Introduction to Early Latin America

History 255/LAS 251

TR 11:10-12:25

Fall 2018

Prof. Chad Black


Phone: 974-9871

Office: 2627 Dunford Hall, 6th Floor

Office Hours: Tuesday, 4:00-5:00, Wednesday, 3:00-4:00

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue and discovered or destroyed, conquered or civilized the Americas. Sixty years later, in 1552, López de Gómara, the private secretary of Hernán Cortes, wrote, “The greatest event since the creation of the world (excluding the incarnation and death of Him who created it) is the discovery of the Indies [i.e. Americas].” He was, himself, a participant the conquest of Mexico. From the very beginning, not only the magnitude, but also the meaning of the Conquest of the Americas has been a point of controversy and acclaim. The history of Early Latin America, however, does not begin in October 1492. Indigenous bands and great civilizations inhabited North and South America for more than ten thousand years prior to the arrival of Europeans on the shores of Caribbean islands. Thus, in this class we will concentrate on the pre-Colombian period, the conquest period, and the ensuing three hundred years of Spanish (and to a limited extent) Portuguese rule. The lectures will move both chronologically and topically. We will concentrate on two key geographic areas of examination— central Mexico, home to the highly structured pre-Columbian societies of the Maya and the Mexica, among many others, and later the center of Spanish control in its northern kingdoms as the Viceroyalty of New Spain; and, the central Andes, land of the Inca Empire and its subject polities (among others), and home of the Viceroyalty of Peru, the center of Spanish power in its southern kingdoms. Our class will cover a tremendous breadth of time and territory, and as such the lectures, readings, and discussion sections are designed to draw your critical attention to issues, including ethnicity, gender, slavery, culture, and power, as well as the institutions and structures that patterned native, African, and European experiences of Spanish and Portuguese imperialism.

required readings

The following book is required for this class:

  • Matthew Restall and Kris Lane, Latin America in Colonial Times 2nd. Edition. (Cambridge University Press, 2018).

All other readings will be available to the students electronically.


Qualified students with disabilities needing appropriate academic adjustments should contact me as soon as possible to ensure that your needs are met in a timely manner with appropriate documentation.

Attendance: Attendance at all class sessions is mandatory. If you will not be able to attend class, please contact me ahead of time.

Deadlines: Assignments must be turned to the instructor no later than the end of class on the day they are due, or at some other specified time established by the professor. Late papers will not be accepted for any reason without prior arrangement. This includes technology problems.

Cell Phones and Laptops: Please silence our cell phones prior to class. Please do not text during class. Laptops are allowed only for tasks related to this class. Distracting use of technology (social media, surfing, etc.) causes problems not only for your own learning, but for those around you. Research shows that analog notetaking improves learning. Consider having paper with you. Based on the prevailing literature, hand note-taking– both while reading and in class– leads to substantially better educational outcomes. You are not required to have a laptop in class, so feel free to leave it at home. If, however, you have reason to use your laptop for notetaking, I won’t stop you from doing so.

Office Hours: Students are strongly encouraged to speak with me outside of class. The advantages of talking with me include: extra help on an assignment or preparation for an exam; clarification of materials covered in lecture, discussion of my comments on your work; discussion of this or related courses. I am available during office hours on a first-come, first-served basis; if you cannot come by during office hours, please contact me via email or phone and I will be happy to set up an appointment with you.

Changes: I reserve the write to change this syllabus as the semester progresses. This is not a contract, but rather a document to guide expectations and clearly communicate weekly assignments. Please bring the syllabus with you to our class meetings. Or, keep up with it on the course website.