Building the Twentieth-Century American State

History 103D.005

Fall 2018
3104 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
Th 4-6
Class Number: 

How can we make sense of the rise of the modern American state in the twentieth century? As a series of battles over electoral politics and the rules governing access to participation and representation in the polity? As a history of the evolving role and powers of the state – especially the federal government – in the American political economy? Or as a history of changing rights and legal systems that Americans have fought for, encountered, and contested both in court and the court of popular opinion? In this seminar, students will read from each of these approaches and investigate how they overlap to explore the history of major transformations in twentieth-century American governance.

Throughout the semester, we will read monographs in the fields of policy history, legal history, and American political development. We will also examine articles in allied fields – such as law, political science, and sociology – to explore developments in the twentieth-century U.S. state and to understand the many different methodologies and sources that can be employed to study the topic.

Brendan Shanahan is a historian of the 19th- and 20th-century United States. His work focuses on the sociolegal and policy history of immigration and citizenship. Shanahan's dissertation, "Making Modern American Citizenship" explores the transformation of rights tied to U.S. citizenship (increasingly denied to noncitizens) from the time of the Civil War until the Civil Rights era.