Margaret Pugh O'Mara
Advanced seminar examining central issues in historiography. Emphasizes reading, discussion, and writing.
LEFT, RIGHT, AND CENTER: PARTY POLITICS IN MODERN AMERICA
This course explores the evolution of the national Democratic, Republican, and independent political parties over the course of the twentieth century. We address how shifting demographics, market changes, and social issues changed the composition of the major national parties over time, and examine key political leaders who shaped the identity and future of their political party – from Teddy Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt, Strom Thurmond to Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan, to two Bushes and two Clintons. Readings and discussion cover the major social movements that shifted party allegiances, watershed elections, cultural and social issues shaping party platforms, the influence of grassroots activism on formal political institutions, and the growing influence of the independent voter. Our work in this seminar will consider differing approaches to and definitions of 'political history' over time, and how this subfield relates to the broader sweep of American historical scholarship.
Student learning goals
-Critical analysis and understanding of evolution of major issues in twentieth century national politics and their relation to broader social change
-Understanding of changing historical interpretations and emphases; familiarity with major themes in the literature and seminal works of American political history
-Ability to relate this history and historiography to current political and policy debates
General method of instruction
This is the capstone course for history majors and is a forum for students to synthesize information from previous history courses, hone historical skills, and produce a piece of solid writing. Participants should be experienced and comfortable managing heavy reading loads and prepared to actively engage in class discussion.
Class assignments and grading
Your participation grade is based on three things: 1. Thoughtful engagement in class discussion, reflecting completion of assigned readings; 2. Writing and posting a comment of at least fifty words each week to the online discussion board; and 3. Working in two-person teams to create a simple web page and in-class presentation about one twentieth-century Presidential election, drawing upon publicly available source materials.
Your writing grade consists of: 1. Two reader response papers of 3 pages each, submitted on a week of your choosing, that discuss the week’s reading and relate it to other readings and issues discussed in class; and 2. One final 10-page essay.
attendance and in-class discussion 20%; discussion question posting 10%; team presentation 5%; reader responses (15% x 2 = 30%); final essay 35%.