Senior Seminar: Simon Bolivar, Liberalism and Revolution in the Americas, 1783-Present


Fall 2007

Wednesdays 10:00-12:00noon

Taliaferro 2108

Prof. Daryle Williams
Department of History
2131A Francis Scott Key Hall
(301) 405-4267
Office Hours: By appointment

Course Description and Objectives

This course explores the historical worlds of the South American patriot-liberator Simón Bolívar (1783-1830). Rather than an exercise in strict historical biography, the seminar will consider Bolívar as an exceptional figure in the exceptional Age of Revolution; as one of the millions of Americans who have struggled to make sense of liberty and revolution from the late eighteenth century through the present-day; and as an enduring historical touchstone for the   contested politics of freedom, identity, race, citizenship, democracy, modernity in the Western hemisphere.

Our primary goals of the course are threefold:

•  to understand how the Liberator and his contemporaries made sense of the dramatic historical changes of their time

•  to understand how professional historians have made sense of the long shadows of cast by Bolívar and bolivarismo , especially in the themes of liberty and revolution in the Americas

•  to understand how these popular and professional histories of Bolívar circulate in a wide variety of media, shaping the multiple memories of the Liberator and his historical importance.

As a senior capstone seminar, HIST 408D is intended to cultivate and fine-tune the analytical skills of the senior history major.  

Course Organization and Requirements

In-class discussion will focus on the weekly reading assignments.

Once during the semester, each student will lead the discussion of a week's required reading. Individually-assigned readings may also be discussed, based upon time and interest.

Each student will be expected to write two concise (1000 words maximum) critical reviews of the weekly common reading. The book review should summarize, analyze, and contextualize the main argument of the selected monograph. The regular book reviews published in the Hispanic American Historical Review , the American Historical Review , and H-LATAM should be used as guides.

At the end of the course, each student will be responsible for writing a ten-to-fifteen-page historiographic review essay on 4-5 monographs and articles about a chosen subject discussed in the course. This review essay should assess the connections and disjunctures between the chosen monographs, looking for the ways in which subject matter, theoretical models, use of sources, and methodology are presented by individual authors, as well as the collective. The essay should look back to Bolívar himself, and his writings.

Review essays appearing in the Latin American Research Review and the Hispanic American Historical Review should be used as guides.


Final grades will be determined usually the following formula:

Reviews 30% (15% each)
Participation 20%
Final Paper 50%

Active participation and lively discussions enrich everyone's learning experience.

Statement of Academic Integrity

The Code of Academic Integrity guides this and all other courses taught at the University of Maryland. Violations of the Code may result in a failing grade and/or referral to the appropriate University disciplinary committee.

Should you have ANY questions or doubts about Academic Integrity, including questions of citation and attribution, you should consult your professor, your teaching assistant, and/or the Student Honor Council .

Reading and Film Availability

All required readings will be available through the University Libraries' course reserves, electronic journal databases, and/or the University Book Center. Most documentaries and motion pictures should be available through Nonprint Media Services.

The Reserves Desk will hold assigned monographs on two-hour reserves. It is important that class participants coordinate their reading schedules so that everyone has an opportunity to read the assigned book before class.

Full-text journal articles and other electronic-format materials can be accessed, read, and downloaded, free-of-charge, through the University Libraries' ResearchPort. When possible, stable links to these databases will be included in the online version of this syllabus.

Amazon.com and Google Scholar have each initiated ambitious plans to digitize in full-text a wide range of scholarly publications. Some of the assigned monographs may be found on these sites.

There is no expectation that a student purchase all of the assigned books. Rather, you are encouraged to buy books that are most related to your interests and your writing assignments.

Readings (Required and Recommended)

Bolivar, Simon. El Libertador: Writings of Simon Bolivar. David Bushnell, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Brown, Matthew. Adventuring through the Spanish Colonies:   Simón Bolívar, Foreigners Mercenaries, and the Birth of New Nations . Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2006.

Chavez, Hugo. Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution. Marta Harnecker. ed . Monthly Review Press, 2005.

Collier, Simon, "Nationality, Nationalism, and Supranationalism in the Writings of Simon Bolivar,"   Hispanic American Historical Review , 63:1 (1983): 37-64. [LINK]

Diaz, Arlene. Female Citizens, Patriarchs, and the Law in Venezuela. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004.

Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. The General in His Labyrinth. Edith Grossman, trans. New York:   Vintage, 1990.

Gott, Richard. Hugo Chavez: The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. New York:   Verso, 2005.

Helg, Aline. Liberty and Equality in Caribbean Colombia, 1770-1835. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

Lasso, Marixa. The Cult of Bolivar in Latin American Literature by Christopher B. Conway (review). The Americas  62:3 (2006): 484-485.

__________.   "Race War and Nation in Caribbean Gran Colombia, Cartagena, 1810-1832," American Historical Review 111:2 (2006): 336-361.

Lynch, John. Simon Bolivar: A Life. New York: Yale University Press, 2007.

Townsend, Camilla. "'Half My Body Free, the Other Half Enslaved': The Politics of the Slaves of Guayaquil at the End of the Colonial Era," Colonial Latin American Review 7:1 (June 1998): 105-124. [LINK]

Documentaries and Feature-Length Motion Pictures

Bolivar Soy Yo (2002)

Manuela Saenz (2001)

The Price of Freedom (1991)

The Revolution Will Not be Televised ( 2002)

Course Schedule

September 5

Course Introduction

September 12

Film: The Price of Freedom


Lynch, Simon Bolivar
Collier, "Nationality, Nationalism, and Supranationalism..." [LINK]
Bolivar, Jamaica Letter and Angostura Address

September 17


Diaz, Female Citizens, Patriarchs, and the Law in Venezuela , pp. 1-170
Bolivar, Jamaica Letter and Angostura Address
Constitutions of the Bolivarian era

September 24


Diaz, Female Citizens, Patriarchs, and the Law in Venezuela (cont'd)
Townsend, "'Half My Body Free, the Other Half Enslaved' [LINK]

October 3


Helg, Liberty and Equality in Caribbean Colombia, 1770-1835 , pp. 1-194

October 10


Helg, Liberty and Equality in Caribbean Colombia, 1770-1835 , 195-264
Lasso,   "Race War and Nation in Caribbean Gran Colombia..."
Bolivar, Letter to Santander (warning of pardocracia), 7 April 1825

October 17


Brown, Adventuring through the Spanish Colonies

October 24


Garcia Marquez, The General in His Labyrinth
Lasso, The Cult of Bolivar in Latin American Literature (review)
Bolivar, Manifestos to Admirable Congress and Colombianos, 20 January 1830

October 31


Garcia Marquez, The General in His Labyrinth (cont'd)
Bolivar, Letter to General Flores ("Ploughing the Sea"), 9 November 1830
Bolivar, Final Proclamation, 10 December 1830

November   7

Class excursion to the Simón Bolívar Monument, E Street & 18th NW, Washington, DC

November 14

Film: Bolivar Soy Yo

Individual Appointments about Final Paper Topic drawing on El Libertador (selections)

November 21 NO CLASS

November 28

Film: The Revolution Will Not be Televised


Chavez, Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution

December 5


Gott, Hugo Chavez