Democracy and the Modern West

Matthew N. Vosmeier

Winter 2008


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Course description and required texts:

This course is a survey of the broad themes that characterized the history of the West, emphasizing its political history since the Renaissance. It is "stacked" with Political Science 166 in the Modern Society LADR. Students will analyze primary sources, consider the importance of historical context and perspective, discuss their ideas with colleagues, and interpret the sources in light of broader themes of modern European and American history.

Specific LADR Objectives:
1. By exploring the ideas, themes, events, and personalities that have shaped the history of the West, students will be able to describe important characteristics of modern society and how those characteristics shape our lives.
2. Reading and analyzing background texts and primary sources as historians do helps students to understand one of the "key ways of knowing and of evaluating evidence in the social sciences."
3. By considering change over time, the similarities and differences between the past and the present, students will be able to place modern society in its historical context.
4. History concerns the analysis and interpretation of social, cultural, religious, and political evidence of the past, and through consideration of that evidence, students will be able to "explain causes for human behavior in ways that account for the complexity of social forces and of human motivation."
5. By taking the stacked history and political science courses, students will be able to "compare two disciplinary approaches to understanding society."
6. Students' thinking about the problems, debates, and conflicts people have faced in the course of the history of Western society will hone their ability to "reflect systematically and meaningfully on ethical dilemmas and issues that face citizens in modern society."
7. Through class discussion with their colleagues and through course exams and papers, students will practice effective speaking and writing.

Required Texts:

1. Thomas H. Greer and Gavin Lewis, A Brief History of the Western World. Volume 2, From the Late Middle Ages to the Present, 8th ed.
2. Online Materials accessed through this web page
3. Materials on reserve at Duggan Library
There is an online Study Guide for Primary Sources to print out.

The final course grade will be calculated from the following:

1. Three exams: a short first exam (5%), a midterm (20%), and a final exam (25%). The first exam will be an essay question. The other two will consist of identification terms and essays. Students are expected to take the exams on the days scheduled. In cases of necessity, requests for make-ups should be made before the day of the exam.

2. Two papers (each 18%). These papers will involve an analysis of primary sources. Late papers will be assessed a penalty.

3. Class participation (14%). Class participation includes collegial involvement in class discussions and completion of brief assignments.

Topics and Reading Assignments:


Jan. 7: Introduction and Background

Jan. 8: E. D. Hirsch, Cultural Literacy, xiii-32.

The Ancient World

Jan. 9: Individuals in Community: A Classical Perspective.
Pericles, "Funeral Oration" (431 BC).

Jan. 11: Perspectives on Government.
Aristotle, Politics (340 B.C.). Polybius, History, Book 6, "Rome at the End of the Punic Wars" (Late 2d century B.C.)


Jan. 14: Individuals in Community: A Biblical Perspective. Paul, 1 Cor. 1:1-17, 10:23-13:13 (ca. AD 54); 2 Cor. 11:16-29 (ca. AD 55). Gal. 3:23-29 (ca. AD 53).

Jan. 15: Historical Analysis
Petrus Paulus Vergerius, "De Ingenuis Moribus" (ca. 1404), online

Renaissance and Reformation

Jan. 16: Transformation of Europe; Renaissance Humanism. Greer & Lewis, 299-307, 335-342, 344-356

Jan. 18: Renaissance Humanism. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, from Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486).


Jan. 21: Renaissance Politics. Greer & Lewis, 307-313
Niccolò Machiavelli, from The Prince (1513).

Jan. 22: Writing History Papers
Take-Home Exam Due

Jan. 23: Individualism and Community in Early Modern Society.
Discussion of the film Le retour de Martin Guerre (1982 film, set ca. 1560).

Jan. 25: The Reformation. Greer & Lewis, 364-380, 384-387


Jan. 28: The English Reformation and English Puritanism. Greer & Lewis, 380-384. John Winthrop, "A Modell of Christian Charity" (1630).

Jan. 29: Review Session

The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: Absolutism, Enlightenment, and Lockean Liberalism

Jan. 30: Absolutism. Greer & Lewis,408-411, 416-418. Jacques Bossuet, On the Nature and Properties of Royal Authority (1678). Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651).

Feb 1: The English Revolution, Greer & Lewis, 446-451. John Locke, Second Treatise on Government (1690).


Feb. 4: Writing Workshop.
Bring Paper Drafts to class.

Feb. 5: The Enlightenment, Greer & Lewis, 425-431.
John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Voltaire, The Philosophical Dictionary (1764).

Feb. 6: The Enlightenment.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, (1763).

Feb. 8: The Enlightenment.
First Paper Due

The American and French Revolutions.


Feb. 11: Classical Republicanism and the Whig Opposition.
John Trenchard, Cato's Letters, No. 18
Thomas Gordon, Cato's Letters, No. 33
John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, Cato's Letters, No. 94

Feb. 12: The American Revolution and the Early Republic. Greer & Lewis, 451-456
Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence (1776). Abigail Adams, "Remember the Ladies" Letter (1776). James Madison, Federalist #10 (1787).

Feb. 13: Midterm Review.

Feb. 15: No Class.


Feb. 18: Midterm Exam

Feb 19: TBA

Feb. 20: The French Revolution and Empire. Greer & Lewis, 445-446, 456-464.
Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789). Olympe de Gouges, Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen (1791)

Feb. 22: The French Revolution and Empire. Greer & Lewis, 464-471
Maximilien de Robespierre, Speech of February 5, 1794 (1794).

(Winter Break begins at the close of class day, Friday, Feb. 22. Class resumes Monday, Mar. 3.)


Mar. 3: Romanticism; Music of the Western World. Greer & Lewis, 439-442,480-491,672-673

The Nineteenth Century

Mar. 4: Conservative Reaction. Greer & Lewis, 473-478.
Edmund Burke, Reflections on the French Revolution (1820).

Mar. 5: Liberalism. Greer & Lewis, 491-497.
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859) and John Stuart Mill, "Utilitarianism."

Mar. 7: Nationalism. Greer & Lewis, 497-501.
Joseph Mazzini,An Essay On the Duties of Man (1844-1858).


Mar. 10: American Individualism.
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience Seneca Falls Convention, Declaration of Sentiments (1848)

Mar. 11: TBA

Mar. 12: The American Civil War
Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address (1863)

Mar. 14: Socialism. Greer & Lewis, 517-523.
" Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Communist Manifesto (1848).


Mar. 17: Late Nineteenth-Century Social Thought. Greer & Lewis, 528-530.
href=""> Andrew Carnegie, "The Gospel of Wealth" (1889). Thomas Huxley, Evolution and Ethics (1893).

Mar. 18: Review Session

Imperialism, Racism, Statism

Mar. 19: Race and Racism in the Progressive Era.
Booker T. Washington, "The Atlanta Exposition Address" (1895), online. W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903).

Mar. 21: The New Imperialism and World War I. Greer & Lewis, 548-567.
World War I Poetry


Mar. 24: Writing Workshop.
Bring Paper Drafts to class.

Mar. 25: The Russian Revolution and the Soviet Union. Greer & Lewis, 568-576. V.I. Lenin, "State and Revolution," (1918).

Mar. 26: Statist Regimes and World War II. Greer & Lewis, 576-582, 585-591. Benito Mussolini, "The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism" (1932)

Mar. 28: No Class.
Second Paper Due

American Society and the World since 1945


Mar. 31: The Cold War. Greer & Lewis, 595-603, 626-637.
The Cold War in Film.

Apr. 1: Review Session

Apr. 2: Decolonization. Greer & Lewis, 603-612, 614-624.
Jawaharlal Nehru, various excerpts.

Apr. 4: Civil Rights. Greer & Lewis, 612-614.
Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" (1963), online. Black Panther Party Platform (1966), online


Apr. 7: Late Twentieth-Century & Contemporary American Society. Greer & Lewis, 732-739.
The Port Huron Statement (1962). National Organization for Women Statement of Purpose (1966).

Apr. 8: TBA

Apr. 9: Global Society and Conflict. Greer & Lewis, 720-730.
David Brooks, On Paradise Drive (2000), chapter 3, on reserve

Apr. 11: Conclusion and Review for Final Exam

Apr. 19-23 Final Exam Week