The history of the American presidency and of the men who have occupied the office, from George Washington to Donald Trump. Through lectures, readings, research and writing, and discussion, we explore the office's origins and evolution over time, considering the presidency and presidents in the context of economic, diplomatic, cultural, and media history, and assessing how historical understanding can better inform our present political moment.
Successful completion of this 5-credit course will fulfill the I&S requirement and it also may be taken as an optional W credit for students who complete additional writing assignments.
DRAFT SYLLABUS 7/19; SOME ELEMENTS MAY CHANGE BUT ASSIGNMENT SCHEDULE AND LOAD WILL REMAIN
HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY
Prof. Margaret O'Mara
Department of History
Office hours: TTh 1:30-2:30
Office location: 204B Smith Hall
Sign up for office hours here.
- A refined understanding of how the office of the American presidency has changed over time in relation to broader economic, political, demographic, and geopolitical transformations;
- Understanding the causes and contingencies shaping the American political institutions over time, as the United States evolved from an agrarian nation to an industrial and post-industrial superpower;
- Sharpened critical thinking and writing about history, including ability to distinguish different types of sources (primary, secondary) and analyze their context and meaning; and
- An ability to apply this historical awareness to understanding present-day political, economic, and social structures.
REQUIRED READING (at the UW Bookstore as well as on reserve at Odegaard)
Joanne Freeman, The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to the Civil War
Margaret O’Mara, Pivotal Tuesdays: Four Elections That Shaped the Twentieth Century
Ann Kornblut, Notes from the Cracked Ceiling: What It Will Take for a Woman to Win
We also will read book chapters, articles, and primary sources, available in PDF on Canvas. Expect to read 100-125 pages per week.
The class consists of two 110-minute sessions per week, mixing lecture time and reading, writing, discussion, and group work. Graded elements are:
1. Writing and posting three essays analyzing assigned primary and secondary readings over the course of the quarter (15% per post, for a total of 45%), in response to professor's prompts. Each essay should be at least 800 and up to 1300 words in length.
2. A midterm exam (essays, short answer, multiple choice questions) covering the first seven weeks of the quarter's lecture material and readings, to be completed online (20% of grade).
3. A final exam (essays, short answer, multiple choice questions) covering the full quarter of content, but with an emphasis on the second half, to be completed online (25% of grade).
4. Group video project that presents a major theme in American presidential history with a popular audience in mind (10% of grade).
STUDENTS DESIRING A W CREDIT may also write a 8-10 page paper contextualizing one president within the major debates and transformations of his times. These papers should be submitted in week 8 of the quarter, revised in response to instructor comments, and turned in at the time of the final exam. Your grade for this paper will make up 20% of your class grade, and the rest of your assignments will be down-weighted accordingly.
WEEK ONE - Sept 26
George Washington and the Invention of the Presidency
PLEASE LET PROF. O'MARA KNOW VIA EMAIL THIS WEEK WHETHER YOU WOULD LIKE TO TAKE THIS CLASS FOR A W CREDIT
WEEK TWO - Oct 1 and 3
John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and the Escalation of Partisanship; Andrew Jackson and the Populist Presidency
WEEK THREE – Oct 8 and 10
The Disunion of the 1850s; Abraham Lincoln and the Unlikely Presidency
OCT 11 - READING ESSAY ONE DUE ONLINE 5PM
WEEK FOUR - Oct 15 and 17
The Reconstruction Era Presidency; The Gilded Age Presidency
WEEK FIVE - Oct 22 and 24
William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Art of Modern Campaigning
WEEK SIX - Oct 29 and 31
The New Deal Presidency; America at War
NOV 1 - READING ESSAY TWO DUE ONLINE 5PM
WEEK SEVEN - Nov 5 and 7 - FILM PRE-PRODUCTION WEEK: MEET WITH YOUR GROUP, STORYBOARD YOUR VIDEO, ASSIGN PRODUCTION ROLES AND CASTING, BEGIN FILMING.
NOV 8 MIDTERM - TAKE THE MIDTERM ONLINE, DUE 5PM
WEEK EIGHT - Nov 12 and 14
The Cold War Presidency; The Television President
W PAPERS DUE IN DRAFT FORM NOV 15 5PM--EMAIL DIRECTLY TO PROF. O'MARA
WEEK NINE - Nov 19 and 21
Richard Nixon and the Imperial Presidency; Carter to Reagan
WEEK TEN - Nov 26 - THIS WILL BE AN ONLINE LECTURE TO ACCOMMODATE THANKSGIVING TRAVEL
The Reagan Revolution: Reagan, Bush, Clinton
WEEK ELEVEN - Dec 3 and 5
New World Order; Hope and Change
FINAL GROUP VIDEO PROJECTS DUE DEC 3 5PM; WE WILL SCREEN IN CLASS ON DEC 5.
DEC 6 - READING ESSAY THREE DUE ONLINE 5PM
FINAL EXAM - TAKEN ONLINE THURSDAY, DECEMBER 12
W PAPERS DUE IN FINAL FORM DEC 12 5PM--EMAIL DIRECTLY TO PROF. O'MARA