Honors | Our "Original" Culture Wars
H204 | 28568 | Stephen Conrad

1:00-2:15pm MW RE 2120B

OUR “ORIGINAL” CULTURE WARS: The Politics of Fundamental Values at
the American Founding

In our current “Culture Wars” there is much disputing about
professed “values”–- especially so-called “fundamental values.”
This course offers historical perspectives on such matters.  It
focuses on debates during the American “Founding”–- roughly, from
1765 to 1830–- over the meaning of such terms as democracy, liberty,
capitalism, Christianity, and family.  These terms, and other
similar keywords of public discourse at the Founding, signified
values the meanings of which were then much disputed-- politically,
legally, and constitutionally.  Each week the course will focus on
such a keyword and how it was disputed.  The readings will vary as
to the political and scholarly strategies of the respective
authors.  But in their various ways, all the authors use history to
make arguments about Americanism, “then and now.”  As Bendetto Croce
said, “All history is current history.”  Accordingly, the course
will also include routine short reading assignments drawn from
current newspapers or magazines, about disputes over our course
keywords today.  The course aims to offer students ways of thinking
about “our” Culture Wars, ways of thinking that advert to history
for perspective and that make use of history for political, legal,
and constitutional argumentation.  After all, we can see our
journalists, our politicians, and even our United Sates Supreme
Court discussing and using history all the time-- not least, the
history of the so-called “Founding” era. (And remember: the
instructor, although first and foremost an historian, is also a law

The course is designed as a colloquium, to facilitate and require
classroom discussion.  The weekly history readings will tend to be
rather short, variously demanding, and often provocative.  There
will be routine short writing assignments, to help structure
homework, focus discussion, and improve writing skills.  There will
be no final exam; but there will be a special midterm writing
assignment, to help everyone take stock of how her or his work in
the course is going.  Half of each student’s final course grade
will be based on classroom contributions, the other half on written