Department of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Social Sciences

Choate Rosemary Hall

Wallingford, Connecticut

History MSH1

DEMOCRACY: From athens to obama

Summer 2014 term

Hypertext Course Syllabus

Goals of the Course
Texts and Course Materials
Program and Workload
Schedule of Meetings and Assignments

Mr. Ned Gallagher
Johnson Athletic Center #105
Memorial House #114
voice: 203-350-9612
preferred e-mail:

Mr. Kobby Lartey
Homestead #201
preferred e-mail:

"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

- Winston Churchill

Goals of History MSH1

This course constitutes a study of democratic approaches to political life, with a focus on four major Western civilizations: classical Athens and Rome, and modern Britain and the United States. We will make comparisons whenever relevant.

The course also focuces on developing the essential skills employed in the study of history:

The course is designed with these aims in mind to be a coöperative learning experience in appreciating and understanding the role of democracy, both in the realm of ideas and in practice.

Texts and Course Materials

There is no textbook for this course. Reading materials will be distributed in class or available electronically.


This course will be orthodox in its presentation: in general, you'll read something before each meeting, and in class we'll discuss what you've read--what I call "Socratic discussion." You'll be expected to sit for examinations, write brief papers, take part in organized debates and simultation exercises, and participate regularly in class dicussion.

Any papers you write should follow the "empirical essay" format and use the APEC method of argument. If the syllabus doesn't say something to the contrary, then the paper is to be two pages long. That means one sheet written on both sides if you handwrite, or two fronts if you type or word process. If you use notes or bibliography, they may go on a separate sheet. In fact, you may always write as many pages as you want, but the first two will be read and graded.

Schedule of Meetings and Assignments

What follows is what we'll try to cover during the term. It may be adjusted from time to time for any number of reasons. The homework for the next class is always the next assignment unless you are told differently. You'll find each entry on the schedule below contains some instructive questions and ideas you should consider in preparing for class; get into the habit reading the syllabus carefully each night as you begin your homework.

1. "Stand And Unfold Yourself."

No assignment. In class, we'll meet each other, discuss the expectations of the course, distribute materials you'll need, and begin discussion of some of the central issues before us, such as the distribution of political power in a democracy. If there is time, we will also do some work on skills.

2. Habits of Excellence I: Study Skills and The Empirical Essay.

Please prepare the following: (a) study The Pink Sheet and The Green Sheet very carefully, and skim The Gold Sheet so you are familiar with its contests and can refer to it later; (b) write a one-page autobiography; and (c) study the "Statement On Academic Integrity" in the Student Handbook.

3. Habits of Excellence II: Time Management.

Online video link: Randy Pausch, "Time Management." Watch the video presentation and take notes where you think it is relevant to your own work as a student. In particular, try to identify the five most important things you learned from this lecture and be prepared to share them in class.

4. "It Was Greek To Me" I: Athenian Democracy.

Online reading: "The Democratic Experiment." In class we will discuss the emergence of democracy as a political system in the polis (city-state) of Athens. How did this system contrast with what came before? Was this "democracy" truly inclusive? Who was left out? How similar is the Athenian approach to what we consider democracy today?

5. "It Was Greek To Me" II: The Duties Of Citizenship.

"The Age of Pericles," by Philipp Von Foltz. (1853)

Online reading: "Critics and Critiques of Athenian Democracy" and Pericles' Funeral Oration. Over two thousand years later, we still consider the latter document one of the finest statements on citizenship ever crafted. What values does Pericles celebrate in this oration?

6. "It Was Greek To Me" III: A Citizen's Dilemma.

Online reading: Sophocles, Antigone (first half). Read at least through the end of Scene 2. If you have time, you can read ahead. What is the dilemma facing Antigone? What is the dilemma facing Creon? Which character do you find more attractive?

7. "It Was Greek To Me" IV: Greek Tragedy.

Online reading: Finish Sophocles, Antigone. What do you think of the minor characters in the play, such as Ismene and Haimon? How is the play's ending typical of Greek tragedy?

8. Period Test #1.

Covering all the material studied since the beginning of the term. The first 30 minutes of the class will be devoted to your questions. The test will then last 45 minutes. There is advice online here about test-taking.

9. "When In Rome" I: Republic.

Online reading: "Conversion of the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire" and "The Fall Of The Roman Republic." How and why did republic government in Rome become transformed into an imperial model?

10. "When In Rome" II: Empire.

Online reading: "Roman Empire: The Paradox Of Power" and "Social Pecking Order in the Roman World." What role did social class play in Roman society?

11. "When In Rome" III: The Legacy Of Rome.

Online reading: "Romanisation: The Process of Becoming Roman" and "Empires of Absent Mind: Rome and the USA." What were the benefits of being part of the Roman empire? What are the parallels between Rome and the United States? What are the obvious differences? How did the Pax Romana of classical antiquity differ from the Pax Americana in the 20th century?

12. "When In Rome" IV: Oral Reports.

Homework is preparation of a five-minute oral report on some aspect of Roman society or political life.

13. "When In Rome" IV: Empire's End.

Online reading: "The Fall of Rome." What led to the collapse of the Roman empire? Was it a total collapse? Do you see Rome as a model for America? If so, can America avoid a similar "fall"?

14. Tories And Whigs I: Magna Carta.

Online reading: "King John and Richard I: Brothers and Rivals" and "King John And Magna Carta." How do historians evaluate brothers Richard and John as kings? Can you think of modern equivalents of each? Why is Magna Carta--Latin for "great charter"--pointed to as one of the most important documents in history? How did it change the nature of medieval political power?

15. Tories And Whigs II: Civil War, Restoration, And Thomas Hobbes.

Thomas Hobbes

Online reading: "Choosing Sides in the English Civil War" and "Thomas Hobbes: Balancing Liberty And Dominion." What was the English Civil War fought over? Which side do you think Hobbes favored? Why? If Hobbes favored a strong central authority, why is he considered a democratic theorist?

16. Tories And Whigs III: The Glorious Revolution And John Locke.

John Locke

Online reading: "The 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688" and excerpt from John Locke's Second Treatise On Government. What did the Glorious Revolution accomplish? Why is it named this way? What were the issues that divided people in England? What is the basic thrust of Locke's political philosophy? And what connections can you make between the Glorious Revolution and John Locke? How is John Locke an intellectual successor of Thomas Hobbes? How do the two differ?

17. Tories And Whigs IV: Modern Parliament.

Houses of Parliament, Palace of Westminster

Online reading: Try to master the workings of modern-day Parliament by reading the descriptions here, here, and here (be sure to click through each of the links on this last page) so that you are ready for a quiz on the role of Parliament in modern-day Britain.

18. Philadelphia Freedom.

John Trumbull, "Declaration Of Independence" (1818), U.S. Capitol Rotunda

Online reading: The Declaration of Independence, overview of the Articles of Confederation, and overview of the Constitutional Convention. Read the Declaration carefully, even if you've read it before; you ought to be able to summarize the primary grievances the American colonists had in 1776. What were the Americans trying to accomplish in "amending" the Articles of Confederation in 1787?


19. The American Experiment I: The Legislative Branch.

Online reading: "Congress" and "How A Bill Becomes A Law." Be sure you understand the powers of Congress, the qualifications for members, and the process for creating legislation. How does Congress differ from Parliament? What roles do the leaders in each chamber play? How is the House of Representatives different from the Senate in procedure and character?

20. The American Experiment II: The Executive Branch.

Online reading: "How The Electoral College Works" [be sure to read all 7 sections on multiple pages] and "The Powers Of The American President." Why does America elect its presidents in such a complicated manner? Do you think the Electoral College serves the interests of democracy? Be sure you understand the various powers of the president. What powers does he have that are not among those "officially" listed?

21. The American Experiment III: The Judicial Branch.

Online reading: master the details of the Federal judiciary by carefully reading the information here, here, here, and here. Be sure you can explain the structure of the Federal court system as well as the make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court, and that you understand its jurisdiction.

22. The American Experiment IV: Paper.

Write a paper not exceeding two pages in length in which you respond to the following statement: "The Framers of the Constitution balanced the desire to create a democratic government with a fear of democracy. The Constitution, therefore, has a number of checks on democracy built into the system of government it devises."


23. The American Experiment V: Mock Court.

We will continue exploring the judicial branch with some "hands on" exposure to the sort of cases that have arisen under the Constitution. You each have been assigned to argue one side of a landmark case from the U.S. Supreme Court. There are instructions on how to create a "brief" online. You must prepare your brief and bring 10 copies to class the day you argue the case. You will have a chance to explain your position on the case (note: NOT just read the brief aloud) to the Court. Although the members of the Court will have read the briefs, lawyers should expect that the Justices will not understand much of what they read. Clarity, then, and patience, will be the hallmarks of most winning lawyers' presentations, both in the briefs and in oral argument. Lawyers will have five minutes for oral arguments; petitioner may reserve for rebuttal up to ninety seconds of the five minutes allowed, while respondent will stand only once and may not reserve time. When finished, lawyers will be allowed to remain in the room while the Court goes into "conference." (But since lawyers are not supposed to be there at all, they must be careful not to make any gesture or noise while the Court is conferring. Any violation of this rule, and a lawyer will be thrown out of the classroom and a serious penalty assessed.)

Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989): Isabel vs. Maddison

Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992): Sam vs. Arnold


Citation Search

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24. Lexington Green I: Two Mysteries.

Read Lexington Green packet #1. Here we pause to examine this one event in considerable depth because from it we can learn important things about how historians work. They are something like detectives: they research in primary materials, test for plausibility, and record what seems to them the truth, absolving and charging as they think credible. You do the same in reading this book: be like a detective. What happened on Lexington Green? Why were shots fired? Who fired first? Remember: as an historian, your responsibility is to tell what happened. Come to class--and bring a hard copy of this reading--prepared to argue who fired the first shot and explain why you think so.

25. Lexington Green II: Historiography.

Read Lexington Green packet #2. Notice the wide range of views. Historiography is the study of what has been written about history. A matrix chart highlighting the renditions presented by each historian will be helpful. Note that not all the British historians have the same intepretations; nor do all the Americans. Do you notice any patterns? Any evididence of bad history?

26. Review.

We will wrap up themes of the course in preparation for the final exam.

27. Final Examination.

Covering all that we've studied during the term. The test will then last 50 minutes. Covering all that we've studied during the term. The test will then last 50 minutes. You will complete end-of-term evaluations in class, so think about any ideas you want to convey to your teachers about the class, the quality of instruction, and your own performance this summer.

28. Wrap Up.

Final exams will be returned and reviewed. We'll say our goodbyes. Sadness will begin.