This is a comprehensive, ambitious, and valuable work on an increasingly important subject. North Americans have studied Latin America since the mid-nineteenth century, when individuals without formal training undertook research on the region. By the early twentieth century, Latin America was recognized as a legitimate field for scholarship, and was incorporated into U.S. academic life through undergraduate and graduate courses on the region and foundation of professional journals and societies. The region initially interested historians and anthropologists, later joined by geographers and other specialists. The first part of the book describes the developments from 1850 to 1935, emphasizing the contributions of historians and anthropologists. The book then presents an account of trends in Latin American studies from 1935 to 1975. Although Latin American studies expanded during the 'Good Neighbor' era and World War II, interest in the region diminished in the 1950s as other regions seemed more relevant in the Cold War. By 1960, several factors, notably the Cuban Revolution, contributed to a revival of interest in Latin America, and the U.S. government and private groups, such as the Ford Foundation, devoted millions to research and teaching on the region. The number of Latin American programs and specialists at U.S. universities increased substantially. This work is the first to trace the evolution of Latin Americanist scholarship in the United States, examining developments in the social sciences as well as changing attitudes toward the region by U.S. scholars. It demonstrates that where Latin America was concerned, conditions within the United States usually dictated the nature and intensity of academic interest.
Helen Delpar is Professor Emerita of History at The University of Alabama and author of Red Against Blue: The Liberal Party in Colombian Politics, 1863-1899 and The Enormous Vogue of Things Mexican: Cultural Relations between the United States and Mexico, 1920-1935.