History seminars at the IHR

Latin American History

Convenors: Professor Nicola Miller (UCL), Dr Alejandra Irigoin (LSE), Paulo Drinot (UCL), Dr Natalia Sobrevilla (Kent), Dr Thomas Rath (UCL), Professor James Dunkerley (QMU)

Venue: Peter Marshall Room, 204, IHR second floor

Time: Tuesdays, 5:30pm

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Spring Term 2016
DateSeminar details
12 January Trapped within States: Native Peoples and the Chaco War (1932-1935)

Christine Mathias (KCL)

From 1932 to 1935, Paraguay and Bolivia fought a devastatingly modern war over a sparsely inhabited desert plain that stretches across the center of South America. The Chaco War was not just a border conflict, but also the culmination of a decades-long process of frontier expansion, in which the Paraguayan, Bolivian, and Argentine militaries encroached on native territories and permanently altered native ways of life. As states devoted increasing attention to their peripheries and internal frontiers converged on national borders, native peoples were trapped between – and ultimately within – states. By the late 1930s, renegotiated national borders redefined indigenous territorial limits, and native groups could no longer escape aggressive soldiers by fleeing from their jurisdiction. Many native leaders found that they had no choice but to cooperate with state agents and settlers. The Chaco War spread violence and epidemic disease, decimating indigenous populations. But the conflict also empowered individual natives in unexpected ways. Indigenous guides became invaluable allies to military commanders. They located water sources in arid regions, tracked enemy movements, and helped officers to identify, understand, and communicate with the natives they encountered along the way. This paper will survey native interactions with soldiers along both sides of the Pilcomayo River from the early twentieth century through the 1930s, concluding with a brief reflection on native peoples’ relationships to the postwar Argentine and Paraguayan states.

Christine Mathias is Lecturer in Modern Latin American History at King's College London


26 January Making Medicines in Early Colonial Lima, Peru

Linda Newson (ILAS, University of London)

The history of medicine in Latin America is often written from the perspective of changes that emanated from Europe. It is argued that humoral medicine was introduced from Spain, filtering down from professional practice to the popular level, and that this was gradually replaced from the Enlightenment onwards by scientific medicine based on empirical methods of observation and experiment. However, this chronology has been challenged and it is also argued that advances in medical practice came about not so much from changes in the natural philosophy that underpinned it, but from the activities of medical practitioners who developed their understanding of medicine through their practical experience.  With a focus on apothecaries and the early colonial period the paper explores the nature of medical practice in Lima examining attempts by Spain to maintain medical orthodoxy through the establishment of a regulatory medical infrastructure and support for the Inquisition at a time when the encounter with New World peoples and environments was generating new knowledge that challenged existing practices and beliefs. Among other things the paper explores the extent to which medical practice in Lima involved the adoption of native botanical materials and the more extensive use of Peru’s abundant mineral resources, the latter being essential for the development of modern scientific medicine.

Linda Newson is Director of the Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London


9 February (Trans)Nationalism: Migrant and Diasporic Radicalism in Early Cold War Latin America

Bill Booth (UCL)

This paper will examine the interaction between internationalist leftism, transnational activism and progressive nationalism in early Cold War Latin America. It will highlight some key sites of transnational organisation and activism as well as important examples of leftists in exile during the period, with some discussion of the emergence of a wider latino/a identity and the redefinition of U.S. imperialism in a Cold War context. The paper will also briefly discuss the migration of Latin American workers to the U.S. and associated political organisations and ideologies. The paper is based on a chapter from a proposed book on the Latin American Left during the early Cold War, and will include an outline of the overall project and some of the other themes covered.

Bill Booth is a Teaching Fellow in History at UCL


23 February New Considerations behind the Fiscal Failure of the First Mexican Republic, 1824-1837

Luis Jauregui (Instituto Mora, Mexico)

In the last four decades much has been written about the evolution and failure of the First Mexican Republic (1824-1835). Ever since Costeloe’s seminal political history of the period, substantial research has concentrated on the fiscal innovations and their trajectory as well as their limitations which may have contributed to the failure of this form of government. The purpose of this paper (part of a larger research project) is to reassess the recent fiscal historiography of the period in order to offer a new interpretation on the performance of Mexico’s treasury. Whereas other historians have emphasized differences between state treasuries by analyzing particular levies and fiscal instruments (alcabalas, tobacco, direct contributions and the so-called contingente), this research focuses on the role of the comisarías generals, ie. the federal government offices in the states of the new Mexican republic. It shows that the problems and eventual failure of the first Mexican federalism stem to a great extent from the administrative restrictions on these offices as well as from the limited state capacity of the general (central) government.

Luis Jauregui is professor of Economic History at the Instituto de Investigaciones Doctor José María Luis Mora, Mexico City.


8 March Slavery and Anti-Slavery in the Spanish American Republics during the Nineteenth Century

Marcela Echeverri (Yale)

The history of freedom in the Atlantic world is generally portrayed as especially tied to Anglo-Atlantic liberalism. Indeed, for the Spanish American mainland the abolition of slavery is still a question largely unexplored. In part this is a result of the prevalent supposition that British diplomatic pressures paved the way for abolition in the emergent republics across the region. This paper will explain how focusing on Gran Colombia (including present day Panama, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia) we can revise this classic assumption and show that, rather than seeing mainland Spanish America as peripheral to the history of Atlantic slavery and anti-slavery, historians should consider the region as the epicenter of larger historical dynamics that shaped the meaning of freedom in the American continent.

Marcela Echeverri is Assistant Professor in History at Yale University