History 101.01

Fall 2005
Instructor (text): 
204 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
MWF 10-11

From 1954 to 1973, a series of Supreme Court decisions fundamentally reshaped American society. To name a few, Brown vs. Board of Education ended legal racial segregation in schools, Miranda vs. Arizona established the rights of criminal defendants, and Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion. These decisions were seen by some as fulfilling the true values of America, and by others as a grave threat to the social order. As such, the decisions provide an ideal setting to examine competing definitions of the nation and the national good. Students in this seminar are invited to write a research paper on the historical context of any Supreme Court decision between the years of 1954 - 1973. Possibilities include, but are not confined to, analyzing the court's decision itself, tracing the history of the major actors involved in a case, discussing the decision's reception in the media or by ordinary Americans, or any other topic developed with the help of the instructor. Whatever their approach, students are encouraged to use the cases as a lens through which to examine American society in a time of great transition, and are not limited to the confines of legal history. The seminar will focus explicitly on the process and perfection of historical writing, and will provide students with a solid base in research technique. Before the first class meeting, students should purchase The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, ed. Kermit L. Hall, and should come to the first class meeting with two possible topics in mind for their paper.