Karen Caplan

Karen Caplan


kcaplan [at] rutgers.edu



Office Location

312 Conklin Hall
175 University Ave.
Newark, NJ 07102

Research Interests: Latin America, Mexico.

Karen Caplan received her PhD in Latin American History from Princeton in 2001.  She has been teaching at Rutgers-Newark since 2002, covering all of Latin American history from 1492 to the present.

Her own work is about the history of Mexico. Her first book, Local Liberalisms: Mexico’s Indigenous Villagers and the State, 1812-1857, explores how early nineteenth-century Mexicans in the states of Oaxaca and Yucatán—be they indigenous villagers, government officials, or local elites—worked to incorporate the institutions of liberalism into their daily political lives, and how the local liberalisms that they built interacted with a national liberal movement that often contradicted the bases of local agreements.

Currently, she is working on a new project, which explores the early history of trade, investment, and financial relationships between Mexico and the United States.  In the early nineteenth century, both Mexico and the US were new nations, still developing ideas about themselves as economic entities. How did political and economic actors in each nation understand themselves and their nearest neighbors, and how did this affect their relationships with each other?  And how did these early interactions shape the idea that Mexico and the United States were different kinds of nations, playing different roles in a  rapidly changing international commercial context?

Courses Taught

Latin America and the United States

History of Modern Latin America

History of Colonial Latin America: 1492 to 1810

Senior Seminar

Topics in Latin American History: "Latin America and the United States"

Topics in Latin American History: "The Making of Race in Latin America: 1492 to the Present"

Modern Latin American History: U.S./Latin America Relations

Latin America and the World


Ph.D., Princeton, 2001.


Latin America, Mexico.