1. Week One: Introduction (Aug 25)
  2. Week Two: Premodern Societies I (Aug 30- Sep 1)
  3. Week Three: Premodern Societies II (Sep 6-Sep 8)
  4. Week Four: Premodern Societies III (Sep 13-15)
  5. Week Five: The Early Conquest (Sep 20-22)
  6. Week Six: On the Mainland (Sep 27-29)
  7. Week Seven: Take Home Exam Due (Oct 4) and Fall Break (Oct 6)
  8. Week Eight: The Order of Things (Oct 11-13)
  9. Week Nine: Captivity and Enslavements (Oct 18-20)
  10. Week Ten: Native Labor and Accumulation (Oct 25-27)
  11. Week Eleven: Love, Hate, and Social Reproduction (Nov 1-3)
  12. Week Twelve: Disruption and Reform (Nov 8-10)
  13. Week Thirteen: Rebellion and Reaction (Nov 15-17)
  14. Week Fourteen: Thanksgiving (Nov 22-Nov 24)
  15. Week Fifteen: Independence (Nov 29-Dec 1)
  16. Week Sixteen: New World Orders (Dec 6)

Week One: Introduction (Aug 25)

Welcome (back) to the History of Early Latin America. This week, your only responsibility is to carefully read over the syllabus, the course requirements, and to plan for you participation in class! Make sure you understand what the coursework requirements are, and also some general recommendations on how to read, take notes, and think about weekly material.

This is quite obviously a very lecture intensive class. Your lecture notes will be very important for your weekly assignments. If you struggle with note-taking, or have never taken a humanities lecture course before, you will need to think about, and put effort into improving your note-taking. Take a look at these resources, and find a system that works best for you:

  1. Effective Note-taking in Lectures.
  2. The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard.
  3. How to Take Better Notes.

In addition to taking notes during lecture, you need to be an active reader of the pieces we’re assigning. This means using either paper or pdf tools to highlight and markup the assignments. We will be discussing this over the course of the semester, especially how to approach strange texts with unfamiliar concepts.

Your most fundamental skill for this semester will be creatively connecting the lectures and the readings, looking for thematic similarities or arguments both within a week’s topic and between weeks. Make sure to look at each week’s title, and the brief comments comment for the week to help follow the arc of the semester.

Week Two: Premodern Societies I (Aug 30- Sep 1)

The immigrants to what we now call the Americas arrived by land and cruising the coasts. The civilizations that evolved from their wanderings were highly complex and advanced. We begin the semester considering their emergence, and the revolutionary domestication of Zea mays that made it possible. To this day, there is no single crop or animal more central to the US economy and its food system than corn.

This week we look at commonalities among most premodern societies, and then at the Maya.

Tuesday: On Sedentary Societies

  • Townsend, Fifth Sun, pp. 1-32

Thursday: The Maya

  • Thompson, J. Eric. “The Meaning of Maize for the Maya.” in Gilbert M. Joseph and Timothy J. Henderson, eds., The Mexico Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), pp. 86-91.

  • Anonymous. “The Popol Vuh.” In Joseph and Henderson, eds., The Mexico Reader, pp. 79-85.

  • Please watch this short video that animates part of the Popol vuh.


Week Three: Premodern Societies II (Sep 6-Sep 8)

The collapse of Classical Maya society did not mean the disappearance of the Maya. Indeed, Maya-speaking communities continue to form integral parts of Mexican and Guatemalan society today, along with other Central American states. This week, we consider the successors and inheritors of the Mesoamerican cultural world once dominated by the Maya, with the rise of the Mexica in the central valley of Mexico. Then, we turn to South America for an introduction to the third great sedentary empire of the pre-Conquest period, the Inka of the Andes. As you read and attend lecture this week, consider the influence of environmental factors on the emergence of these civilizations along with their religious and social practices.

Tuesday: Mexica

  • Townsend, Fifth Sun, pp. 33-58

Thursday: Inka

  • Mary Strong, Art, Nature, and Religion in the Central Andes (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 2012): pp. 17-58.


Week Four: Premodern Societies III (Sep 13-15)

With a foundation in the pre-Conquest Americas, this week we turn to the Iberian Peninsula, the close-in Atlantic islands, and to Africa to look at the roots of conquest in the so-called “Old World.” Consider the culture of conquest cultivated by Isabella and Ferdinand in the 1490s, and also what lessons Iberians learned of conquest and expansion in their control of Atlantic Islands and the trade in enslaved captives with West Africa.

Tuesday: Across the Atlantic

  • “Las Siete Partidas: Laws on Jews.”

  • “King Ferdinand, Marriage Concessions (1469)” in Jon Cowans, ed. Early Modern Spain: A Documentary History (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003): 7-9.

  • “Surrender Treaty of the Kingdom of Granada (1491)” in Cowans, Early Modern Spain: 15-19.

  • “Decree of Expulsion of the Jews (1492)” in Cowans, Early Modern Spain: 20-23.

Thursday: African Histories

  • John K. Thornton, “The African Background,” A Cultural History of the Atlantic World, 1250–1820 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2012), pp. 60-100.


Week Five: The Early Conquest (Sep 20-22)

Prior to sailing across the Atlantic, Columbus learned from Portuguese and Spanish expansion into the Atlantic Islands and down the coast of Africa economic models for colonial exploitation. Conquering and enslaving native populations, importing captive Africans for enslaved labor, cultivating sugar for export to Europe, and improving sea-going technology were all in place before he received Royal support. This week, we look at the transplantation of an Atlantic model of conquest and exploitation to the Caribbean, and at its religious critics. Pay close attention to the arguments made by Friars Montesinos, and Pane, and whether they offer an alternative colonial model, or an alternative to colonialism?

Tuesday: Caribbean Conquests

  • Christopher Columbus’s Log, excerpted in English. Focus on period after Oct. 11.

  • The Requerimiento

  • Antonio Montesinos, “Advent Sermon”

Thursday: The Critique

  • Townsend, Fifth Sun, pp. 59-84.


Week Six: On the Mainland (Sep 27-29)

In the 1520s and 1530s, the Spanish Empire expanded to cover much of Central and South America. At the time, Spaniards and their native allies both imagined themselves as conquering the controlling empires of Mesoamerica and the Andes. Who, then, conquered whom? In the early 16th century, did native allies with the Spanish imagine themselves as collaborators in European domination? If not, what did they imagine they were doing?

Tuesday: Conquest Myths and Realities

  • Townsend, Fifth Sun, pp. 85-106.

  • For a fantastic graphic novel approach to telling this story, check out the five episodes so far written and drawn at Aztec Empire. This graphic novel version of the Conquest works hard to be faithful to the visual world and recent historical scholarship on Cortes’s march from the sea.

Thursday: On the Planes of Cajamarca

  • Townsend, Fifth Sun, pp. 107-128.


Week Seven: Take Home Exam Due (Oct 4) and Fall Break (Oct 6)

Your take home exam is due by the end of day on Tuesday, October 4th, uploaded to Canvas.

Week Eight: The Order of Things (Oct 11-13)

How do you build an empire on the collapsing foundation of native society? How did early modern imperialists confront the technological and practical challenges of ruling the span of the globe?

Tuesday: Building on collapsing ground

  • Townsend, Fifth Sun, pp. 129-154.

Thursday: Church in State

  • J.L Phelan, “Authority and Flexibility in the Spanish Imperial Bureaucracy” Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 1, Special Issue on Comparative Public Administration. (Jun., 1960), pp. 47-65.

DUE: Nothing. Take the week to get caught up with the middle of your semester.

Week Nine: Captivity and Enslavements (Oct 18-20)

Textbook Reading: Black Communities

From its inception, the Spanish and Portuguese colonial projects depended on the labor of enslaved Africans. As Kris Lane argues, slave owners even pinned their hopes for the afterlife on enslaved labor after death. Pay close attention this week to strategies that enslaved and free blacks pursued in colonial Latin America.

Tuesday: A Society Built on Slavery

  • Kris Lane, “Captivity and Redemption: Aspects of Slave Life in early Colonial Quito and Popoyan,” The Americas 57.2 (2000), 225-246.

Thursday: Brazilian Development

  • Jane Landers, “Felipe Edimboro Sues for Manumission, Don Francisco Xavier Sánchez contests (Florida, 1794),” in Colonial Lives, pp. 249-268.


Week Ten: Native Labor and Accumulation (Oct 25-27)

Enslavement was not the only form of coerced labor exploited by Iberian empires. This week we consider the effects of encomienda and tribute on the integrity of native communities under Iberian rule. What significance is there in native communities pursuing their own legal strategies before the crown? How did tribute taxation and labor function? Were the New Laws successful?

Tuesday: The Many Kinds of Economic Coercion

  • Ward Stavig, The World of Túpac Amaru, Ch. 6.

Thursday: Wither the Two Republics?

  • Townsend, Fifth Sun, pp. 155-208.


Week Eleven: Love, Hate, and Social Reproduction (Nov 1-3)

This week, we are focusing on family, sexuality, and social order. The customs and laws of Iberia and the Indies were deeply influential in the ordering (and disordering) of colonial society. The Conquest, and its aftermath, included exploitative and coercive relationships, and even regular marriages had their fair share of conflict between spouses. This week, we consider these things by looking at unnatural sexuality and witchcraft, as a way of also understanding what colonial society understood to be natural.

Tuesday: Sex in the Archive

  • Zeb Tortorici, “Impulses in the Archive: Misinscription and Voyeurism,” Chapter 2 in Sins Against Nature (Duke University Press, 2018).

Thursday: Is it Love, or Magic?

  • Ruth Behar, “Sexual Witchcraft, Colonialism, and Women’s Powers,” in Sexuality and Marriage in Colonial Latin America. Lavrin, ed. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1992.


Week Twelve: Disruption and Reform (Nov 8-10)

This week, we look at the early transformations of the colonial relationship after the Spanish War for succession. Consider the reforms posited by José Galvez, and reactions to them that fall short of open rebellion.

Tuesday: Reacting to Reforms

  • “José de Gálvez’s Decrees for the King’s Subjects in Mexico (1769, 1778)” in Mills, et. al., Colonial Latin America, pp. 270-273.

  • Pamela Voekel, “Peeing on the Palace: Bodily Resistance to Bourbon Reforms in Mexico City,” Journal of Historical Sociology, Vol. 5 No. 2 (June 1992): 183-208.

Thursday: No class.

Finish your film review, which must be smart, clever, and plugged in to this semester’s themes.


Week Thirteen: Rebellion and Reaction (Nov 15-17)

By the 1780s, part of the Spanish Empire erupted into open rebellion against the economic reforms pushed afer the Seven Years War. Why did these rebellions not lead to Independence? What explains the complicated political identities articulated by their protagonists? What constituted legitimate authority by century’s end?

Tuesday: Opening the Age of Rebellion

  • Walker and Clarke, Witness to the Age of Revolution, pp. 1-52.

Thursday: Insurrection and Aftermath

  • Walker and Clarke, Witness to the Age of Revolution, pp. 52-108.

Week Fourteen: Thanksgiving (Nov 22-Nov 24)

Safe travels. See your peoples. I’ll only add something this week for outside of class if we fall behind.

Week Fifteen: Independence (Nov 29-Dec 1)

The crises of the Bourbon reforms never produced independence movements. That would take Napoleon invading Spain. We consider this week the crisis of 1808 caused by Napoleon, and how that set up the process of independence, which wouldn’t culminate for more than a decade!

Tuesday: Did Anyone See It Coming?

  • Walker and Clarke, Witness to the Age of Revolution, pp. 109-138.

Thursday: On to War

  • Jaime E. Rodríguez O., “New Spain and the 1808 Crisis of Spanish Monarchy,” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos, 24.2 (Summer 2008): 245-287.

Week Sixteen: New World Orders (Dec 6)

Let’s Wrap.It.Up. The new republics will be free of Iberian rule, and you’re about to be free of this semester….

Final Due: December 12 by 6:00pm.