Trent University Durham GTA, 2017-18

Professor Robert Wright

Office: Thornton 167   Email:   Tel: 905 435 5102 x 5046

Room 115

Office Hours: Mondays, noon - 2 p.m., or by appointment.

Department of History
1600 West Bank Drive, LEC, Peterborough, ON K9J 7B8
(705) 748-1011,

Secretary: Joan Sirtonski 905-435-5102 x 5057


This version of the syllabus was posted on 18 February 2018.

History 3480/4480 examines the evolution of Canadian and American relations with Cuba since the nineteenth century, with a particular emphasis on the Castro era.  The course will meet as a seminar weekly, between 9 a.m. and noon on Mondays for the full year 2017-2018.  Each student will be expected to make one seminar presentation, to a maximum of 20 minutes' duration, in which s/he will assess critically the week's designated readings.  These presentations will serve as a springboard for a general discussion with all members of the seminar.  Click here for Wright's tips on seminar preparation.  Non-presenting students will be expected to read and reflect on assigned readings and to come to class prepared to discuss them critically.  Students' participation grades will be based on the quality of their contributions, not the quantity.  Participation grading will be consistent with Trent University standards for academic integrity, professionalism and accountability.  Insofar as seminar participation represents a significant proportion of students' overall grade in the course, the importance of thorough preparation and regular attendance should be underscored.

Learning Outcomes

As a cross-listed third- and fourth-year seminar course, History 3480/4480 provides students with the opportunity to explore Cuban-North American relations in depth, both through class discussion of scholarship in the field and through advanced independent research.  Students should be able to use their advanced knowledge of the field and skills in critical thinking, historical writing, historical approaches and methodologies to conduct research using primary and secondary sources, produce an original analytical argument based on the evidence, and situate it in the appropriate historiographical and theoretical contexts.  Students should be able to communicate their arguments to the instructor and their peers with clarity, accuracy, and logic through major research papers and class presentations.  Upon completing the course successfully, students should understand the conventions of historical writing, the rules of academic integrity and professionalism, the importance of personal initiative and accountability, and the evolving nature of historical knowledge.  They should also be able to evaluate historical writing effectively through examinations of sources, arguments, and methodologies.

Course Evaluation

0%    Review prospectus, due 27 October 2017.

15%   Book review, due 1 December 2017.

10%   Research prospectus, due 1 February 2018.

45%  Research paper, due 23 March 2018.

20%  Seminar participation.

10%   Seminar presentation.


Selected chapters of the following books will be required reading in History 3480/4480.  Note: books listed as required readings are not required purchases.  Copies of all required readings not available online will be placed on reserve at the Trent Durham GTA Library, so if you lack either the resources or the inclination to purchase these books, there will be other ways of keeping up with your readings.

Bardach, Ann Louise. Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana.  New York: Vintage, 2003.  ISBN 0375504893.  Buy it new.  Buy a used copy.

Dubinsky, Karen.  Cuba Beyond the Beach.  Toronto: Between the Lines, 2016.  Buy it new.  Buy a used copy.

Lamrani, Salim, ed.  Superpower Principles: U.S. Terrorism Against Cuba.  New York: Common Courage Press, 2005.  ISBN 1567513409.  Buy a used copy.

Schoultz, Lars.  That Infernal Little Cuban Republic: The United States and the Cuban Revolution.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.  9780807832608.  Buy it new.  Buy a used copy.
Stern, Sheldon M.  The Week the World Stood Still: Inside the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis.  Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0804750776.  Buy it new.  Buy a used copy.
Wright, Robert.  Three Nights in Havana: Pierre Trudeau, Fidel Castro and the Cold War World.  Toronto: HarperCollins, 2007.  ISBN 0002158000.  Buy it new.  Buy a used copy.

All other required readings in this course take the form of scholarly articles, which can be accessed online.

Review Essay

The first written assignment will be a critical review essay, i.e. a review of three or four related scholarly books.  The total number of book pages under review should be approximately 800.

Note: a book review is not a book report.  The purpose of a review or review essay is not merely to describe the contents of books in narrative form but to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of books, to estimate their contribution(s) to knowledge, to assess their relationship to each other and to the scholarly field in question, and to provide an opinion to their prospective readers of their general worth.  Click here for Wright's tips on writing book reviews.  Click here to read a sample review essay.

A review prospectus will be required, containing a full bibliographic citation for each of the books you plan to review.  Books listed as required readings for this course are ineligible for review.  The review prospectus will not be graded but it must be submitted in advance of the review essay.  The review essay must conform to the book list as selected by the student and as "customized" by the student and the instructor.  If it does not, the student will receive a grade of zero on the review essay.

Fourth-year students will be held to a higher standard of writing and analysis than third-year students.

Both the review prospectus and the review essay should be submitted via email.  Click here for Wright's formatting guidelines for electronic submissions.

Length: 2000 words for History 3480; 3000 words for History 4480.

Due dates: review prospectus 27 October 2017; review 1 December 2017.

Research Paper

The research paper has been conceived with two primary objectives in mind.  The first is to acquaint students more closely than has been the case thus far with the scholarly literature in an area of historical study which is of special interest to the student.  The second is to acquaint students with some of the processes by which historians conduct original research.
Students may select topics of their own choice, with the proviso that each student must submit a prospectus in advance of her/his essay, in which s/he must specify the nature and scope of her/his topic, as well as the resources s/he plans to use.  A thorough prospectus will include a short synopsis of a student's aims, as well as a bibliography of sources.
The purpose of the prospectus is two-fold: it will allow the instructor to consider the proposal of the student and to make specific recommendations about sources and approaches that might be used (thus creating between student and instructor a "customized" topic); and it will provide a medium by which the student and the instructor can maintain close contact about the progress of the research.
The prospectus will be graded and must, therefore, be submitted in advance of the research paper.  The paper must conform to the topic as selected by the student and as "customized" by the student and the instructor.  If it does not, the student will receive a grade of zero on both the prospectus and the paper. 
Both the research prospectus and the research paper should be submitted via email.  Click here for instructions on formatting and emailing assignments.  Click here for some tips on writing essays.  Fourth-year students will be held to a higher standard of writing and analysis than third-year students.  Third-year students must utilize a minimum of twelve scholarly sources; fourth-year students must utilize a minimum of fifteen scholarly sources.
Length: 4000 words for History 3480; 6000 words for History 4480.
Due dates: research prospectus 1 February 2018; research paper 23 March 2018.

Final Examination

There will be no examinations in this course.

Late Policy
There will be no penalties for late submissions, but students will not be granted extensions beyond 6 April 2018 without official (e.g. medical) documentation.

Academic Integrity

Academic dishonesty, which includes plagiarism and cheating, is an extremely serious academic offence and carries penalties varying from a 0 grade on an assignment to expulsion from the University.  Definitions, penalties, and procedures for dealing with plagiarism and cheating are set out in Trent University’s Academic Integrity Policy.  You have a responsibility to educate yourself – unfamiliarity with the policy is not an excuse.  You are strongly encouraged to visit Trent’s Academic Integrity website to learn more.

For Wright's policy on plagiarism, click here.

Access to Instruction

It is Trent University's intent to create an inclusive learning environment.  If a Trent Oshawa student has a disability and/or health consideration and feels that he/she may need accommodations to succeed in this course, s/he should visit the Student Accessibility Services at Room 111 or call (905) 435-5100. 

Dropping Courses

Please see the Trent University Academic Calendar for University Diary dates, Academic Information and Regulations, and University and departmental degree requirements.


11 September
Seminar:  Introduction to the course.
Student responsibilities before next class:

1.  If you have not already done so, email me with your preferred email address.  Place your name and course number in the subject field exactly like this:

Jones, Stephen  HIST 4480

2.  Think about at least three seminars you would be willing to present.  Do not email me with your selections.  We will assign each student one presentation in class.

18 September
Film: Fidel (Estela Bravo director, Bravo Films, 2001).
Seminar: Discussion of film.

25 September
Seminar: Background.  Presentation: Vivian.
Required reading: Schoultz, That Infernal Little Cuban Republic, ch. 1, 3; and John Corbin, "Cubanos, Americans and Modes of Being Between in Pre-Castro Cuba" Third World Quarterly 26:3 (2005).

2 October
Seminar: The United States and Revolutionary Cuba.  Presentation: Connor.
Required reading: Schoultz, That Infernal Little Cuban Republic, ch. 4-7; and Fidel Castro, "History Will Absolve Me" (1953).

9 October.  Thanksgiving Day.  No classes.

16 October
Seminar: Contesting Castro.  Presentation: Sarah.
Required reading: Paterson, Contesting Castro, Introduction - ch. 1, 20-22.

23 October.  Reading Week.

27 October
Review prospectus due via email.  Click here for instructions on formatting and emailing assignments.  Click here for some tips on writing reviews.

30 October
Seminar: The Cuban-American Stand-off.  Presentation: Nick R.
Required readings: Christopher Hull, "Parallel Spheres: Anglo-American Cooperation over Cuba, 1959–61" Cold War History 12:1 (2012), 51–68; Aiyaz Husain, "Covert Action and U.S. Cold War Strategy in Cuba, 1961–62" Cold War History 5:1 (2005), 23-53; and Anita Casavantes Bradford, "Remembering Pedro Pan: Childhood and Collective Memory Making in Havana and Miami, 1960–2000" Cuban Studies 44 (2016), 283-308.

6 November
Seminar: The Cuban Missile Crisis.  Presentation: Joseph.
Required reading: Stern, The Week the World Stood Still.

13 November
Seminar: Cuban-Canadian Relations I.  Presentation: Natasha.
Required reading: Wright, Three Nights in Havana, ch. 6-9, Epilogue.

20 November
Seminar: The Special Period.  Presentation: Nick K.
Required readings: Mervyn J. Bain, "Cuba–Soviet Relations in the Gorbachev Era" Journal of Latin American Studies 37:4 (2005), 769-91; Benigno E. Aguirre, "Social Control in Cuba" Latin American Politics and Society 44:2 (2002), 67-98; and David Rieff, "Cuba Refrozen" Foreign Affairs 75:4 (1996), 62-76.

27 November
Seminar: Cuban-Canadian Relations II. Presentation: Karen.
Required readings: Hal Klepak, "50 Years of a Complex but Positive Relationship: Cuba–Canada Relations" Diplomacy & Statecraft 20:2 (2009), 258–274; Don Munton, "Intelligence Cooperation Meets International Studies Theory: Explaining Canadian Operations in Castro's Cuba" Intelligence and National Security 24:1 (2009), 119-138; and Lana Wylie, "Reassessing Canada’s Relationship with Cuba in an Era of Change" Canadian International Council (2010).

1 December
Review essay due via email.  Click here for instructions on formatting and emailing assignments.  Click here for some tips on reviews.

4 December
Seminar: Human Rights. Presentation: Alexandra & Beth.
Required Readings: Theresa Bond, “The Crackdown in Cuba” Foreign Affairs 82:5 (Fall 2003); Richard Levins, “Progressive Cuba-Bashing" Socialism and Democracy 19:1 (2005), 49-66; and Steve Ludlam, "Regime Change and Human Rights: A Perspective on the Cuba Polemic" Bulletin of Latin American Research (2012), 110-126.

Mid-Year Holiday.  No classes.

8 January
Seminar: Terror. Presentation: Kristal.
Required reading: Lamrani, ed., Superpower Principles, Introduction-ch. 3, 6-9, 14, 16.

15 January
Seminar: Cuba Confidential. Presentation: Logan.
Required reading: Bardach, Cuba Confidential, ch. 1-2, 7-8, 12.

22 January
Seminar: Tourism. Presentation: Tommy.
Required reading: Peter M. Sanchez & Kathleen M. Adams, "The Janus-Faced Character of Tourism in Cuba" Annals of Tourism Research 35:1 (2008), 27–46; Julie Mazzei, "Negotiating Domestic Socialism with Global Capitalism: So-called Tourist Apartheid in Cuba" Communist and Post-Communist Studies 45 (2012), 91-103; and Florence E. Babb, "Sex and Sentiment in Cuban Tourism" Caribbean Studies 38:2 (2010), 93-115.

1 February
Research prospectus due via email.  Click here for instructions on formatting and emailing assignments.  Click here for some tips on writing reviews.

5 February
Seminar: Bush II and Cuba.  Presentation: Mike.
Required readings: Executive Summary: Report to the President from the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba (May 2004); Julia E. Sweig, "Fidel's Final Victory" Foreign Affairs (January/February 2007); and Marta Núñez Sarmiento, "U.S. Proposals for an Unwanted Transition in Cuba: A Critique" Latin American Perspectives 41:4 (2014), 147-63.

12 February
Seminar: Obama’s Opening.  Presentation: Dave & Kevin.
Required reading:  Mark Weisbrot, "Obama’s Latin America Policy: Continuity Without Change" Latin American Perspectives 38:4 (July 2011); Marta Núñez Sarmiento, "U.S. Proposals for an Unwanted Transition in Cuba: A Critique" Latin American Perspectives 41:4 (2014), 147-163; and Vegard Bye, "The Great Paradox: How Obama’s Opening to Cuba May Imperil the Country’s Reform Process" Third World Quarterly 37:9 (2016), 1698–1712.

19 February.  Reading Week.

26 February
Seminar: Obama Restores Diplomatic Relations.  Presentation: Julia.
Required readings: Odette Casamayor-Cisneros, "Obama in Havana and the Racial Politics of Contemporary Cuba" Transition 120:1 (2016), 39-45; Normalizing Cuban-American Relations (Press clippings, December 2014); and Obama in Havana (Press clippings, March 2016).

5 March
Seminar: Visit by Mark Entwistle, former Canadian ambassador to Cuba.

23 March
Research paper due via email.  Click here for instructions on formatting and emailing assignments.  Click here for some tips on essay preparation.

26 March
Seminar: After Fidel. Presentation: Jason.
Required reading: Dubinsky, Cuba Beyond the Beach , Introduction, ch. 3-4, Conclusion; Victor Fowler, "With/Out Fidel" Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies 26:1 (2017), 7-10; and The Death of Fidel (Press clippings, November 2016).

6 April 2017, 11:59 p.m. 
Departmental deadline.  If you need an extension beyond this date, you will require medical or other official documentation.