HIST 451 (3 cr): Family and Community in Latin America

HIST 451

Mode of Delivery

This is a print-based, correspondence course.

Course Outline

  • Four graded assignments
  • Final examination

Course Description

History 451 (3): Family and Community in Latin America examines the role of the family and community in Latin America focusing on the time from the colonial period (1492-1825) to the early twentieth century. The course employs a thematic approach to the family and community, focusing on marriage, kinship, neighbourhood, race, religion, community celebrations, work and gender. The course investigates how Latin America’s integration into the world economy and the emergence of the nation state after 1800 affected community and family structures.


There are no prerequisites for History 451 and you are not expected to know Spanish or Portuguese or to have taken any previous courses in Latin American history.

Intended Audience

History 451 is aimed at upper-division undergraduate students, both full- and part-time, who are majoring in history or international relations; at other third- and fourth-year students in the humanities and social sciences; and at non-degree students interested in Latin America.

Course Aims

Upon completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. understand some of the major aspects of culture and society in many parts of Latin America and how these have changed over time;
  2. understand the role of family and community in Latin American society; and
  3. demonstrate the skills of historical analysis and writing.

Course Overview

The course is divided into eight lessons. The first lesson sets out a general chronology for the major periods in Latin American history and also identifies the essential themes the course will explore. Lesson Two examines various meanings of the word “community,” including the one used in this course, and considers the types of bonds and “unwritten rules” that develop and operate in such communities. In Lesson Three we look at the layout of new Latin American cities in the colonial period, the relationships among the various groups of inhabitants, and the “unwritten rules” or customs that evolved. Lesson Four examines the structure of the family and its importance in Latin American society. In Lesson Five, we consider the position of women within their families and in the larger society from colonial times until the beginning of this century. The significant relationships in colonial times between the Roman Catholic church and the state and the community, as well as the church’s accommodations with local beliefs, are among the main topics covered in Lesson Six. In Lesson Seven we consider the importance of race in Latin American society, its initial significance in the sistema de castas, and the later increasing influence of economic status rather than race on the social hierarchy. The last lesson explores the key role of the public places of the city and the links between control of such places and periods of moral reform.

Course Requirements

History 451 contains the following course work:

  • one brief ungraded paper, limit of two pages (500 words), summarizing the most important points of an assigned reading;
  • three short graded essays which analyze the arguments in assigned readings and lessons; limit of 1,000 words (four typed pages) each;
  • one graded term paper, limit of 2,500 words (eight-ten typed pages) using the books available in the Extension Library; and
  • a final exam.

Grading System

Three essays
One term paper
Final exam


Required Textbooks:

  • Lavrin, Asuncion. Sexuality and Marriage in Colonial Latin America. Lincoln, NE: U of Nebraska P, 1989. (Paperback)
  • Seed, Patricia. To Love, Honor and Obey in Colonial Mexico. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1988. (Paperback)
  • Graham, Sandra Lauderdale. House and Street: The Domestic World of Servants and Masters in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992. (Paperback)

Custom Course Material:

  • HIST 451 Custom Course Materials (‘Iberia and America Before the Conquest’ and ‘Cities and Society in Colonial Latin America’)
  • HIST 451 Learner Package (includes course manual)

HIST451 Textbook Order Form

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