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This article examines the origins of the ‘Parry Report’ (1965), the implementation of which led to the massive expansion of Latin American Studies in the United Kingdom. Drawing on material from several archives, the article argues that the Report was the product of a peculiar geopolitical conjuncture – decolonization, the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Britain's rejection from the European Economic Community – that prompted the Foreign Office to convene a group of academics (and selected others) from institutions then in the process of formalizing links with US-based private foundations. It seeks to show how extramural and intramural factors, geopolitics and academic politics, combined to generate an interdisciplinary area study that survived long after the conditions that had given rise to its genesis had disappeared.


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Robert D. Clark Honors College, 1293 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1293,


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An earlier version of this article was given as a paper at the Society for Latin American Studies (SLAS) Annual Conference in Winchester in March 2018. I am grateful for the constructive comments received on that occasion from Matthew Brown, Claire Taylor, Jean Stubbs, David Rock, and Charles Jones. The article benefited greatly from the astute criticisms provided by two anonymous expert reviewers.



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1 E. R. Copleston to J. Carswell (Department of Education and Science), 2 Sept. 1964, London, The National Archives (TNA), UGC (University Grants Committee) 7–613.

2 UGC, Report of the Committee on Latin American Studies (London: HMSO, 1965); for a comprehensive history of the rise and fall of the UGC, see Shattock, Michael, The UGC and the management of British universities (Buckingham, 1994).

3 As Victor Bulmer-Thomas pointed out, the Parry Committee ‘found itself facing a virtual tabula rasa with regard to teaching and research on Latin America in the United Kingdom…while a handful of individuals, some extremely distinguished, had dedicated themselves to the study of Latin America before the 1960s, they were nearly all working in History and had not succeeded or, indeed, attempted, to establish Latin American Studies as a separate discipline’. In Bulmer-Thomas, , ‘Introduction’, in Bulmer-Thomas, Victor, ed., Thirty years of Latin American Studies in the United Kingdom 1965–1995 (London, 1996), p. 1.

4 In the UK, Latin American Studies has never encompassed the Anglophone Caribbean, which has led to the bifurcation of the geographical area often studied as a single region in Europe and the US. The University of London's Institute for Commonwealth Studies, including the Anglophone Caribbean, existed from 1949. The first Centre devoted chiefly to Caribbean Studies was founded at the University of Warwick in 1984. See Kapcia, Antoni and Newson, Linda, Report on the state of UK-based research on Latin America and the Caribbean (2014) (London, 2014), p. 9.

5 Foreign Office (FO), Report of the Interdepartmental Commission of Enquiry on Oriental, Slavonic, East European and African Studies (London: HMSO, 1947); UGC, Report of the Subcommittee on Oriental, Slavonic, East European and African Studies (London: HMSO, 1961).

6 ‘Great changes have taken place in the world since the end of the war. The political centre of gravity has moved out from Western Europe. The British educational system, including university studies, has taken little account of these changes.’ UGC, Report of the Subcommittee on Oriental, Slavonic, East European and African Studies, p. 44.

7 Brown, Ian, The School of Oriental and African Studies: imperial training and the expansion of learning (Cambridge, 2016), p. 174.

8 Coined by a French journalist in the early 1950s, ‘Third World’ entered the mainstream in the aftermath of the Bandung Conference of Afro-Asian Nations (1955). See McMahon, Robert J., The Cold War in the Third World (Oxford, 2013); and Prashad, Vijay, The darker nations: a people's history of the Third World (New York, NY, 2007).

9 Dean Acheson (US secretary of state (1949–53)) quoted in Hyam, Ronald, Britain's declining empire: the road to decolonization, 1918–1968 (Cambridge, 2006), p. 327.

10 Darwin, John, The end of the British empire: the historical debate (Oxford, 1991); Porter, Bernard, The lion's share: a short history of British imperialism (3rd edn, London and New York, NY, 1996).

11 McPherson, Alan, Yankee no! Anti-Americanism in US–Latin American relations (Cambridge, MA, 2003).

12 Report of the Committee on Higher Education [Cmnd 2154] (London: HMSO, 1963).

13 The term ‘historian of empire’ is distinguished from ‘imperial historian’. The latter refers to historians of the British empire who, at least until 1940, as Amanda Behm elucidated, ‘promoted the white settler colonies while discounting vast populations under alien rule’. For this tradition, historians of other parts of the British empire – specifically South Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa – were relegated to the periphery of a subdiscipline ‘largely preoccupied with English and constitutional subjects’. The few historians specializing in Latin America, including the history of the Spanish and Portuguese empires, were similarly marginalized, a situation that would prevail until the late 1950s. On the origins and coalescence of imperial history, see Behm, Amanda, Imperial history and the global politics of exclusion: Britain 1880–1940 (London, 2018), pp. 2, 4, 89; see also Drayton, Richard, ‘Imperial history and the human future’, History Workshop Journal, 74 (2012), pp. 156–72.

14 Latham, Michael E., Modernization as ideology: American social science and ‘nation building’ in the Kennedy era (Chapel Hill, NC, 2000), p. 49.

15 Bundy, McGeorge, ‘The battlefields of power and the searchlights of the academy’, in Johnson, E. A. J., ed., The dimensions of diplomacy (Baltimore, MD, 1964), p. 15.

16 Figure cited in Simpson, Christopher, ed., Universities and empire: money and politics in the social sciences during the Cold War (New York, NY, 1998), p. 163; Horowitz, Irving Louis, ed., The rise and fall of Project Camelot: studies in the relationship between social science and practical politics (Cambridge, 1967).

17 Fairbank quoted in Atkinson, David C., In theory and practice: Harvard's Center for International Affairs, 1958–1983 (Cambridge, 2007), p. 123.

18 Eakin, Marshall, ‘Latin American history in the United States: from gentlemen scholars to academic specialists’, History Teacher, 31 (1998), p. 542.

19 Delpar, Helen, Looking south: the evolution of Latin Americanist scholarship in the United States, 1850–1975 (Tuscaloosa, AL, 2008), p. 31.

20 Salvatore, Ricardo D., Disciplinary conquest: US scholars in South America, 1900–1945 (Durham, NC, 2016).

21 Delpar, Looking south, pp. 112, 130–1, 157–61; the US government and associations also funded cultural organizations in Latin America during the Cold War, including the Congress for Cultural Freedom. See Iber, Patrick, Neither peace nor freedom: the cultural Cold War in Latin America (Cambridge, MA, 2015).

22 Richard M. Morse, ‘The strange career of Latin American Studies’ (1964), in Morse, , New world soundings: culture and ideology in the Americas (Baltimore, MD, 1989), p. 176.

23 Hastings quoted in Adas, Michael, Machines as the measure of men: science, technology, and the making of western dominance (Ithaca, NY, 1989), p. 96.

24 Brown, School of Oriental and African Studies, 9.

25 Cohn, Bernard S., Colonialism and its forms of knowledge: the British in India (Princeton, NJ, 1996), pp. 45, 21.

26 Hourani, Albert, ‘Middle Eastern Studies today’, Bulletin (British Society for Middle Eastern Studies), 11 (1984), pp. 111–20; Brown, School of Oriental and African Studies, pp. 1, 51–3; Brown observed that even after the government had founded SOAS, the India Office, Colonial Office, and FO continued to send their officials elsewhere, particularly Oxford and Cambridge, for training and language instruction’.

27 Bosco, Andrea, ‘Introduction’, in Bosco, Andrea and Navari, Cornelia, eds., Chatham House and British foreign policy, 1919–1945: The Royal Institute of International Affairs during the interwar period (London, 1994), pp. 89; see also Parmar, Inderjeet, Think tanks and power in foreign policy: a comparative study of the role and influence of the Council in Foreign Relations and the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1939–1945 (Basingstoke, 2004).

28 Soffer, Reba N., Discipline and power: the university, history, and the making of an English elite, 1870–1930 (Stanford, CA, 1995).

29 Eduardo Posada-Carbó and Louise Fawcett noted that it was ‘somewhat paradoxical that Britain's cultural and educational efforts to promote Latin American links came at a time when its political and economic relationship had reached an all-time low’. See Posada-Carbó, and Fawcett, , Britain and Latin America: ‘hope in a time of change’? (London, 1996), pp. 89.

30 Most influentially, Robinson, Ronald and Gallagher, John, ‘The imperialism of free trade’, Economic History Review, 6 (1953), pp. 115, but see also the significant publications of Ferns, H. S., including his ‘Britain's informal empire in Argentina, 1806–1914’, Past and Present, 4 (1953), pp. 6075; for a recent appraisal of the concept of ‘informal empire’, see Brown, Matthew, ed., Informal empire in Latin America: culture, commerce, and capital (Oxford, 2008).

31 Bethell, Leslie, ‘Britain and Latin America in historical perspective’, in Bulmer-Thomas, Victor, ed., Britain and Latin America: a changing relationship (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 120 passim.

32 Miller, Rory, Britain and Latin America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (New York, NY, and London, 1993), pp. 56, 246.

33 Perowne, J. Victor, quoted in Fisher, John, ‘Britons and South America’, in Fisher, and Higgins, James, Understanding Latin America (Liverpool, 1989), p. 17.

34 As reported by Carr, Raymond, in María Jesús González Hernández, Raymond Carr: the curiosity of the fox (Brighton, 2013), p. 238.

35 Robert Graham, ‘British policy toward Latin America’, in Bulmer-Thomas, ed., Britain and Latin America, pp. 52–67.

36 Posada-Carbó and Fawcett, Britain and Latin America, p. 9.

37 Board of Studies in History, ‘Memorandum of Professor Bellot on Latin-American History’, 28 Sept. 1934, University of London Archives (ULA), MS 825–5.

38 Humphreys had made only a single trip to Latin America – to Mexico in 1936 – before taking up his chair in Latin American History in 1948, but his secondment to the FO during the Second World War fomented his interest in the region. See Fisher, ‘Britons and South America’, p. 11.

39 Humphreys, R. A., Latin American Studies in Great Britain: an autobiographical fragment (London, 1978), p. 18.

40 The Parry Report explicitly acknowledged its awareness of ‘incidental teaching’, but noted that ‘it is very much the outcome of individual interests and the accidents of staffing and is liable to be affected by changes in these respects’; see Report, p. 14.

41 Representative Boxer titles include The golden age of Brazil, 1695–1750: the growing pains of a colonial society (Berkeley, CA, 1962); The Dutch seaborne empire, 1600–1800 (London, 1965); and The Portuguese seaborne empire, 1415–1825 (New York, NY, 1969).

42 For example, Elliott's pioneering Imperial Spain, 1469–1716 was published in 1963.

43 Miller, Rory, ‘Academic entrepreneurs, public policy, and the growth of Latin American Studies during the Cold War’, Latin American Perspectives, 45 (2018), pp. 4668; I thank Professor Miller for sharing the page proofs of his article prior to its publication.

44 Historian Malcolm Deas later quipped that the ‘founder of the [Latin American] Centre was Dr. Fidel Castro, a graduate of the University of Havana’; Dees quoted in González Hernández, Raymond Carr, p. 239.

45 Nicholls, C. S., The history of St. Antony's College, Oxford, 1950–2000 (London, 2000), pp. 102–5 passim. As Nicholls pointed out, ‘The Ford grant gave St. Antony's, and therefore Oxford, a 3-year lead in the establishment of Latin American Studies in Britain. It provided St. Antony's with a critical initial edge and sophistication which enabled it to take full advantage of the Parry Report when it came’ (p. 105).

46 Ifor Evans to Stanley Gordon, 1 May 1962, ULA, MS 825–6.

47 Blakemore, Harold, ‘Latin American Studies in British universities: progress and prospects’, Latin American Research Review, 5 (1970), p. 113.

48 The number of students in full-time higher education in Britain leapt from 217,000 in 1962–3 to 376,000 in 1967–8. See Layard, Richard, King, John, and Moser, Claus, The impact of Robbins (London, 1969), p. 13.

49 Minutes of 22 Mar. 1962, TNA, FO 924–1433.

50 Minutes of 27 Mar. 1962, TNA, FO 924–1433.

51 Lord Dundee to W. Mansfield Cooper (Committee of University Vice-Chancellors), 9 June 1962, TNA, FO 924–1433.

52 ‘Memorandum on the promotion of Latin American Studies in the United Kingdom’ (1962), TNA, FO 924–1433; Sewell, Bevan, ‘“We need not be ashamed of our own profit motive”: Britain, Latin America and the Alliance for Progress, 1959–1963’, International History Review, 37 (2014), pp. 607–30.

53 Minute of R. Cecil, 6 June 1962, TNA, FO 924–1433.

54 Dundee ‘Confidential’, 6 June 1962, TNA, FO 924–1433.

55 Minute of H. M. Carless, 20 July 1962, TNA, FO 924–1433.

56 Philips to Murray, 26 June 1962, TNA, UGC 7–612; the qualities Philips extolled were ‘careful, detached, with experience in both the diplomatic and business fields’.

57 Humphreys's father-in-law was Bernard Pares, sometime director of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies; his brother-in-law was Oxford historian Richard Pares, a long-time editor of the English Historical Review (1939–58).

58 As Atkinson's then junior colleague, Donald L. Shaw, recalled, ‘Against all expectation, [Atkinson] was not asked to chair it, in all likelihood because people found it difficult to work with him. I saw Mrs. Atkinson very visibly upset, and Atkinson at once left for Rhodesia, as it was then, to avoid having anything to do with what was to become the Parry Committee, and gave us in the Department strict orders to refuse all cooperation.’ Interview with Shaw in Román, Gustavo San, ‘The rise of modern Latin American literary studies in the UK: a questionnaire to early practitioners’, Bulletin of Spanish Studies, 84 (2007), p. 465.

59 ‘I have, as you know, very little experience of this kind of thing and should be grateful for a short talk about it…this is mostly to get your advice about how such committees set about their business’. Parry to Murray, 24 July 1962, TNA, UGC, 7–612.

60 Parry to E. R. Copleston, 30 July 1962, TNA, UGC 7–612.

61 Murray to W. Mansfield Cooper, 2 Aug. 1962, TNA, UGC 7–612.

62 Humphreys to Stanley Gordon, 28 Nov. 1962, ULA, MS 825–6.

63 Boxer, C. R., ‘J. H. Parry (1914–1982)’, Hispanic American Historical Review, 63 (1983), pp. 153, 155.

64 Harvard University Archives, J. H. Parry papers, HUGFP 49.75, [Parry], ‘The European empires in the 18th century’, unpublished typescript of a lecture given in Bogotá, Colombia, Nov. 1973, p. 1.

65 Parry to Henry T. Heald, 4 July 1963, ULA, MS 825–11.

66 ‘The European empires in the 18th century’, p. 12.

67 TNA, FO 953–2262 [Planning Staff, FO], ‘British policy towards Latin America’, July 1965.

68 ULA, MS 825–11, Parry to Heald, 4 July 1963.

69 There are other plausible hypotheses for the delay, including the transition from a Conservative to a Labour government during the Parry Committee's period of greatest activity. Perhaps more pertinent was turbulence within the UGC, which was transferred from the treasury to the newly constituted Department of Education and Science in 1964. See Shattock, UGC, pp. 8, 107–8.

70 Parry to Sir John Wolfenden, 3 Mar. 1965; Wolfenden to Parry, 5 Mar. 1965, TNA, UGC 7–613.

71 R. Cecil to J. A. Thomson, 15 July 1965, TNA, FO 953–2262.

72 Blakemore, ‘Latin American Studies’, p. 115.

73 ‘It does disturb me a little, however, to note that the present memorandum reads, unintentionally I am sure, almost as though the Parry Report had never been written and the five recently established Centres did not exist…I do think that the Essex plans should be considered in the context of what is happening and is likely to happen elsewhere and should not be put forward in vacuo as it were.’ R. A. Humphreys to Albert Sloman, University of Essex Archives, Essex Box 2-D, 20 Mar. 1967.

74 McKegney, James, ‘The progress of Latin American Studies in Great Britain’, Hispania, 51 (1968), pp. 317–20.

75 ‘Interview with Gerald Martin’, in Gustavo San Román, ‘The rise of modern Latin American literary studies’, p. 488.

76 Humphreys, Latin American Studies, p. 53; Stanfield, David E., ‘The study of Latin American politics in British universities’, Latin American Research Review, 9 (1974), pp. 95104.

77 Fisher, ‘Britons and South America’, p. 28.

78 Bulmer-Thomas, ‘Introduction’, p. 5; though this figure may have been the high water mark, since the number of doctoral dissertations has plummeted by 50 per cent between 1997 and 2014. See Kapcia and Newsom, Report, p. 14.

79 Craske, Nikki and Lehmann, David, ‘Fifty years of research in Latin American Studies in the UK’, Revista Europea de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe, 72 (2002), p. 74.

80 Kapcia and Newsom, Report, p. 45; other scholars viewed this shift as opening up new vistas for Latin American specialists. Historian Matthew Brown, for example, argued that long-standing ‘professional commitment to area studies probably explains [historians’] reluctance or delay in responding to global history in the 1990s and 2000s’, in spite of the fact that many had been practitioners in all but name, without adopting the appellation. See Brown, , ‘The global history of Latin America’, Journal of Global History, 10 (2015), p. 374.

81 Miller, ‘Academic entrepreneurs’.

An earlier version of this article was given as a paper at the Society for Latin American Studies (SLAS) Annual Conference in Winchester in March 2018. I am grateful for the constructive comments received on that occasion from Matthew Brown, Claire Taylor, Jean Stubbs, David Rock, and Charles Jones. The article benefited greatly from the astute criticisms provided by two anonymous expert reviewers.

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