817) 531-4859 to schedule an appointment.


Book Review Format (please consult the book review rubric: https://lat.taskstream.com/rubricExternal/awcwcscwcyc2cqct)


1.     5-6 pages typewritten, double-spaced.  Title page, if used, does NOT count.  Observe the normal rules of writing such as standard one-inch margins, page numbering, etc. 

2.     Full bibliographic citation on the title page or at the top of the first page.  (Consult an MLA or Chicago style guide if you’ve forgotten how to do this.  Do NOT make up your own form.)

3.     Brief introduction to the topic or subject of the book.  Why is this topic or subject important to the period of history being covered?

4.     Summarize the author’s thesis (argument) and main points concisely but fully.  (What do you think the author is trying to accomplish by writing the book?)

5.     Briefly say something regarding the author’s qualifications.

6.     Critique the book.  (What you’re doing is analogous to what happens in a courtroom. Consider yourself the judge and the author a lawyer who has presented an argument/case.  It’s up to you, having read his argument/case to decide whether or not his/her claims have validity.)  Based on your answer to #4 do you find his/her arguments and conclusions convincing?  How does s/he do in terms of accomplishing his purpose for writing?  Do not walk fences or resort to elementary tactics such as pleading ignorance.  (This should be about one-half of your paper.)

(6a. If the book is a work of literature, you’ll still consider what the author is trying to accomplish, but you’ll need to think about what the work says about the time period or place in which it’s set, the characters, the environment, etc.  For example, you’d look at it the same way an historian would look at More’s Utopia or possibly Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Those works are good literature but say a lot about the time period in which they were written.)

7.     While a review does not usually include the readers own opinion, you may provide a brief personal evaluation of no more than one paragraph.  Be sure to explain and support your opinion carefully and coherently.  At this point in your academic career, you ought to have an informed opinion.  “Informed” suggests that you’re offering specific evidence as to how and why you agree or disagree.

8.     This is not a research paper, so formal footnoting is not necessary.  If you do quote or draw on information that is not your own, simply use a parenthetical reference according to MLA or Turabian/Chicago style. 

9.     Papers which are turned in after the time they are due will be penalized one letter grade for each day.  No papers which are more than four days late will be accepted.  If you or someone close to you is looking like they’re coming down with the latest disease or that they might need emergency surgery, turn it in early.  If you want mercy, pray.



Lecture Topic and Reading Schedule

                    (Chasteen=textbook, Reader=Chasteen reader)


Aug 24

Introduction to the course

Aug 24, 31

Background to Modern Latin American History in Primary Sources

Readings: Chasteen 2, 3; Reader 1 Brief Account, True History, General History, The Last Days; 2

Sept 7, 14

Independence movements

Readings: Chasteen 4; Reader 3

Sept 21

Post Colonialism

Readings: Chasteen 5; Reader 4

Sept 28

Símon Bolivar

Readings: Márquez, The General in His Labyrinth

Oct 5

The Liberalism (Márquez review due)

Readings: Chasteen 6;

Oct 12

Midterm Exam due

Oct 12, 19

Neo-colonialism and Authoritarian Rule

Readings: Chasteen 7; Reader 5

Oct 26


Readings: Chasteen 8; Reader 6; Ball, Blessed Miguel Pro

Nov 2

Revolution (Ball review due)

Readings: Chasteen 9; Peron, Speech to the Descamisados (1951), Castron "History Will Absolve Me" (1953)

Nov 9, 16

Latin American and the US

Readings: Chasteen 10; Reader 8, 9; Rabe, The Killing Zone

Nov 30

Latin America Today (Rabe review due)

Readings: Chasteen 11

Dec 7 @ 1pm

Final Exam Due