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Department of History pres.

Arthur Aiton Lecture

Latin America and the Rise of Liberal Imperialism

Scholars generally associate the nineteenth-century rise of liberal imperialism with the European “civilizing mission” in Africa and Asia. They tend not to link its rise with U.S. intervention in Latin America. This talk considers Latin America’s role in the spread of liberal imperialism by exploring how U.S. settler colonists sought to forge an “empire of liberty” in Central America during the 1850s. While this imperial endeavor was fiercely contested by many Central Americans, it enjoyed strong support among some Central American liberals. Such support raises new questions about both liberal imperialism and Latin America’s transition from colonies to nation-states.

Michel Gobat is an associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh. His research interests focus on modern Central America, U.S.-Latin American relations, and international history. His latest book is Empire by Invitation: William Walker and Manifest Destiny in Central America (Harvard, 2018), which traces Central America’s encounter with U.S. settler colonialism during the mid- nineteenth-century era of global imperial expansion. His other publications include Confronting the American Dream: Nicaragua under U.S. Imperial Rule (Duke, 2005), which explores how Nicaragua was transformed by the U.S. occupation of 1912-1933; and “The Invention of Latin America: A Transnational History of Anti-Imperialism, Democracy, and Race,” American Historical Review (2013).
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