The Second Short Wave of Democratisation in Latin America 1943-1963 Conference

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The online conference aims to examine the understudied theme of what Samuel Huntington referred to as the ‘second short wave’ of democracy (1943-1963) in Latin America. In this twenty year period, thirteen (out of twenty-one) countries in Latin America underwent democratic transitions, significantly outpacing the number of nations that remained under authoritarian rule. As per Huntington, this corresponded to almost a third of all democratic transitions that occurred during the period. Although most countries experienced regime reversals in the following decades, Colombia, Costa Rica and Venezuela remained stable democracies at least until the late twentieth century.

This drive for democratization and its eventual demise in the 1960s may shed key insights, not only on our understanding of how and why democracy succeeded or failed; but also on the very definition of democracy, its language, limits, and relation with other issues such as development or modernization. Reading this wave in a global context, for example, may drive us to question why this democratising tide was successful in Europe, but less so in Latin America; what role did the larger Cold War play in the tensions between reform and revolution; and how does this legacy illuminate current understandings and debates over democracy and its meanings. In doing so, the conference will look to combine historical perspectives on democracy with that of the social sciences.


The event is organized in collaboration with the Latin American Centre and the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).


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Day 1 (10 June)

Thinking and Discussing Democracy

15:00–16:30 (BST)

Revisiting Latin America's Postwar Cluster of Democratic Experiments with the Benefit of Hindsight

Laurence Whitehead / University of Oxford


Wave or Tide? Peronism and Democracy in Argentina, 1943-1955

Jorge Nállim / University of Manitoba


The 1940 Cuban Constitution and the Making of the "Democracia Social" Paradigm in Latin America

Rafael Rojas / Colegio de México


Brazilian Reconstitutionalization in the Second Wave: A Competition of Democracies

Jonathan Madison / University of Oxford


Keynote speaker

17:00-18:30 (BST)

Short Wave or Sea Change? Democratisation in Western Europe and Latin America, 1944-63

Martin Conway / University of Oxford

Co-organised with the Latin American Center History Seminar


Day 2 (11 June)

Mobilisation and Participation

15:00–16:30 (BST)

Democratisation and Inclusion: What Women’s Participation Tells Us About the Second Wave of Democracy

Isabel Castillo / Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile


The Feminist Movement and the Right to Vote in Bolivia, 1920-1952

María Elvira Álvarez Giménez / Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University (Mondes Américains)


Intellectuals and Democracy: The Argentine Journal Contorno

Rodrigo López Martínez / University of Manchester


International Dimensions of Democratisation

17:00-18:30 (BST)

Pan-Americanism and Democracy in the Early Cold War, 1941-1962

Stella Krepp / University of Bern


Occupation and Democracy in Mid-Century Puerto Rico

Alejandra Bronfman / SUNY Albany


Latin American Struggles for Human Rights in the Context of the Cold War

Kathryn Sikkink / Harvard University