2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

The U.S. and Puerto Rico at the Dawn of the 20th Century


Fall 2011 quarter

Tom Womeldorff economics , Mary Poole
Fields of Study
cultural studies, economics, history and international studies
Preparatory for studies or careers in
history, international studies, economics and cultural studies.

The end of the 19th century was a pivotal time in the history of Puerto Rico and the United States. The modern U.S. was born with the conquest of Indian land in the west, the economic colonization of the south, the virtual re-enslavement of southern Blacks, and the emergence of economic giants that would redefine capitalism. The U.S. increasingly turned its attention abroad, building justifications for the annexation of Caribbean islands. Puerto Rico, a Spanish colony, struggled with its own growing pains. The emergent creole elite struggled with workers to secure labor in a post-slavery world. Some called for increased autonomy from Spain, others for U.S. annexation. In 1898, as a consequence of the Spanish American War, Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the U.S. as war booty. Puerto Rico continues to this day to be subjected to U.S. control; its political status an unstable form somewhere between independence and statehood.   

We will examine the relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico that emerged from the Spanish American War to understand an important moment in the history of imperialism in the Western hemisphere. We will examine this moment through diverse cultural perspectives between and within the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and explore how history can be produced through an imperialist lens. We will ask: How did race and racism factor into this relationship, and into the rationalization of empire? In Puerto Rico, did American rule differ from Spanish rule and in what ways? Which economic and political classes benefited and which were decimated by this change in regime? We will primarily examine the period from the emancipation of the slaves (1865 in the US, 1873 in Puerto Rico) to the granting of U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans in 1917. We will approach our learning through a variety of modes, including lectures, workshops, group work, and weekly seminars on a variety of related topics.

Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
$150 for a program retreat.
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
November 30th, 2010 This program has been cancelled.