Latin America in the 20th century ESH4078

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

The importance and impact of Latin America's impact on the global economy and international politics grew throughout the 20th century. The region holds the world's largest reserves of many resources that are essential for economic growth and industrial development, regionally and internationally. Nonetheless, it remains one of the world's most socially and economically unequal regions. Few governments have commanded widespread support or legitimacy for long. This course focuses on specific nation-states to explore these contradictions, conveying both a sense of the distinctiveness of individual Latin American countries and an understanding of what they have in common. The countries covered are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba and Mexico. The course uses the country case studies to examine the main trends and themes in Latin America's economic and social development: wars and revolutions, the struggle for sovereignty, populism and socialism, authoritarianism and militarism, neoliberalism and regionalism.


Weekly lecture (1 hour) and weekly seminar (1 hour).



Please note this course does not run every session. For further information please check the ESH Moodle page.

Requirements of Entry

Enrolment in an MA (SocSci) or MA (Arts) Honours Programme

Excluded Courses





30% Primary source analysis. The documents for analysis will be provided in the first five weeks of the course (1,000 words, excluding bibliography).

20% Crossword puzzle and definition exercise. Students first have to use their knowledge of the course to complete the crossword puzzle and then select one answer to write a concept definition or biography. (750 words, excluding bibliography)

50% One essay chosen from list of questions linked to seminar/lecture topics (2,500 words, excluding bibliography) 

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course aims to introduce students to key themes and episodes in Latin America in the 20th century. It focuses on the events and processes underway in five countries in order to explore both the different and shared experiences of the region: Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Cuba. Through these country case studies, the course aims to highlight the key developments in Latin America's economic, social and political history in the 20th century

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

1) Show an informed awareness of how the challenges of independence and the process of nation building in the 19th century shaped Latin America in the 20th century.


2) Examine and assess the rationale for the economic policies and governance structures adopted by Latin American governments in different periods, identify continuity and change and the extent to which these features were determined by internal or international factors.


3) Identify the key stages of developments in the five countries examined, and recognise their specificity or commonality.


4) Evaluate the role of the United States in shaping developments in Latin America in the 20th century.


5) Use concrete examples to analyse conceptual issues and theoretical positions, and debates around them, and adopt an immanent critique of the subject under discussion. 

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.