Communication Revolutions in Latin America, c.1539 to the Present

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Anna Cant SAR 3.12


This course is available on the BA in History, BSc in History and Politics, BSc in International Relations and History and BSc in Politics and History. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

From the invention of the printing press to the explosion of social media, how and with whom we communicate has had powerful consequences throughout history. This course examines the idea of the communication revolution from two perspectives. First, how have changes in communications technology altered the speed and nature of communication between individuals and societies? We will look at how inventions such as the printing press, the camera and the radio helped connect Latin Americans to national and international networks and gave rise to new political and cultural identities. Second, how have individuals and groups used mass communication to both push for and resist revolutionary change? Examples include the role of print culture in the Atlantic Revolutions, printmaking in the Mexican Revolution and the pioneering use of radio education in the Andean countryside during the 1960s. The course is organised thematically around print, visual, electronic and digital communication revolutions, and extends from the colonial era to the present day. We will look at the disruptive effects of new communications technology and the struggle between different historical actors to gain control of that technology. Students will be introduced to an exciting range of primary sources spanning newspapers, photographs, posters, film and sound archives, alongside secondary literature from the fields of anthropology, history, art history, and cultural studies. This course will be of particular interest to those considering careers in advertising, marketing and journalism. It will enable students to reflect critically on the relationship between the media and social change, both in Latin America and beyond.

The course has three main objectives:

1. To examine changes in communication systems and their impact on Latin American societies, predominantly in the post-Independence era.

2. To engage with the main issues and historiographical debates concerning the history of communication and Latin America’s place within that history.

3. To use a variety of primary sources (printed, visual and audiovisual) to explore the history of communication in Latin America.


20 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT.

There will be a reading week in the Michaelmas and the Lent Terms.

Formative coursework

One 2,000-word essay in the Michaelmas term. Two 10-minute presentations, one in the Michaelmas Term and one in the Lent Term. A discussion post each week on the Moodle discussion board.

Indicative reading

Ades, Dawn, and Alison McClean. Revolution on Paper: Mexican Prints 1910–1960. Edited by Mark McDonald. (London: British Museum, 2009).

Bronfman, Alejandra and Andrew Grant Wood (eds), Media, Sound, and Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012).

Burke, Peter, Eyewitnessing: the uses of images as historical evidence (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001).

Castro, Justin, Radio in Revolution: Wireless Technology and State Power in Mexico, 1897-1938 (University of Nebraska Press, 2016).

Davidson, Russ (ed.), Latin American Posters: Public Aesthetics and Mass Politics (Museum of New Mexico Press, 2006).

Geggus, David, “Print Culture and the Haitian Revolution : The Written and the Spoken Word,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 116, pt. 2 (2007): 299–314.

Ginsburg, Faye D., Lila Abu-Lughod; Brian Larkin, Media worlds: anthropology on new terrain (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002).

Guerra, Lillian, Visions of power in Cuba: revolution, redemption, and resistance, 1959-1971 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012).

Katzew, Ilona, Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico (Yale University Press, 2004).

Medina, Eden, Ivan da Costa Marques and Christina Holmes (eds.) Beyond imported magic : essays on science, technology, and society in Latin America (The MIT Press, 2014).

Nájera, Luna, ‘Contesting the Word: The Crown and the Printing Press in Colonial Spanish America’, Bulletin of Spanish Studies, 89:4 (2012): 575-596.

Popkin, Jeremy D. ‘A Colonial Media Revolution: The Press in Saint-Domingue, 1789–1793,’ The Americas (Jan 2018): 3-25.

Poole, Deborah, Vision, Race, and Modernity: A Visual Economy of the Andean Image World (Princeton University Press, 1997).

Sorlano, Cristina, Tides of Revolution: Information, Insurgencies, and the Crisis of Colonial Rule in Venezuela (University of New Mexico Press, 2018).


Essay (35%, 3500 words) in the LT.
Essay (35%, 3500 words) in the ST.
Source analysis (15%) in the MT.
Class participation (15%) in the MT and LT.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2021/22: 10

Average class size 2021/22: 10

Capped 2021/22: Yes (15)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills