Spring 2016

History, Time, and American Political Development

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-319


Jonathan M. Obert (Section 01)


[IL] Politics are not frozen in time, but are rather the product of developmental processes. Building on a survey of crucial works in the American Political Development (APD) literature and on general approaches (rational choice, sociological, etc.) to understanding institutional change, this course will introduce ways of thinking historically about political institutions in the U.S. Why did the party system evolve the way it did? Where did the rules and procedures of Congress come from? Where and when did important public services (transportation and communication infrastructure, protection for property, social insurance, etc.) become the provenance of state bureaucracies? How has the function and power of the Presidency changed over time? How did western expansion, imperialism, and military experience shape the federal government? These are a few of the substantive questions we will address in this course.

More broadly, however, this course helps us think about politics in a temporal way. History and political science are intrinsically related, but to understand the current debates and questions we need to be explicit about the types of processes (long-term, short-term, episodic, cyclic, etc.) that shape the institutions and events we see. Hence a key component of this course will be interrogating how scholars address the historiographic problem of studying politics, with the aim of cultivating the analytic tools necessary to situate contemporary political debates in the stream of time.

Requisite: An introductory Political Science course in IL (200 level or above) or any U.S. History course  (100 level or above) or HIST 301 or AMST 468 or LSJT 222. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Obert.

If Overenrolled: Priority first given to fourth-year students, then to a balance of sophomores and juniors, randomly determined, followed by first-year students and 5-college students.

Cost: 49.00 ?


Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2019