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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: Paradoxes of American Government from the Founding to the First World War (HIST10463)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryPlacing questions of race, class, and gender at the centre, this course explores major recent themes in the history of American Government from the Founding in 1776 to the First World War. The course builds on new scholarly developments to move discussions of "the American state" beyond elite politics, asking how the structures, paradigms and practices of the American government - from the law, courts and the electoral system to states of exception, incarceration and mass surveillance - affected, and were shaped by efforts to control, people of various social classes including women, African Americans, farmers, wage labourers, and Native Americans.
Course description Historians have in the past few decades demonstrated the many ways in which the American state in the nineteenth century was more powerful, capacious, tenacious, interventionist, and redistributive than was recognised in earlier accounts of US history. This course will use a broad conception of the American state - understood as the complex welter of national, state, and local institutions, jurisdictions, customs, laws, and regulation - as a lens to move beyond the upper echelons of politics and government and make connections with historiographies that have often been siloed and studied in isolation, i.e. race and slavery, gender, sexuality and the household, and knowledge and technology. The course considers in particular how American government - including the electoral politics, the legal system and administrative capacities - was shaped by and affected people of various social classes including women, wage labourers, African Americans, and Native Americans. Topics include the politics of exception and emergency; popular movements; politics of slavery and race; imperialism; corporate power; marriage and moral regulation; incarceration; and mass surveillance.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent.

Students should only be enrolled on this course with approval from the History Honours Programme Administrator.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 History courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a critical awareness of varying historiographical approaches to the study of American government and political development in the nineteenth-century;
  2. Read, analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship;
  3. Demonstrate a familiarity with the diversity of sources available for the study of 19th century American government, and critical skills that allow the evaluation of their use;
  4. Develop and sustain scholarly arguments in oral and written form, by formulating appropriate questions and utilising relevant evidence;
  5. Demonstrate independence of mind and initiative; intellectual integrity and maturity; an ability to evaluate the work of others, including peers.
Reading List
Nancy Cott, Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation (Cambridge, 2002).

Max Edling, Hercules in the Cradle: War, Money and the American State, 1783-1865 (Chicago, 2014)

Robin Einhorn, American Taxation, American Slavery (Chicago, 2006).

Gary Gerstle, Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present (Princeton, 2016).

Matthew Karp, This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy (Cambridge, 2016).

Paul A. Kramer, The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States, and the Philippines (Chapel Hill, 2006).

Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Cambridge, 2014)

Alfred W. McCoy, Policing America's Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State (Madison, MI, 2009)

Noam Maggor and Stefan Link, "The United States as a Developing Nation: Revisiting the Peculiarities of American History", Past and Present 246:1 (2020), 269-306.

William Novak, The People's Welfare: Law and Regulation in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill, 1996), 1-114.

Jennifer M. Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans (Baltimore, 2009).

States of Exception in American History, eds. Gary Gerstle and Joel Isaac (Chicago, 2020)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Sveinn Johannesson
Course secretaryMiss Sara Dennison
Tel: (0131 6)50 2501
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