Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


The Honduras-Nicaragua boundary controversy had a complicated background extending from the early Spanish colonization. The basic problem resulted from confusion over which country held effective control over the boundary area between the two countries. In their first major attempt at solving the boundary problem, the two countries had the King of Spain arbitrate the dispute. He awarded most of the disputed area to Honduras. However, Nicaragua refused to accept the King’s decision. In their next attempt at settling the boundary controversy, Honduras and Nicaragua enlisted the assistance of the United States of America. The United States attempted to act as a sole mediator to lead the two countries to a solution of their controversy. In the process, the United States considered committing its military forces on a number of occasions. However, despite all of its efforts, the United States was unable to obtain a permanent solution to the controversy. The best the United States could claim in its initial attempt at negotiating the dispute was the prevention of military conflict and the maintenance of the status quo in the boundary area. The United States also became involved in the boundary controversy in 1937. On this occasion the United States approached the controversy from the position of a good neighbor. Throughout this period of negotiations, the United States acted in cooperation with several other nations. While at times offering its guidance to the negotiating countries, the United States adamantly refused to take a position which would make it appear to be imposing a solution in the controversy. Despite this altered approach to the negotiations, the United States and its fellow mediators again failed to gain a solution more permanent than the maintenance of the status quo in the controversial region. In the final settlement of the dispute, the Organization of American States led the way. The Organization of American States initially helped Honduras and Nicaragua avoid military conflict in the renewed crisis. After reducing the immediate danger, the OAS helped the two countries place their controversy before the International Court of Justice for final settlement. The International Court of Justice eventually decided on behalf of Honduras, bringing the boundary difficulties to a conclusion. Throughout this dispute, one can follow an evolution in diplomatic problem solving techniques. Initially, the United States acted as a sole mediator in the dispute, an attempt which resulted in failure. Later, the United States joined with other countries in joint mediation only to fail once again. A final settlement of the dispute was achieved only through the auspices of two international organizations: The Organization of American States and the International Court of Justice.


James Forsythe

Date of Award

Spring 1977

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 1977 Rex G. Cooper


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