Spring 2017 American Heritage Syllabus


The true flag of the American Revolution.

American Heritage

H105; Spring 2017; Lane 125

MWF, 10:00-10:50, 11:00-11:50

Instructor: Dr. Bradley J. Birzer


Required Readings

  • Hillsdale College History Department, ed., American Heritage: A Reader
  • Secondary history text (via the bookstore)
  • A variety of handouts/email attachments; Joseph Addison, Cato: A Tragedy (Liberty Fund), pp. 5-99. Available at Online Library of Liberty.


Your participation during the course: I will assign readings from the American Heritage reader and the history text on a class-by-class basis.  If you have not done the readings for the day, please do not attend class.  Additionally, please bring your reader and any handouts to each class.


Grades: Three papers, quizzes, and participation (30%); two midterms (20% each); and final (30%).


Papers.  Each paper should be roughly 700 to 1,000 words in length.  Please double-space your paper and use one-inch margins on each side.  At the end of the paper, please state the word count.  There is no need for footnoting

Paper 1 topic:  Using Addison’s play, Cato: A Tragedy, explain the meaning and significance of “virtue.”

Paper 2 topic: Using the de Tocqueville and Jackson documents from the American Heritage reader, explain the rise (and dangers of. . .) of democratic sentiment, 1829-1836.

Paper 3 topic: Using the Sharon and Port Huron statements, discuss and analyze the ideas of the so-called New Right and the New Left.  In what ways are they similar, and in what ways are they different?  Is each inside or outside of the western tradition?



Important Dates

  • First Day of Classes: January 18
  • Paper 1 Due: February 10, 5pm—my office (under the door)
  • Midterm Exam 1: February 17
  • PW: March 3-5
  • Spring Break: March 11-March 19
  • Paper 2 Due: March 24, 5pm—my office (under the door)
  • Easter Break: April 14 (at noon)-April 17
  • Paper 3 Due: April 28, 5pm—my office (under the door)

Final Essay Questions

  • Through a strange series of mishaps, H.G. Wells grabs Aristotle and transports him to Washington, D.C., May 2017. G. Wells moves on, but Aristotle has coffee with a historian (who shall remain nameless, but who teaches at a small, traditional college with very bright students in the upper American Midwest).  The historian explains to the ancient Greek philosopher how much he and his ideas have shaped and influenced the development of American politics and culture.  What exactly does the historian tell Aristotle?
  • Through a strange series of mishaps, George Washington, toward the end of his second administration, finds himself in the Woods between the Worlds. He steps into the pool leading to Washington, D.C., May 2017.  Once there, he encounters Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts.  Roberts—in an objective fashion—explains to the first president the state of the world and the history of the United States since roughly 1800.  What does Washington think of the history of the country he made for us?
  • Through a strange series of mishaps, Lenin does not actually reside in his tomb in Red Square. That “honor” belongs to some poor schlep that inconveniently happened to look like Lenin.  Instead, two just aliens, Kudos and Kang, abducted Lenin prior to his death.  They deposit him (alive) in Chicago, Illinois, in May 2017.  Tried for crimes against humanity in the twentieth century, Lenin sits anxiously as a number of witnesses walk through and testify: Friedrich Nietzsche, Stalin, Whittaker Chambers, Tom Hayden, Ronald Reagan, Russell Kirk, and Pope John Paul II.  What do they say?  And, what is the verdict?


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