The American Constitution

Primary Number: HIST 30621

ConStudies Number: CNST 30022

ConStudies CRN: 20735

Primary CRN: 20695

Instructor: Carter, Katlyn

Day/Time: TTh 12:30pm-1:45pm

Attributes: HBNA-History of North America HCT5 - HIST Cat 5: US HIST - old Core History WKHI - new Core History

Location: DeBartolo Hall 205

The Constitution holds a unique place in American law and political culture. Not only is it the basis of the federal government, it provides the framework for political debates about all manner of controversial issues in modern America. Today, there is much talk of a "constitutional crisis" in the United States. What does this mean? How can a history help us make sense of the Constitution and of our politics? This course explores the historical context in which the American Constitution was framed, ratified, and amended over time. Together, we will ask and answer the questions of how and why it was written the way it was; how and why it gained legitimacy; and how it was put into practice and interpreted over time. The class will introduce students to central historical problems, which include: Is the American Constitution democratic? Did the Constitution codify slavery into law? Is originalism a useful and valid way to interpret the Constitution? Course readings will consist primarily of primary source material, though students will also read historical interpretations of the Constitution and the process of forming, amending, and interpreting it. The discussion-based class will empower students to think historically about the American Constitution by interpreting primary source material, building arguments about causes and effects of particular constitutional points, and intervening in scholarly dialogues about the founding and its legacy. Students will be evaluated primarily based on class participation, a short primary source analysis, a role-play activity, and a final paper.