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Economy: Latin America


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
Limited places are also open for exchange students.
Please note: this course takes place in The Hague. Traveling between University buildings from Leiden to The Hague may take about 45 minutes.


Given the interconnectedness of Latin American economies with global markets, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are manifold. Lockdown measures have disrupted global value chains, both goods and services. The volumes and values traded globally have severely decreased, also affecting merchandising and insurance. Because of its production structure, the region is significantly affected by the slump in commodity prices. It would seem as if the region was headed towards another 'lost decade', with severe consequences in terms of poverty and inequality.

This course aims to equip students to understand such impacts in the region. The course focusses on a set of features which Latin American countries share as a basis for understanding the direction in which their economies have evolved, attentive to the nuances and differences that result from the region's diversity and help to illustrate in which ways the area relates with the world economy. It approaches economic phenomena as historically, politically, and socially produced. The classes thus invite a rethinking of issues, questions, and methods used to understand an economic situation. The choice of readings and lecture material challenge consolidated assumptions and interpretations. By integrating contrasting perspectives, students should be able to engage in academic debates about economic development in the region, identify fundamental premises, contextualise their arguments, and back up their claims during class discussions.

The theories presented in this course remain the object of debate, aspect central to this course. Economy: Latin America gives students a foundation in economic development as it occurs in the Latin American region. The course builds on foundational ideas from classical development economics and political economy that will be further explored and critically approached in discussion groups and written assignments. It embraces heterodox approaches, among which dependency theories feature prominently, whose strength lie in the critique and transformation of economicist narratives.

The course is split into two blocks. Block one traces the macroeconomic features of the region as a whole, starting with the different phases of development, e.g., export-led growth, state-led industrialisation, that have delineated the path of the area since the early twentieth century, before moving on to examine the state of resources, environment and population in the region, though the cases of land (and other natural resources), employment, and finance. Block two introduces students to issues of contemporary development in the region, e.g., extractivism, and discusses some of the long-term challenges, e.g. informality and structural inequality.

Course objectives

By the end of the course, students will have acquired an overview of the historical and contemporary economic developments and political economy dynamics in their chosen area and deepen their existing knowledge and understanding of different economic systems, economic institutions, economic processes and actors in the different countries of the region, using the concepts acquired during the courses Principles of Economics and Foundations of Political Economy.

Students will also be acquainted with academic debates on selected topics in the specific region. They will be introduced to key concepts, e.g., terms of trade, balance of payments, labour productivity, that can provide an interpretive view of economic development in the region, reflecting on the changing theoretical perspectives.

By tracing different approaches to economic development in the region, the course aims at providing students with enough theoretical tools to understand and situate ways of thinking about development in historically specific configurations, assessing the resulting economic performance but also its social consequences and its political drivers.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Lectures are held every week, with the exception of the midterm exam week. Weekly lectures will cover issues both inside and outside the readings.


Tutorials are held once every three weeks, with the exception of the midterm exam week. Attending all tutorial sessions is compulsory. For this reason, if you are unable to attend a session, it is required that you inform your tutor in advance. Please note that being absent at any tutorial session may have a negative impact on the grade of the assignment due for that particular tutorial session. This is at the discretion of the tutor.

Assessment method


  • Midterm Exam:
    The mid-term exam (30%) will be in the format of short answer questions. This exam will cover the material in the first half of the course, including the required readings (both listed in the syllabus and tutorial guidelines).

  • Final Exam:
    The final exam (30%) will be in the format of short answer questions plus a long essay question. This exam covers the second half of the course, including the required readings (both listed in the syllabus and tutorial guidelines).


Partial grade Weighing
Tutorials 40%
Midterm Exam 30%
Final Exam 30%

End Grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note of the following:

  • The end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of Tutorial grade, Midterm Exam grade, and Final Exam grade.

  • The weighted average of the Midterm Exam grade and the Final Exam grade needs to be 5.5 or higher.

  • This means that failing Exam grades cannot be compensated with a high Tutorial grade.


If the end grade is insufficient (lower than a 6.0), or the weighted average of Midterm- and Final Exams is lower than 5.5, there is a possibility of retaking the full 60% of the exam material, replacing both the earlier Midterm- and Final Exam grades. No resit for the tutorial is possible.
Please note that if the Resit Exam grade is lower than 5.5, you will not pass the course, regardless of the tutorial grade.

Retaking a passing grade

Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2021 – 2022.

Exam review and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised.

Reading list

  • Bértola, Luis., and José Antonio. Ocampo. Economic Development of Latin America Since Independence. Initiative for Policy Dialogue. Oxford: OUP Oxford, 2012.

  • Keen, Benjamin, and Keith Haynes. A History of Latin America. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, 2013.


  • Enrolment through uSis for Tutorials and Lectures is mandatory.

  • Students will be enrolled for Exams by the Administration Office, as long as they have a valid Tutorial enrolment.

  • General information about uSis is available on the website.



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