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Mexico and the War on Drugs, 1492-Present

1. A Brief Introduction to Latin America

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In this module, we provide a brief introduction to the history of Latin America, beginning with the native civilizations of the Aztecs and the Incas, and describing the arrival of the Spanish from the late 15th century. In the second half of the module, we think about the popular rebellions that characterised the South American continent in the 19th and 20th centuries, including the revolutions in Mexico (1910-20), Bolivia (1950s) and Nicaragua (1960s-90).


In this course, Dr Benjamin Smith (University of Warwick) gives an account of the drug trade in Mexico from the pre-colonial period to the present day. After a brief history of the South American continent, including an account of the use of psychotropic and other drugs by the aboriginal inhabitants of the continent, the course goes to explore how and why the Spanish attempted to prohibit the use of drugs after their arrival from the early 16th century onwards, and how prohibitions on drugs, and the fight against the illegal production and distribution of drugs has continued into the 20th and 21st centuries.


Dr Benjamin Smith is currently Associate Professor of Latin American History at the University of Warwick, where he teaches several courses on Latin America, 20th-Century Mexico and the Mexican Drug Trade.

As a historian of nineteenth and twentieth-century grassroots politics, he has done most of his research in the archives, villages, churches, and markets of the predominantly indigenous state of Oaxaca. His first book, Pistoleros and Popular Movements: The Politics of State Formation in Postrevolutionary Oaxaca attempted to capture the diversity of post-revolutionary politics and looked at regional bosses, female-led social movements, violence, and agrarian reform from the 1920s through to the 1950s. He has also co-edited a collection of essays on the subject, entitled Dictablanda: Politics, Work, and Culture in Mexico, 1938-1968, which was published in early 2014.

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APA style

Smith, B. (2018, August 15). Mexico and the War on Drugs, 1492-Present - A Brief Introduction to Latin America [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Smith, Benjamin. "Mexico and the War on Drugs, 1492-Present – A Brief Introduction to Latin America." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,

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