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The Making of the US President: A Short History in Five Elections

This course explores the history of presidential elections via five case studies. It tells the story of key campaigns in US history

As Americans choose their next president, this course explores the history of presidential elections via five case studies. It tells the story of key campaigns in US history, and by doing so it explores how politics changed over time—and how understanding the past sheds light on the current campaign. The five elections that we'll investigate are among the most significant in American political history. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson won the presidency in a contest that encouraged politicians to reform the electoral college, the system by which presidents are still chosen. The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 prompted the outbreak of the Civil War. It's an election that helps us to understand the development of political parties. In 1968, the Vietnam War was a dominant concern for Americans, and yet foreign policy played a secondary role in Richard Nixon's victory. Twelve years later, in 1980, Ronald Reagan won an election that initiated a new era of conservatism. As election day approaches, we'll turn our attention to the 2008 election, which many saw as signaling a turn to progressivism and as revealing the impact of the digital revolution on campaign politics.

This course is run by Frank Cogliano; Professor of American History, David Silkenat; Lecturer, Fabian Hilfrich; Senior Lecturer in American History and Robert Mason, Professor of Twentieth-Century U.S. History from School of History, Classics and Archaeology

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The Making of the US President: A Short History in Five Elections​