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Latin American Revolution Thematic Essays

Characteristics of the Colonial System

  • Colonial governments mirrored the home governments
  • Catholicism had a strong influence on the development of the colonies
  • A major element of the economy was the mining of precious metals for export.
  • Hacienda – A Spanish owned plantation that used native or slave labor
  • Encomienda – the right to organize unpaid labor by the earliest Spanish colonists in Latin America.
  • Established major cities as outposts of colonial authority
    • Havana
    • Mexico City
    • Lima
    • Sao Paulo
    • Buenos Aires
  • Rigid Class Structure
    • Viceroys/colonial officer
    • Creoles
    • Mestizo

Influence of the American and French Revolutions on the Americas

  • Revolutions in the Americas were led by native born men of European background (except for French Haiti) who were able to rally the population to the cause of independence.
  • Slaves in Haiti rebelled, abolished slavery, and won independence.
  • Father Miguel Hidalgo started the Mexican independence movement.
  • Independence came to French, Spanish, and Portuguese colonies.

Locations of selected countries that gained independence during the 1800s

  • Mexico
  • Haiti
  • Colombia
  • Venezuela
  • Brazil

Contributions of Toussaint L’Ouverture

  • Former slave who led Haitian rebellion against French.
  • Defeated the armies of three foreign powers: Spain, France, and Britain.
  • At first, Haiti tasted freedom, but after L’Ouverture’s death, it fell into despotism.

Contributions of Simon Bolivar

  • Liberated the northern areas of Latin America.
  • Native-born resident who led revolutionary efforts.
  • Tried during the 1820s to bring regions together under a federal constitution modeled after that of the United States. The plan failed because of the differences of the Latin American peoples.

Monroe Doctrine was issued by American President, James Monroe in 1823.

  • The document was backed by the British government as well.
  • Latin American nations were acknowledged to be independent.
  • The United States would regard as a threat to its own peace and safety any attempt by European powers to impose their system on any independent state in the Western Hemisphere.
  • The United States would not interfere in European affairs.
  • The document continues to be a cornerstone of American foreign policy.

Given the importance of the subject, there are a number of strong works by leading figures in the field including Bethell 1987, Lynch 1994, Graham 1994, and, more recently, Chasteen 2008, which takes a transatlantic perspective and also addresses popular and cultural history.

  • Bethell, Leslie, ed. The Independence of Latin America. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

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    Excellent collection of essays gathered from early volumes of the Cambridge History of Latin America. State-of-the-field essays when they were produced in the early 1980s.

  • Chasteen, John Charles. Americanos: Latin America’s Struggle for Independence. Pivotal Moments in World History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    Lively and accessible text that argues for the creation of an “americano” identity arising out of the wars of independence. Covers the main arenas and leaders from earliest failed revolts, through the creation of sovereign states based on liberal principles that many subsequently failed to honor. Includes a list of leading actors, a glossary, and recommended sources and readings.

  • Graham, Richard. Independence in Latin America: A Comparative Approach. 2d ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994.

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    This substantially revised edition of Graham’s 1972 survey combines synthetic thematic chapters interspersed with brief chapters on how the independence wars affected different modern countries. Best short survey available in English.

  • Lynch, John, ed. Latin American Revolutions, 1808–1826: Old and New World Origins. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.

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    This excellent teaching tool includes chapters by top scholars from the United States and Latin America, introduced by the author of one of the most influential early surveys of the revolutions. Includes primary documents of the era written by Alexander von Humboldt, Simón Bolívar, and Manuel Belgrano, among others.