HSTAA 213 A: History of the American Presidency

Autumn 2024
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm / SMI 304
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Jasper Johns, THREE FLAGS. 1958. Whitney Museum, New York.


Instructor: Prof. Margaret O’Mara

Welcome to HSTAA 213! This course considers the history and cultural significance of what is now the most consequential job in the world: President of the United States. How did the American presidency evolve over time? How have the people who have occupied the office shaped the presidency's norms and expectations? What makes a "great" president? Where does myth-making end and history begin? Our class will tackle these questions and more, drawing on original sources and historians' work to understand the office, its occupants, and the broader landscape of American politics and society.

We meet for class lectures twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays (instructor lecture plus Q&A/discussion) and in quiz section once a week on Fridays (in-depth discussion of readings, in-class assignments and more). All meetings are in person and consistent attendance and engaged participation is expected. We will not have class on 11/27/24 (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving) to accommodate holiday travel. Lecture slides and outlines will be made available on Canvas after class.

The course's major assignments are a midterm examination (to be given during class time 10/28/24), a research presentation (taped and submitted electronically, due 11/27/24), and a final examination (to be given during class time 12/4/24). Examinations may not be rescheduled, so please do not register for this course if you believe you will have scheduling conflicts. The remainder of your class grade will come from quiz section assignments, in-class individual and group work, occasional short homework tasks, and active participation in class Q&A.

An electronic reading packet of book chapters, articles, and primary sources will be available by mid-September on Canvas to registered students. Expect to read 75-100 pages per week. 

Learning goals:
• A refined understanding of the presidency's history and its relationship to broader economic, political, demographic, and geopolitical shifts;
• Sharpened critical thinking and writing about history, including ability to distinguish different types of sources (primary, secondary) and analyze their context and meaning;
• An ability to apply this historical awareness to understanding present-day political, economic, and social structures; and
• A robust introduction to qualitative research methods and practices deployed by historians and other humanists and social scientists to more fully understand the past.

A full course syllabus and class policies will be available on Canvas by mid-September.

Catalog Description:
Examines the American presidency and those who have occupied it, from George Washington to the current president.
GE Requirements Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated:
May 15, 2024 - 4:44 pm