Early Latin America to 1825

Marc Becker's picture

HIST/LAS 3401w: Early Latin America to 1825

Fall 2020 (4 credits)

Instructor Information

Delivery Method

  • Online synchronous (zoom): Tues. and Thurs. 9:45-11 a.m.; additional asynchronous

Course Description

“Who tells your story?” (--Lin Manuel Miranda, Hamilton)


We’ll start with brief overviews of the Americas before 1492, moving through colonization by the Spanish and Portuguese, to independence for most of Latin America in the early 1800s, and finally how the past gets remembered in the new nations. As we move through the chronology, we will look at several levels and moments when the story/history gets told. First, we will analyze multiple primary sources from the period (such as differing accounts of the Spaniards’ invasion of Mexico). Second, we will consider how historians have debated interpretations of those events (such as why were the Spaniards able to seize the Mexica city Tenochtitlan?) Finally, we’ll reflect on how history gets commemorated in monuments and other public venues. For example, why was a statue to Columbus erected at the Minnesota State Capitol, why did activists pull it down, and what should happen with such monuments? Although the powerful have more opportunities to tell the story, we will include stories told by people of indigenous and African descent, both in the past and the present. We’ll also ask “where does the story unfold” and how does the organization of territories reflect the history? We’ll explore shifting borders of indigenous and European Empires and subsequent nation states. We’ll ask, for example, how did native peoples and Europeans envision the mapping of geography, and should we consider New Mexico part of Latin America? And we’ll explore a way of telling history in the ArcGis online app StoryMaps. Finally, you will work on effective communication as you get the chance to tell the story, the history, your way.

Course Learning Outcomes


Iberian (i.e. Spanish and Portuguese) colonization of “The Indies” or “America” initiated the interconnected, transatlantic world in which we live today. Therefore, this course will focus on the relationship between Europe and the Americas, on the one hand, and especially the interactions of diverse peoples in the Americas: Spanish, Portuguese, Africans, and various indigenous peoples. We will consider how Spain and Portugal could "conquer" and control territory in the Americas for three centuries and what factors led to independence for most of the region by 1825. At the end of the semester, we will also consider the legacies of colonialism in Latin America today and the implications of this history for its place in the contemporary world. We will also take seriously the actions, on a spectrum from resistance to accommodation, of the colonized that created a racially diverse and hybrid culture and society still evident in Latin America today. Covering four centuries (roughly 1400 to 1825) and numerous countries, the history of pre-contact and colonial Latin America is immense and complex.  In order to make sense of such a vast topic, we will be comparing primarily three core areas that correspond to the modern nations of Peru, Mexico, and Brazil. We will also be using ARCGIS to digitally explore changing borders and movements across space.


A course that qualifies for the historical perspectives requirement must focus both on historical content and how historians create that knowledge. Therefore, this course will be concerned with questions of the “how and why” as well as the “what” of Latin American history. We will discuss how historians do research and their debates over historical interpretation. You will read different kinds of primary documents from the period being studied and practice analyzing them as a historian would. Finally, readings will include a mix of macro and micro perspectives; the latter will allow you to put yourself in the place of diverse historical actors (e.g. an indigenous peasant, a Spanish missionary, a slave woman) in order to imagine how they saw the world, what interests they had, or how they might have reacted to specific problems or events.


Writing is at the heart of the historical tradition. Through writing, we craft and answer questions about the past, participate in debates over the interpretation of our sources, and reflect on the implications of history to our present and future. Writing proficiency is best achieved through focused and repeated practice and revision; therefore, this course will offer many opportunities for you to develop your written communications skills while also introducing to you many of the key concepts, expectations, and assumptions essential to the field of history. These skills are not easy. Writing is both challenging and rewarding, hard work and a creative process.


The History Department has identified the following guidelines for HIST WI courses:

• Demonstrate understanding of societal change over time

• Demonstrate awareness of the particular nature, value, limitations, and incompleteness of historical sources

• Use writing to communicate ideas effectively in lucid, accessible prose

• Engage in critical and persuasive analysis of an interpretive problem

• Make a persuasive and logically organized argument that answers a question

• Articulate this argument in a thesis statement

• Use and cite evidence appropriately and accurately to support argument

• Revise appropriately in response to feedback and resubmit written work

Instructional Time

Instructional time per course credit is a consistent minimum expectation set by the University for the amount of effort your instructor must spend engaging directly with you in your courses. For this 4-credit course, you will spend approximately 600 minutes per week on class activities. We will spend 150 minutes per week learning together in person and via zoom, and another 50 asynchronously with weekly overview videos and video tutorials. In addition to these interactions, you’ll also commit to about 400 minutes per week completing the other independent, interactive and collaborative activities that comprise the course, including doing the assigned readings, posting on discussions, studying for and taking quizzes, completing papers and other assignments, and providing peer reviews.


Like writing, reading is key to understanding history. We will read a variety of genres: primary source documents from the past, historical analyses, books and articles. We will read closely for tone and style as well as content. In order to practice close reading and share our reflections, we will collectively comment on some of the readings through a social annotation tool within Canvas called Hypothes.is.


Most readings will be available through library e-reserves on the Canvas course website. In addition, the following two required books are available at the University bookstore:


Rampolla, Mary Lynn. A Pocket Guide to Writing in History. 8th Ed. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2012. [Not available at library; I recommend you buy and have on hand]


Andrien, Kenneth J. Andean Worlds: Indigenous History, Culture, and Consciousness under Spanish Rule, 1532-1825. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2001.

Technologies and technical requirements

To participate fully in the course, you’ll need:

These technical requirements will allow you to access the Canvas site successfully, send/receive online communications, complete assigned activities, and view multimedia content.

  • A U of M internet ID (your official U of M email address)
  • Reliable, high-speed Internet access
  • A supported Web browser (Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox are strongly recommended)
  • Laptop, desktop or tablet with a webcam (You're not required to turn on your camera during zoom, but I encourage it to help build our classroom community.)

Optional but recommended:

  • Canvas student app for your smartphone


Attendance and Participation

Much learning happens through active listening and discussion of course materials. Showing up (on zoom) is the first step and you will be credited 5% of your grade for consistent attendance. Even more important is your participation (worth 15% of your final grade).

You will respond to course materials and the ideas of other students:


  • Online through canvas discussion forums (due Mon or Wed. by 7 p.m.)
  • Online collectively annotating readings via the tool Hypothes.is (by 7 pm. Mon or Wed.)
  • During class discussions on zoom (including group work in breakout rooms)
  • Peer feedback on projects
  • A pan-American Congress role play toward the end of the semester (See syllabus p. 14)


Quizzes are an opportunity for you to keep up and check your comprehension of course materials and for me as the instructor to see if there are areas that require clarification. Also, because students have different skills and strengths, I like to have a variety of assessment opportunities. During 13 weeks, an online canvas quiz will open on Tuesday after class (by 5 at the latest) and close on Friday at 5 p.m. Each will consist of 10 questions based on that week’s readings, videos and lectures, and you will have 20 minutes to complete it. You can take as many quizzes as you wish, and your 7 highest quiz grades will count toward 20% of your final grade. 

Writing Assignments

Details about each assignment will be available on canvas (and at the end of the syllabus, pp. 15-24):

  • Analysis of primary documents related to the Spanish invasion of the Mexica Empire. 500 words (about 2 pages). Due Oct. 4.
  • Analytical paper on the Spanish invasion of the Mexica Empire which includes a revision of your document analysis assignment. 800-1000 words (about 4 pages) Due Oct. 11.
  • Statement of Writing Goals: Having received feedback on two assignments, you will make a plan of which aspects of writing you want to especially work on. In addition, you will identify a topic for your next project and two journal articles related to it. Due Oct. 25.
  • Review of an article in a scholarly journal, related to the topic of your project. 500-600 words (about 2 pages). Due Nov. 1.
  • Project (either a paper or comparable StoryMap) on a topic of your choice related to the course, based on both primary and secondary sources. Version 1 due Nov. 15. Revised project due Nov. 25.
  • A StoryMap on a historical figure related to the course and monuments to that person. Project to be done in pairs. Due. Dec. 9.
  • Final Essays (take-home exam). Due Dec. 20.

Course Outline & Schedule

If necessary, the timing of activities and topics listed below may change. The canvas website modules will be updated as necessary. Readings should be completed prior to class meeting on the indicated day.

Week 1 (Sept. 8 - 11) - What is History?


By Wednesday
Before Thursday
  • Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 1-7.
  • Camilla Townsend, Malintzin’s Choices: An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006), 1-10 (Introduction).
  • Kenneth J. Andrien, Andean Worlds: Indigenous History, Culture, and Consciousness under Spanish Rule, 1532-1825 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2001), 1-9.


  • Synchronous lecture/discussion (Tuesday zoom)
  • Canvas discussion forum due Wednesday at 7 p.m.
  • Synchronous discussion (Thursday zoom)
  • Record a flipgrid introduction by Friday at noon.
  • Online quiz open until Friday by 5 p.m.

Week 2 (Sept 14 - 18) - “America” before 1492


Before Tuesday
  • Michael J. Heckenberger, “Lost Cities of the Amazon,” Scientific American, 301, no. 4 (Oct 2009), 64-71.
  • Lizzie Wade, “Polynesians Steering by the Stars met Native Americans long before Europeans arrived,” Science (July 8, 2020).
  • Andrien, Andean Worlds, 11-39.
  • Townsend, Malintzin’s Choices, 11-29 (Chap. 1: Pelican’s Kingdom).
  • Watch at least 3 of the indigenous stories at 68 Voces (68 Voices)
Before Thursday
  • Complete the Survey on Writing
  • Rampolla, 8-23.
  • Thomas Holloway, “Latin America: What’s in a Name,” in A Companion to Latin American History (Waltham, MA: Wiley/Blackwell, 2008), 3-9.


  • Canvas discussion forum on the Americas before 1492 due by Mon. 7 p.m. (and replies by Tues. 9:45 a.m.)
  • Synchronous lecture/discussion (Tuesday zoom)
  • Canvas hypothes.is reading annotation of Holloway due Wed. 7 p.m.
  • Introduction to ArcGIS online and StoryMaps (during our Thursday zoom)
  • Online quiz open until Friday by 5 p.m.

Week 3 (Sept. 21 - 25) - Spanish Expansion in Iberia and the Atlantic


Before Tuesday
Before Thursday
  • Peter Bakewell, A History of Latin America (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1997), 59-67.
  • John Cummins, ed., The Voyage of Christopher Columbus (St. Martin's Press, 1992), excerpts: 93-105 (Oct 11-23), and 140-145 (Dec. 16-18)
  • John Hébert, “America,” in Jordana Dym and Karl Offen, eds., Mapping Latin America: A Cartographic Reader (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2011), 29-32.
  • Peter DeCarlo and Mattie Harper, “Minnesota, we need to talk about our Columbus Monument,” MinnPost (Oct. 8, 2018).
  • “The Columbus Celebration,” Minnesota History, 13, no. 1 (March 1932): 83-85.
  • KARE 11 coverage of activists toppling the Columbus statue in MN (June 10, 2020)
  • ArcGIS online map of Columbus monuments.


  • Synchronous lecture/discussion (Tuesday zoom)
  • Canvas hypothes.is reading annotation of Columbus due Wed. 7 p.m.
  • Synchronous discussion (Thursday zoom)
  • Online quiz open until Friday by 5 p.m.

Week 4 (Sept. 28 - Oct. 2) - Spanish Invasions and Indigenous Responses


Before Tuesday
Before Thursday
  • Excerpts from Hernan Cortes, Letters from Mexico, translated and edited by Anthony Pagden (Yale University Press, 1986), 83-91 and 232-241.
  • Excerpts from Bernal Díaz del Castillo, The Conquest of New Spain (Penguin Books, 1963), 85-87, 114-118, 216-225, and 376-384.
  • Excerpts from the Florentine Codex in Matthew Restall, Lisa Sousa, and Kevin Terraciano, eds., Mesoamerican Voices: Native-Language Writings from Colonial Mexico, Oaxaca, Yucatan, and Guatemala (Cambridge University Press, 2005), 23-42.
  • Excerpts from the Florentine Codex in Miguel León Portilla, ed. The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico. (Boston: Beacon Press, 2006), 103-114.


  • Synchronous lecture/discussion (Tuesday zoom)
  • Canvas hypothes.is annotation: Cortes, Castillo, and Florentine Codex due Wed. 7 p.m.
  • Synchronous discussion (Thursday zoom)
  • Online quiz open until Friday by 5 p.m.
  • Primary source analysis paper due Sunday, Oct. 4, midnight.

Week 5 (Oct. 5 - 9) - Further Expeditions and Historic Mapping


Before Tuesday
Before Thursday
  • Jordana Dym and Karl Offen, “Introduction,” in Mapping Latin America, 1-18.


  • By Monday 7 p.m. complete VideoAnt of clip from Aguirre: the Wrath of God
  • By Monday 7 p.m. Hypothes.is annotation of primary source on Pueblo Revolt.
  • Synchronous lecture/discussion (Tuesday zoom)
  • Canvas Discussion Forum on Lope de Aguirre and “Frontera!” due Wed. at 7 p.m.
  • Historic maps exercise (completed during Thurs. Zoom session with curators of the James Ford Bell Library).
  • Online quiz open until Friday by 5 p.m.
  • Historical Argument Analysis Paper on Spanish Invasion of Mexico due Sunday, Oct.11, midnight.

Week 6 (Oct. 12 - 16) - Establishing colonies


Before Tuesday
  • Townsend, Malintzin’s Choices (Chap. 7 and 8), 148-187.
  • Nahuatl Testament of Ana Juana (Culhuacan, 1580) from Mesoamerican Voices
Before Thursday
  • Townsend, Malintzin’s Choices (Chap. 9), 188-213. (recommended)


  • Synchronous lecture/discussion (Tuesday zoom)
  • Canvas hypothes.is annotation of Guaman Poma de Ayala due Wed. 7 p.m.
  • Analysis of encomienda document (completed during Thurs. Zoom session).
  • Online quiz open until Friday by 5 p.m.

Week 7 (Oct. 19 - 23) - Missionaries and Religion


Before Tuesday
  • “Excerpt from the Story of the Apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe, 1649,” in Mesoamerican Voices, 196-201.
  • Andrien, Andean Worlds, 153-92.
  • StoryMap: The Idols of the Andes
Before Thursday
  • Pablo José de Arriaga, The Extirpation of Idolatry in Peru Edited and translated by L. Clark Keating (University of Kentucky Press, 1968) 113-116 and 165-173.
  • “The Witness Francisco Poma y Altas Caldeas of San Pedro de Acas, Cajatambo, Peru (1657)” in Colonial Latin America: A Documentary History, edited by Kenneth Mills, William Taylor and Sandra Lauderdale Graham (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2002), 255-268.


  • Synchronous lecture/discussion (Tuesday zoom)
  • Canvas hypothes.is annotation of Arriaga and Witness Poma due Wed. 7 p.m.
  • Synchronous discussion (Thursday zoom)
  • Online quiz open until Friday by 5 p.m.
  • Project Proposal and Writing Goals due Sunday, Oct. 25, midnight.

Week 8 (Oct. 26 - 30) - Portuguese Brazil and Transatlantic Slavery


Before Tuesday
Before Thursday
  • James H. Sweet, “Manumission in Rio de Janeiro, 1749-54: An African Perspective,” Slavery & Abolition 24, no. 1 (2003): 54-70.


  • Synchronous lecture/discussion (Tuesday zoom)
  • Canvas hypothes.is annotation of Sweet due Wed. 7 p.m.
  • Synchronous discussion and practice for article review (Thursday zoom)
  • Online quiz open until Friday by 5 p.m.
  • Article review due Sunday, Nov. 1, midnight.

Week 9 (Nov. 2 - 6) - Racial Identities and Enslaved Africans


Before Tuesday
  • Watch video presentation on Casta Paintings
  • “A Protest to the King: The Caracas City Council Obeys but Does Not Execute” in Sarah Chambers and Chasteen, Latin American Independence: An Anthology of Sources (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2010), 44-50.
Before Thursday
  • Mary Karasch, “Zumbi of Palmares: Challenging the Portuguese Colonial Order,” in The Human Tradition in Colonial Latin America, 133-49.
  • Watch clip from the film Quilombo
  • Read and annotate one of the following 3 primary sources:
    • Rebellion document in Stuart B. Schwartz, “Resistance and Accommodation in 18th-Century Brazil,” The Hispanic American Historical Review 57, no. 1 (1977), 76-79.
    • Maribel Arrelucea Barrantes, “Slavery, Writing, and Female Resistance: Black Women Litigants in Lima’s Tribunals of the 1780s,” in Afro-Latin Voices: Narratives from the Early Modern Ibero-Atlantic World, 1550-1812, edited by Kathryn Joy McKnight and Leo J. Garofalo (Hackett Publishing Company, 2009), 285-301.
    • “Will of Francisco Nunes de Moraes,” in Katia M. de Queirós Mattoso, To Be a Slave in Brazil, 1550-1888, Translated by Arthur Goldhammer (Rutgers University Press, 1986), 215-220.


  • Canvas Discussion Forum on Casta Paintings due Mon. at 7 p.m.
  • Synchronous lecture/discussion (Tuesday zoom)
  • Canvas hypothes.is annotation of a primary source on slavery due Wed. 7 p.m.
  • Synchronous discussion (Thursday zoom)
  • Online quiz open until Friday by 5 p.m.

Week 10 (Nov. 9 - 13) - Spanish Colonial Economy


Before Tuesday
  • Andrien, Andean Worlds, 73-102.
  • Peter Bakewell, “Mining Mountains,” in Jordana Dym and Karl Offen, eds., Mapping Latin America: A Cartographic Reader (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2011), 61-64.
  • StoryMaps on Silver Mining and mining/haciendas.
  • Appendix 1 and 2, “Grievances” in Doris M Ladd, The Making of a Strike: Mexican Silverworkers’ Struggles in Real del Monte, 1766-1775 (University of Nebraska Press, 1988), 129-138.
  • Video Clips from The Devil’s Miner


  • Annotation of Grievances of Mexican mineworkers (primary source) due Mon. 7 p.m.
  • Synchronous lecture/discussion (Tuesday zoom)
  • Project prospectus due Wed. at 7 p.m. (for discussion with peers on Thursday)
  • Synchronous discussion and peer feedback (Thursday zoom)
  • Online quiz open until Friday by 5 p.m.
  • Version 1 of project due Sunday Nov. 15 at midnight.

Week 11 (Nov. 16 - 20) - Imperial Changes in the 18th Century


Before Tuesday


  • Synchronous lecture/discussion (Tuesday zoom)
  • Peer feedback on projects (completed during Thurs. Zoom session)
  • Online quiz open until Friday by 5 p.m.

Week 12 (Nov. 23-25; Thanksgiving) - Rise of Rebellion


Before Tuesday
  • Andrien, Andean Worlds, 193-243.
  • Chambers and Chasteen, Latin American Independence, 33-39 (Túpac Amaru), and 67-76 (Brazilian conspiracies).
  • Primary sources from the Haitian Revolution.


  • Synchronous lecture/discussion (Tuesday zoom)
  • Revised project due Wednesday, Nov. 25 at midnight.
  • No Thursday zoom this week (Thanksgiving)
  • Online quiz open until Friday by 5 p.m.

Week 13 (Nov. 30 - Dec. 4) - Independence Movements


Before Tuesday
  • Chambers and Chasteen, Latin American Independence, 207-216 (Speeches for Independence Day).
  • Chad  Black, "Lineages of Columbus: San Antonio, Ethnicity, and October 1892," The Latin Americanist 64, no. 1 (2020): 9-27.
Before Thursday
  • Chambers and Chasteen, Latin American Independence, ix-xiv (Preface), 79-91 (“The Crucible of War”), 132-36 (Simón and María Antonia Bolívar) and 222-225 (Biography As History, Mitre on Bolívar and San Martín).
  • Video clip from “The Buried Mirror, IV: The Price of Freedom


  • Mapping monuments (begin during Tuesday zoom session)
  • Canvas hypothes.is annotation of Bolívar’s Angostura Address due Wed. 7 p.m.
  • Synchronous lecture and discussion (Thursday zoom)

Week 14 (Dec. 7 and 11) - Independence and Beyond


Before Tuesday
  • Chambers and Chasteen, Latin American Independence,107-116 (New Spain), 179-85 (“The National Experience”), 192-202 (Claims and Padilla).

Before Thursday

  • Review readings related to your character for the Role Play.


  • Synchronous lecture and discussion (Tuesday zoom)
  • StoryMaps on Commemoration due Wed. Dec. 9 at midnight.
  • Pan-American Congress Role Play (during Thursday zoom session)
  • Online quiz open until Friday by 5 p.m.

Week 15 (Dec. 14 - 20) - Final Reflections


  • Synchronous lecture and discussion (Tuesday zoom)
  • Final essays due Sunday Dec. 20 at midnight.


Assignment Instructions



On Thurs. Dec 10, we will hold a pan-American Congress to consider plans for the newly independent nations. Student pairs will enact each representative. They should be thinking about their own interests as well as potential allies and formulate a resolution for consideration by the assembly. Make sure your resolution is plausible, specific and significant.


At the Congress, each representative may have 2 minutes to write a resolution on the board (write the name of the representative after the resolution) and briefly speak in its favor. (You should have one student writing and one speaking.) There will be 3 minutes for discussion from the floor of the assembly and then there will be an open vote by raising of hands (one vote per representative).


The following are representatives. (Their documents are indicated by page numbers in Latin American Independence; you should also consider what you know about each person or the groups to which they belong from the general context.) Of course, in 1820s not all of these people would have been able to attend an elected congress (though more of them than would have been the case in the United States in the same period).


Tiradentes (67-72)

Simón Bolívar (118-19 and 136-46)

María Antonia Bolívar (132-36)

Miguel Hidalgo (107-8)

José María Morelos (115-17)

Bishop Manuel Abad y Queipo (108-112)

Admiral José Padilla (197-202)

The indigenous villagers from Xonacatlán, Mexico (196-97)

The “Honest Pardo” (195-96)

Hilario Pio (194-95)

Francisco del Solar, Cacique of Chaupimarca, Peru (193-4)

Leona Vicario (192-93)


Answer the following questions while preparing for and reflecting upon the role play:

  1. Based on both the primary source document related to your historical figure as well as the general context about the social group to which he or she belongs, what are your goals?
  2. Who among the other representatives may have similar interests and goals to yours? 
  3. Come up with a resolution that you would like to bring to the floor for a vote.
  4. Reflect on the outcome of the Congress:
    1. Did your resolution pass, why or why not?
    2. Which aspects of the role-play seem most plausible to actual historical events and which aspects would have been unlikely to occur in real life?
    3. Did the roleplay make you think about Latin American independence in new ways?

HIST/LAS 3401W: Mapping Historical Memory

Purpose and Relationship to the Course: 

As we have explored throughout the semester, public monuments to historical figures have become a matter of debate around the world. Statues and monuments are one indication of how governments or civic associations remember and commemorate the past. By mapping several of the historical figures we have studied in class, we can compare where and how they have been commemorated.


  • Tues. Dec. 1: in class, pairs will map locations of their historical figure.
  • Wed. Dec. 8 by 7 p.m.: pairs will complete a short StoryMap on that historical figure and monuments.
  • Tues. Dec. 15: in class, we’ll discuss the composite StoryMap. 



  • Write in a manner that will be clear to interested members of the public.


  1. In class on Tues. Dec. 1, work with your partner to create a map in ArcGIS online:
    1. With one partner entering data and sharing their screen with the other, follow the directions on “How to Make a Flickr Map” 
    2. Click on each point to go to the flickr_url in order to see why that photo got pulled into your search. (If you see no connection to the historical figure, you may want to eliminate that point.)
    3. Once you have your map, fill out the reflection on the activity.
    4. At the end of class, each pair will share their map and discuss some of their reflections.
  2. Working collaboratively with your partner between Dec. 1 and 8, create a short StoryMap with the following elements:
    1. A map that places the historical figure in one or more places in which they lived accompanied by side car text on their life and significant activities and an image of that figure (ideally as close in time to their lifetime as possible).
    2. Two successive panels with map-points highlighting commemorations of that person along with the associated images. Try to choose two that will allow you to highlight distinct ways of remembering that figure in the accompanying text.
    3. A final panel featuring your full monuments maps in which you reflect on how that figure has been commemorated (or not) in terms of: the number of statues/named sites, whether they tend to be official government sites or part of popular culture, and their regional or global distribution.


Assignment 1: Primary Source Analysis

Due date: Sun. Oct. 4, 11:59 p.m., upload to canvas




The intent of this assignment is to provide you an opportunity to practice skills of a historical detective by engaging in close analysis of primary sources. For this assignment, the goal is to identify the different ways these sources tell the story and propose explanations for those differences. (Do not be as concerned for now with “what really happened.”)

Primary Sources

The case of the Spanish invasion of Mexico provides us a set of rich sources from multiple perspectives (multiple people in the past telling the story in their own way).


Read all three sources, and then choose two to compare:


  • Hernan Cortés: Letters (reports) written to the Spanish King, 1520-1522
  • Bernal Díaz del Castillo: narrative account written around 1560s
  • Indigenous informants (Florentine Codex): told to Spanish Missionaries, 1540s-1570s
  • Note: in the English selections, the Florentine Codex excerpts have been drawn from two different published volumes (Mesoamerican Voices and The Broken Spears); they should be considered together as one source, but cited according to each edition. 


Resources for Analyzing Primary Sources





1. Choose a particular topic that interests you. 


  • Since you will be writing about the encounter/clash between the Spaniards and Mexica again in the next assignment, you may wish to identify a topic that will work for both. 


Example Topics (but you may also come up with your own):

  • Cortés as a leader of his Spanish troops
  • Malintzin and her role
  • The initial encounter (and/or subsequent conversation between) Cortés and Moctezuma
  • The role of the Tlaxcalans
  • Whether or not the Nahua considered the Spaniards to be gods (or specifically Quetzacoatl)
  • How Spaniards viewed the indigenous people
  • Battles between the Mexica and Spanish forces
  • Some other topic that interests you.


2. Choose two primary sources to compare.

3. Identify the similarities and differences between how the two sources depict the topic you have chosen to analyze. 

  • Keep in mind that we are reading only excerpts from longer sources. (So we cannot say, for example, “Cortés never mentions Malintzin,” but only “in these extended excerpts, Cortés never mentions that Malintzin is translating for him.”)

4. Find specific evidence/examples; providing brief quotations from the sources is one effective way to illustrate your points (but should not substitute for your own analysis).

5. Explain why the sources would concur or differ on these aspects. 

  • Consider, for example, the authors’ aims and intended audience, their assumptions and beliefs, and the time and context in which the source was produced. 

6. Tell your reader what point of larger historical significance we can learn from this comparison: your thesis.

7. Organize your paper:

  • An introduction (a short one for a paper of this length) that states your thesis (one historically significant point you are making based upon your analysis.)
  • 2-3 paragraphs in which you identify and analyze the differences and/or similarities between the sources and provide evidence/examples of these.
  • Brief conclusion in which you recap your argument.
  • Write or revise the introduction and conclusion after completing the main body of the paper. (The process of writing helps you sharpen your argument and thesis.)
  • Proofread and check that you have followed the presentation guidelines.
  • Give your paper an original title.


Presentation Guidelines


  • 550-650 words long (about two pages not counting notes and bibliography).
  • Times New Roman 12-point font, double-spaced, and 1-inch margins.
  • Chicago Manual of Style citation formatting (footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography; consult Rampolla, 7b and 7c.).
  • Follow standard writing conventions (spelling, proofreading, grammar etc.).



Assignment 2: Historical Argument Analysis

Due date: Sun., Oct. 11, 11:59 p.m. uploaded to Canvas

Purpose and Objectives


This part of the assignment gives you an opportunity to add an assessment of one historian’s interpretation (the secondary source book by Townsend) to your use of evidence from primary sources (Diaz, Cortés and/or the Florentine Codex). 


It will build on the primary source analysis assignment, but it is not simply a revision of that. For this part of the assignment, you will identify and evaluate one of Townsend’s arguments with reference to the primary sources. You may agree with her interpretation, disagree with it, or come down somewhere in between.


Although Townsend’s main focus is Malintzin, throughout the book she makes arguments about other aspects of the encounter between Spanish and indigenous people in Mexico. For example, she takes positions on the following (and other) issues:


  • Whether or not indigenous people viewed the Spaniards as “gods” in general and Cortés as Quetzalcoatl in particular.
  • The role and influence of Malintzin during the Spanish march to Tenochtitlan.
  • The importance of the initial meetings between Cortés and Moctezuma to the outcome of the war.
  • The factor(s) that were decisive in explaining the ultimate Spanish victory.


  1. Review Rampolla sections 2a-b and 3a-c on analyzing primary and secondary sources.
  2. Choose an argument from Townsend that interests you (one of the above or another that can be analyzed using our primary source excerpts).
  3. Identify and restate in your own words Townsend’s thesis on that topic.
  4. State your own thesis (agree, disagree, somewhere in between because. . . )
  5. Support your evaluation of Townsend by providing relevant evidence from the primary sources.
  6. You may draw from what you wrote for the first assignment (primary source analysis) as relevant, being sure to modify according to feedback you received. 
  7. You will likely need to find additional evidence and may need to draw from the third primary source.
  8. Check organization of the paper (introduction, body, conclusion).
  9. Revise your thesis as necessary to match your conclusions.
  10. Give your paper an original title.
  11. Proofread and check proper formatting of notes and bibliography.

Presentation Guidelines  

  • 900-1200 words long (not counting notes and bibliography, about 4 pages).
  • Times New Roman 12-point font, double-spaced, and 1-inch margins.
  • Use Chicago Manual of Style citation formatting (footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography; consult Rampolla, 7b and 7c.).
  • Follow proper writing conventions (spelling, proofreading, grammar etc.).
  • Note to those seeking credit in Spanish: If you have signed a contract to do work in Spanish, you should write this assignment in Spanish and quote from the Spanish documents, but you may cite from Townsend in English.



  • Writing and learning are processes with a positive feedback loop. Writing hones your critical thinking skills. Reflecting on a finished writing assignment helps you identify areas for further practice.
  • Everyone has different writing strengths and areas for improvement.
  • You may have specific goals in terms of writing genres and audience (e.g. more academic or more public facing).
  • Therefore, this statement will allow you to reflect on the writing you have done so far in the class, and articulate goals for the rest of the semester.


  • No later than Oct. 25 at midnight.


  1. Reflection: Look back on your writing assignments and feedback for passages that reflect strengths in your writing, areas for improvement, and moments of learning:
    1. Copy down a passage (a sentence, a few sentences, a paragraph) that you think exemplifies a strength; briefly explain (100-150 words) why you chose it and how it reflects a strength in your writing.
    2. Copy down a passage (a sentence, a few sentences, a paragraph) that you think exemplifies something to work on; briefly explain (100-150 words) why you chose it and how it could be an area for improvement.
    3. Copy down a passage (a sentence, a few sentences, a paragraph) that reflects a moment in which you learned something from the process of writing; briefly explain (100-150 words) why you chose it and how the act of writing gave you new insight into some aspect of the history.
  2. Looking Ahead to the Final Project, write a paragraph (125-200 words) about:
    1. Identify a few topics that interest you (you do not need to commit to one yet, but consider that you can use the article review assignment as a first step).
    2. Consider whether you prefer to write a paper or build a StoryMap (you do not need to commit to one yet).
    3. Identify and discuss two primary writing goals to work on for the final project:
      1. Try to have one goal related to analysis, working with sources etc.
      2. Try to have one goal related to writing style and mechanics.
    4. If you have not already emailed Prof. Chambers two possible articles to review: provide the citations in the bibliographic Chicago Style from Rampolla (not url links) for two academic journal articles based on primary research (not books reviews or review essays). Professor will approve one (or indicate that you may choose either).



  • This assignment allows you to read in further depth about a topic of interest to you. Ideally, this will be the topic of your final project. 
  • It is also an opportunity to continue practicing how to read critically and assess in writing the work published by historians.
  • We will practice the steps of an article review in class on Oct. 29 using the article by James Sweet on manumission.
  • Students interested in learning more in depth about particular topics are invited to read other students’ reviews on Canvas.


  • Oct 25: or earlier, propose two articles that interest you. 
  • Oct 26: or earlier, professor will approve one (or indicate either is fine).
  • Nov. 1: Review of the article due. 


  1. Choose a topic from the time period of the class (c. 1450-1825), ideally one about which you plan to write your final project. Consult the guidelines for the final project.
  2. Search for appropriate articles (additional searching tips will be covered in class). These should be articles based upon original research in primary sources (not book reviews or review essays). If you are getting Spanish credit, you should choose an article in Spanish.
  3. The following indexes from the library website are useful (you must log in): 
    1. Handbook of Latin American Studies
    2. Hispanic American Periodicals Index
    3. Historical Abstracts
    4. Academic Search Premier.
  4. Leading academic journals for Latin American history include: 
    1. The Americas
    2. The American Historical Review
    3. The Colonial Latin American Historical Review
    4. The Colonial Latin American Review
    5. Ethnohistory
    6. Hispanic American Historical Review
    7. Journal of Latin American Studies
    8. Latin American Research Review. 
    9. You may find articles in topical journals as well (e.g. legal history, women’s/gender history etc.).
  5. Read abstracts and/or skim several articles to decide which are most interesting and clearly written.
  6. No later than midnight on Oct. 25 submit the citations in bibliographic Chicago Style (not url links) for two articles as part of your Statement of Writing Goals (or earlier by email). Professor will approve one (or indicate that you may choose either).
  7. Read the article carefully: 
    1. Pay particular attention to the author’s thesis and the evidence s/he provides to support that argument.
    2. Review the advice on critical reading in Rampolla's Writing Guide, Section 2b-2 and 3a, pp. 18-21 and 24-28.
    3. Consult the footnotes/endnotes to see what specific sources the author uses and how s/he is debating and/or building upon the work of other historians.
  8. Following the criteria in Rampolla's Writing Guide, 3d-1 (pp. 38-39), write a review of the article in which you:
    1. summarize the author’s argument
    2. discuss how the author supports that thesis with evidence from specific kinds of sources,
    3. if applicable, compare how the author handles the material in comparison to secondary works on the same subject that we are reading in class, and
    4. conclude with a final assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the article.
    5. See the sample reviews posted on Canvas from former students of the class as models.
  9. Format your review: 
    1. 500-600 words, double-spaced (about 2 pages but do a word count)
    2. At the top of the page, provide the full article citation with correct bibliographic formatting. 
    3. At the end, put Reviewed by: Your Name.
  10. Upload your review to Canvas in 2 places:
    1. To the assignment link to receive feedback and grade
    2. To the Discussion Forum so that you may read each other’s reviews





  • Taking the time to plan and reflect results in a stronger project.
  • Bouncing ideas off a peer and receiving feedback as you are working on your final project can give you new ideas and identify areas that could use clarification.


  • Due Wed. Nov. 11 by midnight as a google document shared with Prof. Chambers.
  • Thurs. Nov. 12 in class, you will be assigned a peer to share and provide feedback.


  1. Give your project an original, preliminary title.
  2. In the first paragraph (125-200 words):
    1. Identify the topic for your project and why you chose it.
    2. Identify the format for your project (paper or StoryMap) and why you made that choice.
    3. Briefly discuss the primary and secondary sources you are using and why.
    4. State your working hypothesis (preliminary thesis statement that will likely be revised several times). 
  3. In the second paragraph (75-150 words), identify particular areas on which you would like feedback from a peer. You may articulate these as either statements or questions.


Purpose and Relationship to the Course: 

  • The first two writing assignments on the Spanish invasion of Mexico were an opportunity to practice both primary and secondary source analysis on a set of shared sources.
  • The final project is an opportunity for you to bring these methods together in order to provide your own analysis of a topic that interests you. You now get to tell the story. 
  • In addition to the choice of topic, you can choose to either write a paper (about 5 pages in length) or build a StoryMap.
  • To stay on track, there are several shorter assignments that build toward your final project.
  • Feel free to discuss your projects at any stage in the writing process (but not at the last minute) with Professor Chambers, or with the Center for Writing (http://writing.umn.edu/sws/index.html).





Write each assignment for an audience of UMN students. You should not take shared knowledge for granted, but can assume your readers are interested in the subject. 

Steps for Completing the First Draft


  1. Choose a topic. Go through the syllabus and suggested prompts (below) to choose a topic related to Latin America during the time period of the class (c.1450-1825). (Since you have already written assignments on the Conquest of Mexico, you should not do that topic for this project unless you make a case to the professor for a completely different approach.)
  2. Make sure that you have sufficient, relevant primary and secondary sources for your project. These must include
    1. relevant course readings, and If you decide to write about a topic not covered much in the class, you will need to find additional sources and should consult with the professor.
    2. at least one academic journal article not on the syllabus (this can be the article you reviewed).
    3. at least one primary source (can be from those assigned for class or get approval of the professor for an alternative source). The project should incorporate an analysis of primary source(s) in a substantial way, not as a brief reference.
    4. You may also reference lecture notes as appropriate, but only as a supplement to a solid basis of written sources.
  3. Research Phase
    1. Read through your sources and take notes with a few questions (e.g. from the prompts below or study guides) and a hypothesis in mind. (See Rampolla, pp. 51-55.) 
    2. Formulate a preliminary thesis. (See Rampolla, pp. 55-57 and 99-101.)
  4. Draft your project.
    1. 5a. Draft a paper in which you pose your thesis statement at the beginning, follow through with an argument supported by specific evidence from your sources, and come to a resolution at the end. (See Rampolla, pp. 57-69.)
    2. Draft a storymap project that has a thesis statement followed by slides that build an argument, supported by specific evidence from your sources accompanied by appropriate maps and images, and come to a resolution at the end. 
  5. Review your draft:
    1. Make sure that the argument builds in an organized manner
    2. Make sure that each paragraph/slide has a clear topic sentence related to the thesis (See Rampolla, pp. 69-81)
    3. Properly cite your sources according to Chicago Manual of Style (consult Rampolla, 114-145). 
    4. Consider your audience to be interested college-aged or educated readers, who have not read everything you have.
    5. Watch out for plagiarism (which can be unintentional as well as intentional): rephrasing an author's point by changing a few words is still officially plagiarism. See Rampolla, 103-10, and ask the professor if you have any question about what constitutes plagiarism.
  6. Revise your thesis as necessary to reflect ideas that you may have developed in the course of your writing. It is often at this point that you can turn an “average” thesis into an insightful one. 
  7. Give your project an original title.
  8. Final proofread 
    1. Proofread paper and make sure it is properly formatted:
      1. Check for typos, grammatical errors
      2. 1800-2000 words (about 5 pages not counting notes)
      3. page numbers in upper right corner.
      4. bibliography


    1. Proofread StoryMap
      1. Check for typos, grammatical errors
      2. About 1200-1500 words of text, between narrative, pop ups, captions etc.
      3. Images and text are correctly matched up
      4. Check configuration of pop ups
      5. final slide with sources for both readings and images  



UMN Policies & Resources

Grading Policies

Your overall grade consists of the following assessments, according to the indicated values.



Points (per assignment)

# or due date

Total % Final Grade

Weekly (almost) online quizzes

10 points each

(highest 7 scores count)

13 Fridays by 5 p.m.


Primary Source Analysis

✔ or ✔-

 Oct. 4

 ✔- will result in 3 point deduction on next assignment

Paper on Spanish Invasion of Mexico

100 points

 Oct. 11


Statement of Writing Goals

✔ or ✔-

 Oct. 25

 ✔- will result in 1  point deduction on next assignment

Article Review

100 points

Nov. 1


Project Draft

✔ or ✔-

Nov. 15

 ✔- will result in 3 point deduction on next assignment

Revised Project

100 points

Nov. 25


Monument StoryMap

100 points

Dec. 9


Final Essays

100 points

Dec. 20



4 for each of 28 classes

All semester



100 points

All semester


Total Value



Late Assignments, Missed Exams

Missed Quizzes

Because only your top 7 quiz grades count in the final grade, there are no options to take a quiz after it closes on Friday at 5 p.m.

Grace Days for Writing Assignments

All deadlines for other assignments are firm. However, you have four grace days that you may use any time (applied all on one or distributed over several assignments), no questions asked. Once you have used the grace days up, grades on a given assignment will be reduced by 1/3 of a letter grade (3 points out of 100) per day late. Any unused grace days are worth .3 point (out of 100) of extra credit on your final grade. (For example, if your final grade calculates to 86.4/B, but you have 2 unused grace days, I will add .6 point and your grade will be 87/B+.)

Save your work

Technology problems will not be accepted as excuses for late work (but you can apply grace days). Be sure to save and back up your work frequently, for example to free online storage via UMN Google Drive.

Extended illness or other serious circumstances

In the case of an extended illness or other serious circumstances, please email me as soon as possible and we will negotiate a schedule for completion of missed work.

Per the UMN policy on grading and transcripts, incompletes are assigned at the discretion of the instructor and require a written agreement outlining how and when the work will be completed.

Grades of ✔ or ✔-

So that you can focus on writing without worrying about a letter grade, some assignments will be graded as either  or -.  means that you have met the requirements of the assignment. - means that you missed a major requirement of the assignment (for example: more than a few hundred words below the minimum length, did not use the required number of sources). In those cases, there will be a point deduction on a subsequent assignment. Other issues related to writing feedback (grammar, citation format etc.) will not on their own result in a -.

Attendance and Participation

Attendance is worth 5% of your final grade. There are 28 class sessions and attendance at each is worth 4 points. (Therefore, you can miss up to 3 classes and still receive 100%, or attend every class and earn 112%).


You will receive midterm feedback on your participation, via the rubric that will be used to assess your final participation grade.


Leeway to miss a few classes or discussions is built into assessment, so there is no make up for absences or missed opportunities for participation. For extended illness or other serious circumstances, please email me.

Turnaround on Feedback for Graded Work

I provide students feedback and/or scores on assignments that require individualized grading before a further assignment of a similar format is due, or within two weeks whichever comes first, provided the assignment was turned in on the due date. In compliance with FERPA regulations, your graded coursework will be returned via Canvas through which only you will have access to your grades.

Procedure for disputing a grade

Any dispute regarding a grade must be submitted in writing (such as via email or the Canvas Inbox) within 72 hours of when the grade is posted. You must provide clear rationale for why you believe that your grade is incorrect. Statements like “I think I’m right” or “I think I met all of the requirements of this assignment” are not sufficient rationale. Keep in mind that, based on my second look at an assignment, your grade could go down as well as up.

Grading Scale

Letter Grade

Percentage Equivalent
























59.9% - below

Intellectual Property

According to U of M policy on student responsibilities (Num. 6 and 8): Students may not distribute instructor-provided notes or other course materials (such as recordings of lectures), except to other members of the same class or with the express (written) consent of the instructor. And students are not permitted to record any part of a class/lab/other session unless explicitly granted permission by the instructor.

Academic Integrity & Misconduct

Academic misconduct is a violation of the UMN Student Conduct Code and is unacceptable. I expect you to submit your own original work and participate in the course with integrity and high standards of academic honesty. When appropriate, cite original sources, following the style rules of our discipline. Plagiarism (see Rampolla on how to paraphrase without plagiarizing) or cheating in any form may result in failure of the assignment or the entire course, and may include harsher sanctions.  I am required to report all instances of scholastic dishonesty, even if inadvertent, to the Office for Community Standards.


Appropriate online conduct

We do not come to this course with identical backgrounds and experiences. Respectful interactions are critical to successful professional conduct and this course is no exception. Please consider your tone and language, especially when communicating in text format, as the lack of other cues can lead to misinterpretation. Like other work in the course, all student-to-student communication is governed by the Student Conduct Code.

Course Access

Access to course materials in Canvas may cease after the term ends. If you wish to archive materials for your personal records or portfolio you should do so as you progress through the course. As a general rule, you should always save local copies of course-related work. To avoid disasters, you should also save important files to external media or cloud storage, such as google drive.


I will do my best to address you by a preferred name or gender pronoun that you have identified. Please advise me of this preference early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records.

Academic Services and Resources at UMN

Below are several student services available to students:

Technical Support

For tips and information about Canvas visit the Canvas Guide Using Help - Student.


Check here to make sure your preferred browser is supported: Canvas Guide - Supported Browsers


You can also contact the Technology Helpdesk Services at (612) 301-4357 or email them at help@umn.edu for questions about Canvas or any other technological difficulties.


For help with Arcgis online and StoryMaps, contact U-Spatial

Sexual Misconduct 

As an employee of the University of Minnesota, I am a mandated reporter of sexual harassment and sexual violence that takes place on campus or otherwise affects the campus community. This means that if I receive detailed or specific information about an incident such as the date, time, location, or identity of the people involved, I am obligated to share this with UMN’s Title IX Coordinator in order to enable the university to take appropriate action to ensure the safety and rights of all involved. For students not wishing to make an official report, there are confidential resources available to provide support and discuss the available options. Please see Policy Statement for more resources or to file a report.

Equal access and opportunity

Per the U of M policy on equity, diversity, equal opportunity and affirmative action, the University will provide equal access to and opportunity in its programs and facilities, without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Religious Accommodations

Per the UMN guidance on religious accommodation (https://eoaa.umn.edu/resources)  “Students and employees can request accommodations for religious beliefs and practices from their instructors, supervisors, or other appropriate University authorities. Employees who receive accommodation requests should make reasonable efforts to grant the requested accommodation or to grant another accommodation that would permit the student or employee to fulfill their academic or work responsibilities and follow their religious beliefs and practices.”  



Students with Disabilities 

The University of Minnesota views disability as an important aspect of diversity, and is committed to providing equitable access to learning opportunities for all students. The Disability Resource Center (DRC) is the campus office that collaborates with students who have disabilities to provide and/or arrange reasonable accommodations.

  • If you have, or think you have, a disability in any area such as, mental health, attention, learning, chronic health, sensory, or physical, please contact the DRC office on your campus (UM Twin Cities - 612.626.1333) to arrange a confidential discussion regarding equitable access and reasonable accommodations.
  • Students with short-term disabilities, such as a broken arm, can often work with instructors to minimize classroom barriers. In situations where additional assistance is needed, students should contact the DRC as noted above.
  • If you are registered with the DRC and have a disability accommodation letter dated for this semester or this year, please contact your instructor early in the semester to review how the accommodations will be applied in the course.
  • If you are registered with the DRC and have questions or concerns about your accommodations please contact your (access consultant/disability specialist).


Additional information is available on the DRC website:  or email  drc@umn.edu.


Mental health

As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. University of Minnesota services are available to assist you. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential mental health services available on campus via the Student Mental Health Website.


Categories: Syllabus
Keywords: syllabus