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PLAS History

The scholarship and dedication of Professor Dana Gardner Munro laid the foundation of Latin American Studies at Princeton, through his teaching in the History Department; through topical undergraduate conferences in the Woodrow Wilson School; and through judicious grants, financed by the Doherty Charitable Foundation for undergraduates who needed field experience to gather material for senior theses. Munro's attention to undergraduates in the Woodrow Wilson School sparked the interest of such prominent early Latin Americanist historians as Richard Morse (Yale) and Milton Vanger (Brandeis).

Munro, Dean Brown (Woodrow Wilson School), and Cyril Black (a scholar of Russian history, and then-director of the Council on Regional Studies) approached the Doherty Foundation to secure the original PLAS endowment in 1966.

Stanley J. Stein (now Walter Samuel Carpenter III Professor of Spanish Civilization & Culture, Emeritus, and Professor of History, Emeritus) was appointed as the first PLAS director for 1967-1968, and served through 1971-1972. The Program's initial work was to determine the requirements for the LAS certificate, to get undergraduates into the field in Latin America, and to create a fellowship to be given at the end of a graduate student’s first year, in order to facilitate their second year at Princeton. The faculty also addressed the challenge of filling departmental gaps in Latin American Studies, of allocating the endowment income, and addressing the acquisition of new materials for the library.

A major influence in the latter was historian Barbara Hadley Stein, the University’s first Bibliographer for Latin America, Spain and Portugal (1966-1977). Her successor, Peter T. Johnson, credits Barbara Stein for developing the collections; her systematic approach informed the forward-looking social sciences and humanities acquisition policies and priorities elaborated with the PLAS faculty committee. Indeed, her familiarity with scholarly trends in Latin America and Europe and her broad collection-development interests anticipated today's interdisciplinary research orientation.