American Political & Diplomatic History
Part 1: The Age of Nationalism

Honors Seminar

**Note: This syllabus is still under construction. It may be altered.

History 133
Swarthmore College
Prof. Bruce Dorsey
Fall 1999

This seminar will explore major themes and topics in the political and diplomatic history of the United States from the American Revolution to the Philippine-American War ending in 1902. One might say the narrative we're exploring this semester concentrates on how a nation emerged out of the grips of one empire only to become an empire itself. The meanings of nationalism in American life, the historical impulses toward empire, and the social and political conflicts that defined nineteenth-century American life and culture will be central themes in this course.



It goes without saying that every student in the seminar will attend and participate actively in the seminar (Oh, sorry, but I just said that.)

Reading Assignments:

Students are expected to purchase and read the required readings for each week, complete the minimum reading assignment, and in most cases read all (or nearly all) of the additional reading. Students will also be expected to become acquainted with the material for each week's topics for seminar papers. If we are not prepared to discuss these topics, then additional written assignments will have to be added to the seminar requirements.

Written Assignments:

You will write at least four papers for this seminar. Papers should be about 4-5 (single spaced) pages (1,200-2,000 words) in length. The quality of your work, not the size of your paper, is our primary concern. A list of topics and readings is included within each week of the syllabus.

Seminar papers should be able to critically analyze the arguments of historians, and concisely and convincingly present your own assessment of an important theme or topic in American political or diplomatic history. A good seminar paper will bring the other members of the seminar immediately into the heart of your argument, without excessive narrative or description. It will also present the most convincing evidence you can find to substantiate your interpretation. Seminar papers must include a bibliography of sources used.

Seminar papers are due on the class server no later than 24 hours before the seminar meets. Every member of the seminar will be responsible for reading each other's papers carefully prior to the seminar and offering comments on the papers as a part of the seminar session.

Discussion Leadership:

At least one student each week will be responsible for being the seminar discussion leader. The discussion leader will be responsible for having read book reviews of the major readings for each seminar paper, and for preparing discussion questions that both facilitate discussion for the seminar and also ask the authors of papers to relate their conclusions to the general readings that week. A good discussion leader will try to keep the discussion focused on a particular historical problem, and will be often asked to summarize the seminar discussion at the end of the class.


All students will take a final examination. Final exam date & time: _________________________________


If you need to acquire a solid background on the major events and political and foreign policy developments in any era in American history, then consult the following:

John Faragher, et al., Out of Many: A History of the American People. [General Reserve]

And the following Reference Works:
Alexander DeConde, Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy, 3 vols. (1978). [Ref. JX1407 .E53]
Jack P. Greene, ed., The Encyclopedia of American Political History , 3 vols. (1984). [Ref. E183 .E5 1984]
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed., History of American Presidential Elections, 4 vols. (1971) [E183 .S28]
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed., History of U. S. Political Parties, 4 vols. (1973). [JK2261 .S3]

Journal Abbreviationss:

AHR American Historical Review
DH Diplomatic History
JAH Journal of American History
JER Journal of the Early Republic
RHR Radical History Review
RAH Reviews in American History
PSQ Political Science Quarterly
WMQ William and Mary Quarterly

Week Topics:

Week 1: Theoretical and Historiographical Background

Reading: (Read as much as you can in each section, beginning from the top)


Political History:

Diplomatic History:


Week 2: The American Revolution & the Federal Constitution

Minimum Reading:

Additional Reading:

Paper Topics:

Republicanism Versus Liberalism: What was the Ideology of Revolutionary America?

The Franco-American Alliance

Revolution and Race / Slavery & the Constitution:

Beard's Thesis: The Economic Origins of the Constitution?:

Who Were the Federalists and Anti-federalists?:


Week 3: The Age of Federalists and Jefferson - First Party System

Minimum Reading:

Additional Reading:

Paper Topics:

French Revolution: Impact on American Politics and Diplomacy:

Hamilton and the Federalists:

Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans:

The First Party System:

Washington's Foreign Policy (Jay Treaty & Entangling Alliances):


Week 4: "Empire of Liberty": Expansion in the Age of Jefferson & Jackson

Minimum Reading:

Additional Reading:

Paper Topics:

Indian Policy Before Removal:

Indian Removal:

Haitian and Latin American Revolutions:

Political Economy in the New Republic:

Monroe Doctrine:

War of 1812:


Week 5: Manifest Destiny & Expansionism

Minimum Reading:

Additional Reading:

Paper Topics:

Mexican War:

Filibustering: Southern Manifest Destiny:

Political Opposition to & Consequences of Mexican War (Free Soil Party in the North):

The Pacific & Asia:


Week 6: Jacksonian Democracy and the Second Party System

Minimum Reading:

Additional Reading:

Paper Topics:

Ethno-Cultural Interpretation of 19th-Century Politics:

The Whigs: Who were They & Why did They Die So Fast?:

Workingmen's Politics in the Jacksonian Era:


Week 7: Slavery, Nativism, & Third Party Politics

Minimum Reading:

Additional Reading:

Paper Topics:

Slavery and Southern Politics:

Conspiracy & Third Party Politics:

Abolitionism and the Politics of Reform:

Sectional Crisis of the National Party System (Birth of the Third Party System):


Week 8: Civil War and Reconstruction

Minimum Reading:

Additional Reading:

Paper Topics:

Politics of Secession in the North and South:

Confederate Nationalism:

Political Conflict During the Civil War:

Emancipation, Reconstruction & the Revolution in Black Politics:

Diplomacy during the Civil War (Union & Confederate):


Week 9: Gender and Politics in the 19th Century

Minimum Reading:

Additional Reading:

Paper Topics:

Women and Partisan Politics:

Women's Rights and Suffrage:

Temperance & the Politics of Alcohol:

Radical Women -- Socialists, Anarchists, etc.:

The Gendered Meanings of Politics:


Week 10: Race and Politics in the 19th Century

Minimum Reading:

Additional Reading:

Paper Topics:

Whiteness and the Politics of Race:

Jacksonian Democracy and the Popular Culture of Racial Politics:

Racial Politics in the West (Chinese Exclusion Act & Anglo-Hispanic Conflict):

The Racial Origins of American Foreign Policy:



Week 12: Labor Politics

Minimum Reading:

Additional Reading:

Paper Topics:

Labor Unions and the Politics of the Gilded Age (Knights of Labor vs. AFL):

The Origins of Socialism:

Anarchism and Other Radical Political Movements:


Week 13: The Populists

Minimum Reading:

Additional Reading:

Paper Topics:

Sources of Populism (or the Social History of Populist Politics):

Political Ideology of Populism:

Election of 1896:

Race, African Americans, and the Populist Movement:


Week 14: Imperialism

Minimum Reading:

Additional Reading:

Paper Topics:

Spanish-Cuban-American War:

War in the Philippines:

Cultural and Political Ideology of Imperialism: