Latin American studies in the UK

Authors: Nikki Craske and Lewis Taylor


An outline of the development and current provision of undergraduate and postgraduate teaching of Latin American Studies in UK universities. While concentrating on single honours and joint degrees, it also gives an indication of how Latin American themes are incorporated into other degree programmes.

Table of contents


Latin American Studies as a discipline emerged in the UK in the mid-1960s as a result of the Parry Report, commissioned in the wake of the Cuban Revolution (1959). Initially five centres were established, Cambridge, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Oxford, which were designed to promote the study of Latin America. Each institution was encouraged to focus on a particular region in order to assist the accumulation of high-quality library collections. Since then other centres have appeared at Essex (founded with Nuffield Foundation support in 1968), the Centre for Indigenous American Studies and Exchange at St Andrews, a Centre for Latin American Cultural Studies at both Manchester and Kings College London, and the Centre for Brazilian Studies in Oxford (in 1997). At the outset the 'Parry Centres' concentrated on Master's and PhD provision. Of the five, only Liverpool has established a single honours undergraduate degree in Latin American Studies (see below). Following an internal reorganisation, the centre at Glasgow was closed in the late 1990s, although a number of Latin American specialists continue to offer modules on the region (see table). Although the 'Parry Centres' are no longer the main providers of Latin American Studies teaching, they were important in promoting the discipline originally and even today a large number of academic staff and independent researchers have spent some time at one of them.

Latin American Studies generally includes material on the nineteen Spanish-speaking countries of the region and Brazil, but some departments also include the English and French speaking countries of Central America and the Caribbean. Latin America is ethnically diverse with many languages, both European and non-European. The countries share similarities, but there are also key differences which make it inevitable that studying such a diverse region should involve a wide range of disciplines. Latin American Studies has always been strongly multi-disciplinary (particularly clustered around a number of subjects - History, Geography, Literature, Politics and Sociology). In recent years teaching of the environment, cultural studies and gender has expanded significantly, along with increasing interest in film, sport (especially football) and business. Following the original Parry remit, individual institutions can often be geographically specialised: for example, Nottingham is strong on Brazil, Liverpool on the Andes, London on Central America. Alternatively, staff may be clustered according to discipline (e.g., Linguistics at St Andrews and Anthropology at Manchester).

Masters degrees

After the establishment of the 'Parry Centres', the backbone of graduate studies was the MA/MPhil in Latin American Area Studies (see London, Cambridge, Liverpool, Essex and a two-year programme in the case of Oxford). Given the general paucity of teaching on Latin America at undergraduate level during the 1960s and early 1970s, their aim was to provide students with an overall knowledge of the society, politics and history of the region. There was the opportunity to specialise in a particular discipline for heightened knowledge in that field and all included a dissertation. These programmes continue to this day, although with developments, particularly in relation to research methods and widening the choice of specialist subjects.

By contrast to the Area Studies approach, in Spanish and Modern Languages Departments more literature oriented courses are found, e.g. Latin American Studies (Sheffield), Contemporary Ibero-American Studies (Leeds), Hispanic and Latin American Studies (Nottingham), Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American Literatures (Manchester) and St Andrews' MLitt in Spanish and Latin American Studies. Latterly, more specialist Masters programmes have emerged in both social sciences, and the arts and humanities (such as Manchester's MA in Latin American Cultural Studies, Newcastle's The Americas: Histories, Societies, Cultures, Oxford's MSc in Public Policy of Latin America and London's MSc in Globalisation and Latin American Development). This indicates a desire to concentrate on certain aspects of the region's development. There are also important taught postgraduate degrees in Art (notably at Essex which is a pioneer in this field), Hispanic Studies (Birkbeck), Native American Studies (Essex) and European and Latin American Relations (Bradford).

Alongside Masters degrees focusing exclusively on Latin America, there are many programmes that include Latin America within a broader thematic framework (e.g., Development Studies at East Anglia, Birmingham and Sussex, International Politics at Aberystwyth, Political Economy at the LSE, Human Rights at both Manchester and Essex, International Political Economy at Manchester, etc.). In nearly four decades since the Parry Report, postgraduate teaching on Latin America has developed greatly beyond the original Centres and Institutes. In most universities teaching is found in individual modules spread over several departments and is therefore less easy to identify quickly when carrying out a survey (the forthcoming Handbook of Latin American Studies will provide a relatively comprehensive list). At London University, many Latin Americanists based in constituent colleges teach on the Institute of Latin American Studies' programmes. A similar situation occurs at Oxford and Cambridge.

Undergraduate degrees

At undergraduate level there are a few single honours BAs in Latin American Studies (see Liverpool, Essex, Portsmouth). These four-year degree programmes lean towards the social sciences, but combine them with language training in Spanish and/or Portuguese, alongside options in the arts and humanities (in some outlets indigenous languages are also taught, but not to the same level as European languages). This allows students to concentrate on particular academic disciplines and regions, or select modules from across a wide range of topics. There is also a compulsory year in Latin America, where students are normally affiliated to a local university and undertake a dissertation. Some programmes offer a greater choice of host institutions to their students and allow secondment to NGOs working in the field of development or specialist research centres with a proven track record (e.g., Institute of Latin American Studies, Liverpool liaises closely with the University's School of Tropical Medicine when arranging placements). UK universities usually charge reduced fees and reimburse students for fees levied by the Latin American university (to a maximum amount).

Parallel to Latin American Studies are BAs in Hispanic Studies, which tend to be more Literature and Languages based and to focus more on the Iberian peninsular (e.g., University College London (UCL), Birkbeck, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle), although in recent years the opportunity to study Latin American modules has increased. Other similar programmes are the BA Degree in Modern Iberian and Latin American Regional Studies (MILARS) at UCL and, in the case Nottingham, there is also a BA in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies. Although these are more literature oriented, they frequently teach aspects of Latin American culture through the medium of literature and language studies.

Joint degrees

There is a long tradition of four-year joint degrees in Spanish/Hispanic and Latin American Studies, again reflecting a more literary focus (e.g. Portsmouth, Liverpool, Leeds, Goldsmiths), which are similar to single honours Hispanic Studies degrees. In the last 5-10 years there has been considerable development in both three- and four-year joint degrees: this in part reflects the difficulties facing Latin American Studies as a single honours degree (in particular concerns about increased fees and the expense of the year abroad), as well as the changing demands of the student population. In social sciences these programmes have included Development/Human Rights (Essex and Portsmouth) or Economics and Business Studies (Liverpool and Essex). In arts and humanities these include literature degrees, such as Essex's English and Latin American Literature and United States and Latin American Literature. In some cases, Latin America is a central component of degree programmes but without appearing in the title, such as Bath's International Management and Spanish. It is also noteworthy that Middlesex is developing a programme in Latin American Studies, which allows it to be combined with other disciplines. Many universities also offer combined honours degrees that incorporate Latin American Studies.

'The Americas'

'American Studies' still tends to denote US studies (for example, at Lancaster, Leicester, Nottingham, Sussex). Increasingly, however, this is being contested by those promoting a more holistic approach which views the Americas in their entirety. Warwick pioneered this when it founded its BA in Comparative American Studies, which has been followed by a similar degree (although more social science based) at ILAS Liverpool (start September 2002). At both Essex and Portsmouth new BAs in American Studies, are being launched (a four-year programme in 2002 at Essex and a three-year degree in 2003 at Portsmouth). These three new degree programmes are multidisciplinary, covering the social sciences and humanities. This emphasis on the Americas helps highlight the fact that Latin America does not stop at the Ro Bravo; there are significant Latin communities in the US and Canada and there are interesting contrasts to be made between Latin and North America. This trend is also evident in the new MAs in Newcastle and Manchester and is, perhaps, one area that will see growth in coming years.

Free-standing modules

Although undergraduate degrees, whether single or joint honours, are not available in large numbers, the study of Latin America in free-standing modules is much more common. Several universities offer modules in aspects of Latin American literature, music, history, sociology, politics, etc., which form part of discipline-specific degrees. While, it would be impossible to list them all, it is worth noting, however, that Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle, East Anglia (Development School), Sussex (Institute of Development Studies), Bristol, and the London School of Economics all have significant numbers of Latin Americanists in their departments. Even where Latin America does not feature in the title, modules often contain significant reference to the region - especially in comparative social science modules found across the country. In many institutions, Latin America features in Level 2 or 3 modules, although some do have modules at Level 1.

Links across the academic community and beyond

The growth of Latin American Studies over the last 50 years has given rise to more Latin Americanists working outside specialist centres than inside them (see Craske and Lehmann, 2002 for detailed study of developments in the field). Although the Latin Americanist community in the UK is considerably smaller than its US counterpart, it has a solid reputation internationally for its scholarship. It has an excellent base of expertise across the major Latin American countries and across disciplines. Its strength is reflected in a number of major journals based in the UK. The Bulletin of Latin American Research (see Society of Latin American Studies website) and the Journal of Latin American Studies (see Institute of Latin American Studies, London website) are the major areas studies ones, but there are also the Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (which focuses more on the Iberian Peninsula) and the newer Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies. There is also a vibrant Society of Latin American Studies (SLAS) with over 300 members and its affiliate organisation Postgraduates in Latin American Studies (PILAS), both of which host annual conferences. The Centres and Institutes also organise seminar series and conferences that are important venues for dissemination of ideas and are of interest to all students of the Americas. This activity helps maintain a dynamic environment for the study of Latin America, which filters through to post- and undergraduate teaching.

Latin American Area Studies is also notable for its links outside the academy. An important organisation, the Latin American Bureau, provides a valuable resource for all interested in the region and is a major publisher of books on contemporary Latin American issues from the landless peasant movement to salsa. Another organisation is Canning House which houses a library and promotes Latin American cultural events. Many staff, students and researchers are active in solidarity campaigns, which have often formed an important bridge between different groups and organisations. This activism often reflects the current political climate: e.g., solidarity with Chile in the 1970s, Nicaragua and other Central American countries in the 1980s, and Colombia today. There is also a significant Latin American population in the UK: some are political exiles who settled here, especially from Chile in the 1970s, others migrated for economic reasons, to avoid violence or to study for a fixed period.


Latin America is studied across a variety of disciplines in the UK and many students will choose to do a module on the region as part of a disciplinary degree in the social sciences or humanities. As a discipline in itself, however, there are two main approaches: the areas studies approach, which combines both social sciences and humanities, or the Hispanic Studies approach, which generally produces arts degrees. In both cases, undergraduate programmes are four years and include a year abroad. New trends indicate an increase in joint honours in both the humanities and social sciences and these may be three- or four-year programmes. Language training is offered in most programmes and is compulsory in four-year degrees. Prospective students will find a broad range of single, joint and combined honours degrees which will allow them to explore Latin America.

Latin American Studies in the UK: degree programmes

Institution MA programmes Date estb Modules UG programmes Date estb Key depts for LAS other modules
Aberystwyth           International Politics U/G & MA
Bath       BA International Management and Spanish
BA European Studies, (Spanish)
  20th century Politics and Society, Economic and
Cultural Studies
Birmingham Various programmes in International Development include Latin America

    BA Hispanic Studies   Latin America Transformed (Geography)
Sociology of Development and Cultural Identity: The Latin American Case
Bradford MA in European/Latin American Relations          
Bristol MA in Portuguese     BA Hispanic Studies   History
Cambridge MPhil in Latin American Studies         History, Social and Political Studies
Edinburgh       BA in European Languages and Culture    
Essex MA Latin American Studies

MA Latin American Government and Politics

MA Latin American Art and Architecture

MA in Native American Studies

MA in Pre-Columbian and Native American Art
    BA Latin American Studies

BA American Studies (Latin America and United States)

BA Latin American Studies with Economics

BA Latin American Studies with Human Rights

BA Latin American Studies with Business Management

BA English and Latin American Literature

BA United States and Latin American Literature
Glasgow           Literature, Geography, Politics, Social Anthropology, Sociology
Hull           Year 1: Introduction to Latin America, Parts 1 and 2 ;
Year 2: Latin America: Discovering Identity;
Year 4: Latin America: From Borges to the Boom, Modern Argentina .
Leeds MA in Contemporary Ibero-American Studies

    BA in Hispanic and Latin American Studies 2001  
Liverpool MA Latin American Studies 1966   BA Latin American Studies

BA Comparative American Studies

BA Latin American and Business Studies§

BA Hispanic Studies§


Lampeter           ArchaeologyAnthropology
ILAS MA in Area Studies

MSc in Latin American Politics

MSc in Globalisation and Latin American development


    BA Modern Iberian and Latin American Regional Studies

BA in Hispanic Studies
KCLondon MA in Spanish and Latin-American Studies     BA Hispanic Studies; Combined Honours    
Birkbeck MA Hispanic Studies     BA Spanish and Latin American Studies

BA Hispanic Studies and Humanities
Goldsmiths       BA in Spanish and Latin American Studies

BA History and Latin American Studies

History/Cultural StudiesEnglish Literature
Queen Mary & Westfield       BA Hispanic Studies   Politics
LSE MSC Economic History - Patterns of Development in Africa, Asia and Latin America

MSc Politics of Development (Latin America)
  The Anthropology of Lowlands Latin America (AN)
Latin American Development in the C20th, from liberalism to neoliberalism (EH) Politics and economic policy in Spanish America (GV) Half unit
The State and Political Institutions in LA (GV) Half unit
Democracy and Development in LA (GV)
    Latin America and the International Economy;
Government, Politics and Public Policy in Latin America
Manchester MA in Latin American Cultural Studies

MA in Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American Literatures

MA Political Development
2001   BA American and Latin American Studies   Government Social Anthropology
Middlesex       Minor in Latin American Studies 2003  
Newcastle MA The Americas: Histories, Societies, Cultures     BA Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies   Geography
North London       BA Spanish and Latin American Studies 1999  
Nottingham MA in Hispanic and Latin American Studies     BA Hispanic Studies

BA Portuguese and Brazilian Studies
Nottingham Trent           Latin American Politics
Oxford MPhil Latin American Studies*

MSc Latin American Studies

MSc Public Policy of Latin America
Portsmouth       BA Spanish and Latin American Studies

BA Latin American Studies

BA Latin American Development Studies

BA American Studiesµ
Sheffield MA in Latin American Studies

MA in Hispanic Studies
    BA Hispanic Studies

BA Hispanic Studies and Politics
  Cultural StudiesLiteratureHistory‘Building Democracies: Examples from Latin America’ (Politics)
Southampton       BA Spanish and Latin American Studies

BA Spanish, Portuguese and Latin America
St Andrews MLitt in Spanish and Latin American Studies

    BA Modern Languages (Spanish)    
Strathclyde           Modules in Spanish and Latin American Studies section
Sussex Development MAs in IDS
UEA MAs in development
  Modules have Latin American components BA/BSc Development Studies   Optional period spent in Latin America
Warwick MA Comparative American Studies

MA in History of Race in the Americas
    BA Comparative American Studies   First yearLatin America and the Caribbean: Themes and Problems

Second year [I unit]Social History of Food in the AmericasPre-Columbian and Spanish AmericaMexico in the American ImaginationLatin American PoetryLatin America: Literature and SocietyCaribbean History

Final Year 9 [2 unit]Imperialism and Independence in Spanish AmericaSex and Marriage in Colonial Latin AmericaIndians in the AmericasSlavery and Race in the AmericasComparative Literature of the Americas
Wolverhampton           History
Key   NB: Hispanic Studies degrees vary greatly in the content of Latin American Studies -- from one or two modules per year, to parity with Iberian modules.
* 2-year programme
§ 3-year programme


Craske, N. and Lehmann, D. (2002). 'United Kingdom'. Special issue 'Major Trends and Topics in Latin American Studies in Europe'. European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies 72: 61-80

Institute of Latin American Studies, London (1997) Handbook of Latin American and Caribbean Studies in the UK 1997. London: ILAS (revised edition to be published in Oct. 2002).

Related links

Cambridge, Centre for Latin American Studies

Essex, Centre for Latin American Studies

ILAS, Liverpool

ILAS, London

Manchester, Latin American Cultural Studies

Oxford, Centre for Brazilian Studies

Oxford, Centre for Latin American Studies

Portsmouth, School of Languages and Area Studies

Society of Latin American Studies

Warwick, Comparative American Studies

Latin American Bureau

Canning House

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