Maria Barbara Zepeda Cortes

First Name: 

María Bárbara

Last Name: 

Zepeda Cortés

Full Title: 

Assistant Professor



Ph.D., University of California, San Diego


Iberian Atlantic World, Political Latin American History, History of Corruption


Maginnes Hall #332


(610) 758-3366



B.A. in International Relations, El Colegio de México (2003)

Ph.D. in Latin American History, UC San Diego (2013)

At Lehigh University, I teach surveys on the history of colonial and modern Latin America with an emphasis on political and economic history. I am one of the first U.S.-based scholars to teach a (now very popular) course on the history of the war on drugs in Latin America (2014-) that has resulted in invited lectures and op-eds. At the graduate level, I direct a seminar on the Spanish Enlightenment.

As a political historian of Latin America and the Spanish world, I am interested in studying the nature of power and the behavior of office-holders and those who vie for a position in government. My research agenda has focused primarily on the ways in which public servants participate in and commit to large-scale institutional change, and secondarily on societal reactions to such change. Across vast geographies (from Spain to Latin America, with a strong emphasis in the Caribbean and Mexico) and swathes of time (from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries), I have explored attempts to transform society from above.

My first book, Cambios y adaptaciones del nacionalismo puertorriqueño (Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, 2015), is a history of nationalist movements in Puerto Rico from 1868 to 1952. Utilizing the three-phase model for analyzing nationalist movements proposed by Czech historian Miroslav Hroch, I explain why proponents of independence failed to attract the loyalty of the Puerto Rican popular masses.

My current book manuscript project, Minister, Madman, Mastermind: José de Gálvez and the Transformation of the Spanish Empire, is the first biography of José de Gálvez (1720-1787), a Spanish statesman responsible for conducting large-scale state reform in the Spanish Empire from the 1760s to the 1780s. Through Gálvez’s life, my book offers a novel interpretation of the Bourbon Reforms in Spanish America and a reevaluation of eighteenth-century politics and state reform on the eve of the Age of Democratic Revolutions. This project has been awarded numerous fellowships including a one-year residential fellowship at Huntington Library (2016-2017). Read more about the project here

Courses I am teaching in 2018-2019:

  • HIST/LAS/GS 049: The True Road to El Dorado: Colonial Latin America (Fall)
  • HIST/LAS 149: Narcos: The Global Drug Wars (Fall)
  • HST/LAS 050: Heroes, Dictators, and Revolutionaries: Latin America since Independence (Spring)

Courses previously taught:

  • HIST 090: Latin American Breaking Bad: A History of the Global Drug Wars, a College of Arts and Sciences first-year seminar
  • HIST 303: The History of U.S.-Latin America Relations, advanced undergraduate seminar
  • HIST 421: Readings in Topics in the Atlantic World: The Spanish Atlantic World in the Age of Enlightenment, graduate