790-375-80 - AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT TO THE CIVIL WAR...

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AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT TO THE CIVIL WAR 790:375:80 Diana Boros [email protected] Spring 2009 Wed. Noon-2:30pm [email protected] Office Hours: after class or by appointment Course Description and Format: American Political Thought is a course in political philosophy, but rather than attempt to understand the evolution of the American mind from looking only at the development of our ideas about the nature of politics and especially democracy, American Political Thought is a study in the history of America (and Americans) itself- as told from the perspective of the ideas that have shaped it. It has often been said that America and its successful experiment with democracy is a unique event in Western history. Alexis de Tocqueville and Louis Hartz, among others, have argued that this country never partook in a democratic revolution, as it did not have a history of feudal aristocracy to overcome; it is in this sense that Americans were “ born free”. While this thesis has been debated, it is clear that the early settlers arrived on the eastern shores of a largely undiscovered parcel of North America as explorers searching for a new way of life, religious freedom, and naturally, for a new concept of the political. In this course we will explore the main themes in U.S. political thought from the 1630s through 1861, by examining the ideas (democracy, liberalism, republicanism), and periods (founding, Jacksonian, antebellum) that define the era. American Political Thought is a year-long sequence; this semester will focus on the history of American thought from the country’s founding through the Civil War. In the spring, the second part of the course will cover nineteenth and twentieth century American thought, beginning with Social Darwinism, and proceeding through Populism, Progressivism, and the Civil Rights movement. Although the two semesters are naturally connected, they can also function as separate classes.
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