syllabusapt  American Political Thought 46.307.201 uml logo

This course utilizes documentary resources to survey major milestones in American political thought from the Founding Era to the present.  During the first half of the term, we will study selections from leading contributors to social, economic, and political discourse over the past two centuries.  During the second half, students will use what they have learned to explore how eighteenth and nineteenth-century approaches to politics and government shaped social and political developments in recent decades. 

Topics covered in the readings during the first half of the semester include the crafting of the U.S. Constitution, the rise of abolitionism, the struggle for woman suffrage, the response to industrialization, and the political and legal consequences of the spread of mass communications.  Drawing from these materials, students will make presentations on the ways in which earlier ideas about democracy, equality, freedom, justice, and the rule of law influenced more recent debates about civil rights, gender equality, free speech, environmental problems, the scope of government, privacy, and other political issues.

All required readings and supporting materials will be drawn from public domain collections that are freely available on the Internet.  Throughout the course, students will be encouraged to conduct research for papers and presentations by locating relevant images, texts, and other documents on trustworthy sites such as Digital Commonwealth, the Library of Congress, and Google Books.

For more specific information about course requirements, assignments, and policies, please review the current syllabus.

Note: Click on hotspots within the images below for more information about sources and locations.  Most of the images contain links to multiple research destinations.

John Adams Adams. Jefferson, Madison
Background information for Unit 1

  1. Ideas of the Founders

John Adams, "Thoughts on Government" (1776)

Thomas Jefferson: Reflections on the Declaration of Independence

James Madison, Federalist No. 10 (1787) [Print and bring to class.]



Reading Questions for Unit 1Word   Google Docs

2. American Transcendentalism

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance" (1841)

Henry David Thoreau, "Resistance to Civil Government" (1849) Alternative link: "Civil Disobedience"

Emerson, Thoreau
Background information for Unit 2

Reading Questions for Unit 2Word  Google Docs

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