MO3715 The American Constitution: Past and Present
Lecturer Professor Colin Kidd
Credits 30
Availability 2013-2014 - semester 1
Class Hour view timetable
Description This course covers the making of the American Constitution, the institutions and systems of government which it established, and its long turbulent history over the past two centuries. However, the primary focus of the course is upon the difficulties faced in recent decades by modern Americans in reconciling late twentieth- and early twenty-first century social, cultural and political aspirations with institutional forms which were – to a large extent – set in aspic over two hundred years ago. The course examines the interplay of eighteenth-century and twentieth-century concerns and the controversies which have arisen out of the encounter - in the Supreme Court especially – of America’s eighteenth-century constitutional inheritance with modern social and political realities.  
Basic Reading R. Dahl, How democratic is the American Constitution? (2001)
J. Rakove, Original meanings: politics and ideas in the making of the Constitution (1996)
J. Rakove (ed.), Interpreting the Constitution: the debate over Original Intent (1990).
J. Rosen, The Most Democratic Branch (2006)

Course Structure

Week 1 Introduction: The British and American Constitutions
Week 2 The Constitution, the Culture Wars and the Nine
Week 3 The Constitution and the Bill of Rights 
Week 4 Dred Scott, the Fourteenth Amendment and Lochnerism
Week 5 From Carolene to the activist Court
Week 6 Watergate and the Constitution
Week 7 Varieties of Originalism and Judicial activism
Week 8 Religion and the First Amendment
Week 9 Republicanism, guns and the second Amendment
Week 10 Sexual privacy and the Constitution
Week 11 The Electoral College and indeterminate elections

Assessment 60% examination - 3-hour paper
40% coursework – two essays & one oral presentation

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this particular module, students should be able to demonstrate:

1. an understanding of the main features of the American system of government
2. a knowledge of the making of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights
3. an historically-informed understanding of the constitutional controversies which currently beset the United States
4. the ability to construct well-supported historical arguments by way of essays and seminar presentations
5. the acquisition of certain transferable skills (oral, organisational and interpersonal skills) through participating in and chairing group discussions and making oral presentations to the group



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