HIST 386L Syllabus

History 386L #39845                                                 Virginia Garrard-Burnett
LAS 386 #40625                                                         Office hours: Wed. 2-3:30
Spring 2013                                                                 GAR 2.204

Exploring the Archive: Guatemala History through the National Police Archives

This course will explore the modern Guatemalan history through the lens of the Historical Archives of the National Police (AHPN). The main focus of the course will be on Guatemalan history between 1954-1996, between the CIA-sponsored overthrow of President Jacobo Arbenz and the end of that nation’s 36-year long armed conflict. Students may, however, use the AHPN to explore earlier topics, such as the medical experiments that took place in the 1940s or police relations with the public going back as far as the Archive’s beginnings, in the late 19th century. Students will produce a significant research paper based on materials that they locate in the AHPN.  In addition, students in the course will help to “crowd source” the AHPN by tracking their research through this newly-acquired resource.

Course structure: During the first half of the semester, students will meet and discuss the major historiographical works of recent Guatemalan history in order to a proper understanding for the context for their research. During the second, they will work closely with AHPN documents and develop their research projects.

Learning Objectives:

  • To learn research techniques for working with primary documents in a historical archive
  • To produce a publication-quality paper based on original archival research
  • To collaboratively develop pathways into the AHPN that can be useful for future scholarship

Grading criteria:

  • In-class participation (including presentations on historical readings): 10%
  • Collaborative effort and development of crowd sourcing materials for AHPN: 20%
  • Successful research and completion of a paper based on primary documents: 70%

Grades will utilize the plus (+) and minus (-) system.


Kristen Weld, “Dignifying the guerrillero, not the assassin: Rewriting a history of criminal subversion in post-war Guatemala,” Radical History Review2012 Volume 2012, Number 113:35-54. 

Sylvia Sellers-Garcia, “The Criminal Record.” Virginia Quarterly Review, January 2009.