History 705
U.S. Constitutional History

KC Johnson


This research seminar will trace American constitutional history from the colonial era to the present. Topics include the colonial foundations of constitutionalism; the writing and ratification of the Constitution; early debates over implementation; political and constitutional controversies over slavery and its aftermath; the Constitution and the growth of the American state; national security and civil liberties; civil rights; and contemporary debates about constitutional issues.



bullet Research Paper (18-20 pages): 50 percent
bullet Reading Notes (2 sets): 30 percent
bullet Participation: 20 percent


bullet September 8: Bernard Bailyn, To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders (Knopf, 2003): Reading Notes
bullet September 15: No class--college holiday
bullet September 22: Jack Rakove, Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution (Knopf, 1996): Reading Notes (Matt, John)
bullet September 29: James Simon, What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and the Epic Struggle to Create a United States (Simon and Schuster, 2002): Reading Notes (Ralph, Jackie)
bullet October 6: Daniel Farber, Lincolnís Constitution (University of Chicago Press, 2003): Reading Notes (Rodrigo, Jason)
VIRTUAL SESSION THIS WEEK: Click here to go to caucus, and then go to History 705. At least three responses, spaced 12 hours apart and responding to the responses above yours, by class session next week.

bullet October 13: Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution (abridged edition) (Harper and Row, 1988): Reading Notes (Arthur)
bullet October 20: Linda Przybyszewski, The Republic According to John Marshall Harlan (University of North Carolina Press, 1999): Reading Notes (Helene, Ralph)
bullet October 27: Kevin McMahon, Reconsidering Roosevelt on Race: How the Presidency Paves the Road to Brown (University of Chicago Press, 2003): Reading Notes (Matt, John)
bullet November 3: Lucas Powe, The Warren Court and American Politics (Belknap, 2002): Reading Notes (Blanca, Arthur)
bullet November 10: Howard Ball, The Bakke Case: Race, Education, and Affirmative Action (University of Kansas Press, 2000): Reading Notes (Jason)
bullet November 17: William Saletan, Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War (University of California Press, 2003): Reading Notes (Jackie, Helene)
bullet November 24: No class--transition day
bullet December 1: Research Paper
bullet December 8: Research Paper
bullet December 15: Research paper

Upon completion of this course, students will have fulfilled the following learning goals:

bullet Seeing the importance of learning about "figures in power" in understanding US constitutional history
bullet Recognizing the dangers of applying ideological litmus tests in analyzing primary sources or evaluating historiography
bullet Perceiving the role of the law and legal institutions to citizenship in a diverse, multicultural democracy