Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Cuba: Resilient Revolution ESH4082

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the island has defied expectations and flouted the rules. Cuba is a country of contradictions; a poor country with world-leading human development indicators; a small island that mobilises the world's largest international humanitarian assistance; a weak and dependent economy which has survived economic crises and the extraterritorial imposition of the United States blockade; anachronistic but innovative; formally ostracised, but with millions of defenders around the world. Despite meeting most of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2015, Cuba's socialist development strategy is not upheld as an example. This course will draw on the economic, social and political history of Cuba to explain these contradictions.


The course highlights the relevance of a long-term perspective for analysing both the constraints and capacity of Cuban economy to respond to past and present challenges. It situates Cuban history in relation to the broader political economy challenges of faced by late-developing countries and small island nations globally. We will start with an overview of the colonial period of 1492-1900; the 'pseudo-Republic' of 1901-1958, including the Revolution of 1933. We will then consider factors which shaped the revolutionary society which emerged post-1959, looking at politics, race, race and gender, and examining developments in the fields of healthcare, education and culture, art and sport, science and technology, sustainable development and ecology. We will emphasise the importance of ideological and institutional changes and evaluate important debates, developments and turning points in the post-1959 period. Cuba's international projection will be considered, both during and after the Cold War, as will the island's relationship with the United States, from the 19th century to the present. Additionally, the course critically analyses the politically charged nature of Cuba studies and the historiography on the topic.


Weekly lecture (1 hour) and weekly seminar (1 hour).

Requirements of Entry

Enrolment in an MA (SocSci) or MA (Arts) Honours Programme

Excluded Courses





30% Analysis of one of the primary source documents provided during the first five weeks of the course (1,000 words, excluding bibliography)


20% Crossword and definition exercise (750 words, excluding bibliography)


  50% One essay chosen from list of questions linked to seminar/lecture topics (3,000 words, excluding   bibliography)

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. Where, exceptionally, reassessment on Honours courses is required to satisfy professional/accreditation requirements, only the overall course grade achieved at the first attempt will contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course seeks to understand the apparent contradictions inherent in Cuban development, in order to account for the resilience of Cuba's revolutionary process over six decades. Despite dramatic transformations in international political economy, Cuba has retained its socialist system. This status quo has been characterised by innovation and rejuvenation, rather than dogmatism or stagnation. The course aims to provide a long-term historical perspective for analysing both the constraints and capacity of Cuba to respond to past and present challenges. It aims to situate Cuban political economy in relation to a broader 'challenge of development' and interrogate the notion of 'Cuban exceptionalism'. The course will challenge students to reflect on their current assumptions about the Cuban revolution, economy, politics, and international projection, and give them the tools necessary for independent critical analysis.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

1. Assess the politically charged nature of Cuba studies, particularly in the field of economic history, and be able to present a historiographical critique of different schools and paradigms.


2. Evaluate how Spain's colonisation of Cuba and the introduction of the sugar industry have shaped the island's long-term development up until the present, including its environmental history.


3. Analyse the United States' impact on Cuba's economic, political, social, legal and cultural structures from the 19th century to the present.


4. Assess the rationale for the post-1959 Cuban government's development strategy and evaluate its achievements in the areas covered: health, education, culture, art and sport; science and technology, sustainable development and ecology, social welfare, political participation and democracy.


5. Identify the factors behind Cuba's changing international relations over the period.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.