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Spring 2024 Reading Group

Histories of the Constitutional Founding

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: No Exam

This reading group explores how interpretations of the constitutional founding have changed over the course of U.S. history. The founding story is, as one historian quipped, “the oldest set piece in American history,” and Americans have continuously reinterpreted it. Each session we will consider the founding from the perspective of a different period in U.S. history, from firsthand accounts to recent “Founders Chic” popular histories. In between, we will cover a range of influential interpretations that have variously placed morality, slavery, economics, ideology, security, ordinary politics, and other themes at center stage. Our reading will conclude with new and forthcoming scholarship inviting us to assess what it means for the founding story to cast such a long shadow.

The reading group will meet for six two-hour sessions with participation graded credit/fail.

Note: This reading group will meet on the following dates: January 24, February 7, February 21, March 6, March 27, and April 10.