Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
By the People: US Politics. Past and Present
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminar 10 x 2 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Seminar participation  10%
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,000 word policy report  40%
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,500 word Essay  50%
Supplementary Assessment 1, 000 word concept note in lieu of seminar participation  10%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,000 word policy report  40%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Assess the impact of ideas upon the conduct of US politics;
2. Describe some of the relationships between historical, social, philosophical and political factors in both the raising of issues and in the formulation and projection of public policy options;
3. Identify and assess how values influence the agenda of American politics;
4. Discuss and analyse the factors that affect how priorities can change over different periods and across different issue areas in US politics;
5. Demonstrate an appreciation of historical and contemporary practices of US politics based on the use of primary and secondary sources.

Brief description

This module offers an introductory grounding in the nature and political implications of the United States' core beliefs and their relationship to the conduct of American politics. The module provides an analysis of the role that a number of key ideas have had not only in the history of the United States and in the development of its political system, but in the formation of contemporary issue agendas. The module will examine a number of key themes in the established belief structures of the US (e.g. constitutionalism, individualism, equality, democracy, conservatism). It will identify the main properties of each value; locate its significance in a historical and social context; and illustrate its significance in structuring attitudes and establishing priorities in the formation of political issues. The module will then move to describing and analysing the decision-making process and developing how institutions, ideas and traditions interact in the production of public policy (e.g. abortion, gun control, death penalty).


1) The Constitutional Tradition: Structures, Liberties and Rights
2) Individualism: Property, Class and Consensus
3) Democracy: Popular Government and Republican Anxieties
4) Reform: Liberal Intervention and Populist Impulses
5) Fundamentalism: The Conservative Search for the Real America
6) Equality: Civil Rights and the Problem of Race
7) National Destiny: Providence, Exceptionalism and America's Mission
8) Policy-Making: Society, Government, Ideas and Action
9) Revision / Essay preparation

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Students will learn how to present their ideas both verbally (seminar participation) and in writing (policy report and essay). This includes clear, coherent, and effective formulation of the analysis and arguments presented in written work. Students will also learn to orally enunciate clearly and concisely arguments during seminars.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context in which support and assistance is available from both the convenor and fellow students alike. Students will be expected to improve their own learning and performance by undertaking their own research and exercising their own initiative, including searching for sources and deciding (under guidance) the direction of their coursework. The need to prepare for assessed seminar performance and to meet coursework deadlines will focus students’ attention on the need to manage their time.
Information Technology Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format. Also, students will be encouraged to search for sources of information on the web, as well as seeking sources through electronic information sources (such as Web of Science and OCLC). Students will also be expected to make use of the resources that will be available on the Blackboard VLE
Personal Development and Career planning This module is designed to hone and test skills of use to students in their working lives, particularly in speaking to small groups, listening, thinking and responding to the statement of others. The written work includes writing clearly and concisely, which is a common task in the workplace. Students will be encouraged throughout to reflect on their performance and to consider lessons for future application.
Problem solving Independent project work and problem solving will be one central goal of the module; the submission of an essay, a policy report, and preparation for seminar discussions will require that students develop independent research skills as well as problem solving skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed by asking them to: adopt differing points of view; organize data and estimate an answer to the problem; consider extreme cases; reason logically; construct theoretical models; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems
Research skills Students will be required to undertake independent research for all elements of the assessed work. This will involve utilizing media and web sources, as well as more conventional academic texts. Students will in part be assessed on their ability to gather appropriate and interesting resources materials.
Subject Specific Skills Students have the opportunity to develop, practice and test a wide range of subject specific skills that help them to understand, conceptualise and evaluate examples and ideas on the module. These subject specific skills include: • Collect and understand a wide range of data relating to the module • Evaluate competing perspectives • Demonstrate subject specific research techniques • Apply a range of methodologies to complex historical and contemporary political problems
Team work Students will undertake team exercises in the seminars.


This module is at CQFW Level 5