Norfolk, VA

History 103H. Latin America in a World Setting. Lecture 3 hours; 3 credits. Surveys significant themes in Latin American history, as related to other world regions, from the indigenous civilizations, through conquest and colonization and the post-colonial period, to the contemporary world.

History 371. Modern Mexico. Lecture 3 hours; 3 credits. Prerequisite: HIST 101H, 102H, 103H, 104H or 105H. This survey of Mexico's history since independence highlights the social, cultural and economic changes that accompanied four turning points in the political history of Mexico: the independence movement, the wars of the reform, the Revolution of 1910 and the trend toward democratization that began in the 1980s. Attention will be paid to the changing scope of Mexico's relations with the United States, and to comparisons of Mexico's experience with that of other Latin American countries.

History 372. Central America and the Caribbean Since 1800. Lecture 3 hours; 3 credits. Prerequisite: HIST 101H, 102H, 103H, 104H or 105H. This course surveys socio-economic and political change after about 1800 in the Caribbean Basin (Central America and the insular Caribbean), a region whose diverse colonial, ethnic, labor and migratory experiences will provide rich opportunities for comparative study. Plantation slavery and its legacies, independence movements, export-led economic growth, nationalism, social movements, revolution and great-power rivalries will be the major themes. 

History 373. U.S.-Latin American Relations. Lecture 3 hours; 3 credits. Prerequisite: HIST 101H, 102H, 103H, 104H or 105H. This survey of Latin American's relations with the United States since the early nineteenth century will seek to identify and account for changing patterns in what has been a highly asymmetrical power relationship. The emphasis will be on the outcomes of U.S. policy in the region, combining the study of broad trends (especially in economic and security policy since the 1890s) with a close analysis of three cases: Mexico, Cuba and Central America. The influence of the larger international environment on those relations will be considered.

HIST 374. Spain in America: The Rise of the Hispanic World. 3 Credits. Beginning with Spain's leading role in European expansion in the 15th and 16th centuries, this course explores the formation of the 300-year Spanish empire in America, the impact in both America and Europe of its encounter with native Americans, and the myriad colonial-era institutions that would shape the future of the Hispani world.

History 470/570. The Struggle for Democracy and Development in Modern Latin America. Lecture 3 hours; 3 credits. Prerequisite: HIST 101H, 102H, 103H, 104H or 105H. This course analyzes, from a historical perspective, two core problems in Latin America's modern (since c. 1880) history: political authoritarianism and economic underdevelopment. The temporal and spatial dimensions of change will be highlighted in discussions of patron-client political systems, military autonomy and impunity, social movements and revolution, export-oriented economic growth, industrialization, and the roles of national, ethnic and gender identities.

HIST 471. Revolution in Latin America. 3 Credits. No world region matches Latin America in the frequency or extensive impacts of social revolution and social revolutionary movements from the 19th century to the present. A comparative approach to causation, process and outcome will govern the course, with special attention to the role of violence, ideology, international relations and socioeconomic structure.

HIST 627. Cuba and Its Revolution. 3 Credits. This course examines diverse interpretations of the origins of the 1959 Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro, its national and international repercussions, and relevant global contexts. Cuba's colonial status as a sugar plantation society based on African slave labor, the Cuban independence movement, the U.S. war with Spain, U.S.-Cuban relations, and the Cuban Revolution and its Cold War context are considered.

HIST 630. Democracy and Development in Modern Latin America. 3 Credits. From a world-historical perspective and moving from a broad focus on continental change to national contexts, this seminar analyzes two core problems in Latin America's history: political tensions (conceptualized as authoritarianism versus democracy) and economic change (underdevelopment versus development).

HIST 631. The Rise of the Hispanic World: Spain and Its Empire. 3 Credits. The interaction of Spain and its overseas territories is the overarching theme of this seminar, which traces the rise of today's Hispanic world from its emergence in the Iberian peninsula in the 15th century, through the 19th century, when the Spanish Monarchy lost its American and Asian realms. Comparisons with other contemporary world empires will be considered.

HIST 632. Political Order and Social Change in Mexico Since 1910. 3 Credits. This course traces the roots of current disorder in Mexico by analyzing the 1910 revolution, subsequent authoritarian rule, and the democratization process in the context of social forces that enabled the revolution and then brought it to a close in 2000. Themes include state formation, rule of law, democratization, economic development, U.S.-Mexico relations, and violence.


Robert Holden constructed and maintains the Central American Political History Database, in Spanish and English, launched on March 8, 2006 on the site of the History Department of Old Dominion University. This is the first complete set of basic biographical data on all of the heads of state of the five countries of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica) from the 1820s until today. Financed by Old Dominion's Center for Learning Technologies.

He has also scanned and posted the U.S. Department of Defense records of U.S. military transfers to Latin America (1950-1990), which he received in response to his Freedom of Information Act requests, at


Editor,Oxford Handbook of Central American History; projected publication date, 2020

“Violence, the State and Revolution in Latin America,” for The Cambridge World History of Violence, v. 4, eds. Louise Edwards, Nigel Penn and Jay Winter.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press (2019)

"Borderlands and Public Violence in a Shadow Polity: Costa Ricans, Nicaraguans and the Legacy of the Central American Federation,” in Sebastian Huhn and Hannes Warnecke (eds.), Politics and History of Violence and Crime in Central America.  New York:  Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

“Beyond Mere War: Authority and Legitimacy in the Formation of the Latin American States.” In L. B. Kaspersen & Jeppe Strandsbjerg (eds.), Does War Make States? Investigations of Charles Tilly’s Historical Sociology.  Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Contemporary Latin America: 1970 to the Present, with Rina Villars. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

"La Iglesia y la independencia del Reino de Guatemala," in Josep-Ignasi Saranyana and Juan Bosco Amores Carredano (eds.), Política y religión en la independencia de la América hispana. Madrid: BAC, 2011.

Second edition of Holden & Zolov, Latin America and the United States:  A Documentary History.  Oxford University Press, 2010.

"The Public University's Unbearable Defiance of Being," Educational Philosophy and Theory 41 (5) 2009:575-591.

“La violencia, la ley y la historia en Centroamérica.” on 25 May 2009.

"Communism and Catholic Social Doctrine in the Guatemalan Revolution of 1944," Journal of Church and State, 50 (Summer 2008) 3.

“De la mujer invisible al feminismo ineludible: Política y antropología en la historiografía de la mujer,” Memoria y Civilización (9) 2006: 109-138.

“What Is Your Anthropology? What Are Your Ethics?” Historically Speaking (bulletin of The Historical Society), 6 (March/April 2005) 4:35 -37.

Armies Without Nations: Public Violence and State Formation in Central America, 1821-1960. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

“The Perversion and Redemption of Latin American Political History.” The Journal of the Historical Society. 3 (March 2003) 1: 25 -44.

Co-edited, with Eric Zolov, Latin America and the United States: A Documentary History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

“Securing Central America Against Communism: The United States and the Modernization of Surveillance in the Cold War.” Journal of Interamerican Studies & World Affairs 41 (Spring 1999) 1: 1-30.

“El carácter del ejército de Honduras a los finales del siglo XIX: Bandas armadas o institución nacional?” Revista de Historia (Instituto de Historia de Nicaragua, Universidad Centroamericana), 9 (1997) 1:21-30.

"Constructing the Limits of State Violence in Central America: Toward a New Research Agenda." Journal of Latin American Studies 28 (May 1996) 2:435-459.

Mexico and the Survey of the Public Lands: The Management of Modernization, 1876-1911. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1994.

"The Real Diplomacy of Violence: Military Power in U.S.-Central American Relations, 1950-1990," International History Review, XV (May 1993) 2:283-322.

"Priorities of the State in the Survey of the Public Land in Mexico, 1876-1911." Hispanic American Historical Review. 70 (November 1990) 4: 579-608.

"Los terrenos baldíos y la usurpación de tierras: mitos y realidades (1876-1911)," in Enrique Semo, Coordinador, Historia de la cuestión agraria mexicana, Vol II: La tierra y el poder. Mexico: Siglo XXI, 1988.


"Arthur Zimmermann's 'Preposterous' Telegram: The Making of the Mexican Front in World War I." Public talk sponsored by History Department, Old Dominion University, as part of its World War I commemorative lectures, Old Dominion University, March 21, 2017.

“Reconciliation in the New Era of U.S.-Cuban Relations,” Great Decision Series, Foreign Policy Association, League of Women Voters of Williamsburg Area, at Williamsburg Regional Library, March 22, 2016.

"Power versus Authority: The Quest for Order in Latin America." For the panel, "The Nation/State: Order and Authority in the 19th and 20th Centuries." Conference on Latin American History/American Historical Assn., Atlanta, Jan. 8, 2016.

"States of Disorder in Latin American History: Approaches to Understanding Instability, Lawless Violence and Impunity, 1808-2012." Paper, XXX international Congress of the Latin American Studies Assn., San Francisco, Calif., May 24, 2012.

"La Iglesia y la independencia del Reino de Guatemala," Simposio Internacional, "Política y Religión en la Independencia de la América Hispana," Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, Oct. 28, 2010

"Political Legitimacy and Catholic Social Doctrine in Latin America During the Cold War." Yale University, MacMillan Center Initiative on Religion, Politics, and Society, Oct. 11, 2010.

"Beyond War: Variations in State Formation as Seen from Central America and Elsewhere in Latin America." Workshop (invited), "State Formation in a Post-Tilly Era." Center for Business and Politics, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark. October 3, 2009.

"The Consolidation of Authority: Public Violence, Disorder and the Illusions of Democracy in Latin America Today,"  Mid-Atlantic Seminar on Latin American History Second Annual Meeting November 8, 2008,Temple University.

"Peripheries at the Center of a Shadow Nation: The Pivotal Role of Borderland Violence in Central American History," for the panel, "American Identities," 2008 conference of The Historical Society, "Migration, Diaspora, Ethnicity, & Nationalism in History," Baltimore, June 7, 2008.

 "By  "By What Authority? Public Violence and the Rule of Law in Latin America Since Independence."  Workshop on Arms, Violence and Politics in Latin America, University of Calgary, April 25, 2008.

"A Culture of Impunity? Violent Conflict in Central America." Public presentation for symposium, "The Politics of Violence in Latin America," University of Calgary, April 24, 2008.

 "To Change the World: Epistemic Virtue and the Scholar-Activist." Philosophy Club of Old Dominion University, February 5, 2008.

"Communism and Catholic Social Doctrine in the Guatemalan Revolution of 1944: Exploring the Theological Borderland of Latin America's Cold War Historiography," for panel, "Church and Society in a Transnational Context," American Catholic Historical Association, annual meeting, Jan. 6, 2008, Washington, D.C.

"Borderlands and Public Violence in a Shadow Polity: Costa Ricans, Nicaraguans and the Legacy of the Central American Federation in the Cold War," for panel, "Borderlands and State-Making in Central America, 1821-2008," Conference on Latin American History, annual meeting, Jan. 6, 2008, Washington, D.C.

"Knowledge and Belief in the Public Square and the University." Presentation at symposium, "The Sacred and the Secular: Tolerance and Conflict in Democratic Life," Old Dominion University, April 6, 2007.

"Peripheries at the Center of a Shadow Nation: The Borderlands in Central American Public Violence." Poster exhibit, Research Expo, Old Dominion University, April 5, 2007

“Reconciliation Through Justice: The Catholic Response to Cold War Communism in Latin America.” Symposium, “Religion and Reconciliation,” sponsored by Old Dominion University, November 17, 2006.

“By What Authority? The Improvisational State in Latin America,” for panel, “European Models/Non European Cases,” Social Science History Assn. meeting, Portland, OR, November 5, 2005.

“Cuando el agua se vuelve impotable: Un desafío para los historiadores.” Paper, Seminario del Departamento de Historia, Universidad de Navarra, 17 December 2004.

“Rasgos principales de la política exterior de los EE.UU. desde el siglo XIX.” Talk, Colegio Mayor Torre I, Universidad de Navarra, 21 May 2004.

“Presupuestos éticos y antropológicos en el quehacer del historiador.” Paper, Seminario de Historia Contemporanea, Departmento de Historia, Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain. 17 May 2004.

Invited panelist, “Profiling and Stereotyping in America,” sponsored by the Virginia Beach (VA) Human Rights Commission, on Nov. 5, 2002, at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center.

“The Christian Perspective on Evil.” Presentation for faculty panel, “Faces of Evil: Sixth Humanities Interdisciplinary Forum,” Humanities Institute, College of Arts & Letters, Old Dominion University, October 30, 2002.

“Reading the Book of History Backward: 9/11, the Imagination of Disaster, and the Historiography of the Cold War,” for Roundtable Discussion, “Teaching U.S. Foreign Relations Since 9-11-01. ” Annual meeting, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, Athens GA, June 21, 2002.

“International Dimensions of Public Violence,” and Chair, Workshop, “Beyond Militarism: Rethinking Public Violence in Latin America.” 22nd International Congress of the Latin American Studies Assn., Miami, March 16, 2000.