KC Johnson

History 7446: American Presidency

This course will explore the history of the American presidency from George Washington until the present day.


  • Research Paper: 50%
  • Participation: 30%
  • Study Questions/Supplementary Reading: 20%

Books: (all available through amazon.com)

My Contact Information:


August 28: Introduction

  • Forrest MacDonald, The American Presidency

September 4: The Constitutional Era

  • Joseph Ellis, His Excellency [study questions: Nermin Cecunjanin]

supplementary readings:

  • Lynn Parsons, The Birth of Modern Politics [Katie Dickman]

September 11, 18–transition days

September 25: The Transitional Era

Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy [study questions: Louis Korman]

supplementary readings:

  • Walter Borneman, Polk [Michael Radushinsky]
  • Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wraught [Thomas Smith]


David Herbert Donald, Lincoln [study questions: Katie Dickman]

supplementary readings:

  • Mark Neely, The Fate of Liberty [Leon Xanthos]
  • Jean Smith, James Buchanan [William Gallagher]

October 9: The Post-Civil War Era

Brooks Simpson, The Reconstruction Presidents [study questions: John Balliet]

supplementary readings:

  • Henry Graff, Grover Cleveland [Roman Zhitnik]
  • Kevin Phillips, William McKinley [Michael Radushinsky]

October 16: Progressivism

John Milton Cooper, Woodrow Wilson [study questions: Rayson Chen]

supplementary readings:

  • Thomas Knock, To End All Wars [Nermin Cecunjanin]
  • Edmund Morris, Theodore Rex [Kimberly Newman]

October 23: No class

October 30:  FDR

David Kennedy, Freedom from Fear [study questions: Hugo Barreca]

supplementary readings:

  • Frank Freidel, Franklin D. Roosevelt: Rendezvous with Destiny [Louis Korman]
  • Kevin McMahon, Reconsidering Roosevelt on Race [Robert Kelly]

November 6: The Postwar Presidency

James McCullough, Truman  [study questions: Howard Caretto]

supplementary readings:

  • Jean Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace [Kimberly Newman]

November 13: 1960s

Joshua Zeitz, Building a Great Society [study questions: Joseph Criscola]

supplementary readings:

  • Robert Caro, The Passage to Power [John Balliet]
  • David Talbot, The Brothers [Nicholas Hurwitz]

November 20: Nixon

Stanley Kutler, The Wars of Watergate [study questions: William Gallagher]

supplementary readings:

  • Rick Perlstein, Nixonland [Hugo Barreca]
  • James Patterson, Grand Expectations, pp. 593-790 only [Howard Caretto]

November 27: The Transition to Reaganism

Rick Perlstein, The Invisible Bridge [study questions: Nicholas Hurwitz]

supplementary readings:

  • Taylor Branch, The Clinton Tapes [Howard Carreto]
  • Lou Cannon, President Reagan: Role of a Lifetime [Leon Xanthos]

December 4: Modern Presidency

Selena Zito, The Great Revolt [study questions: Robert Kelly]

supplementary readings:

  • Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, Double Down [Rayson Chen]
  • Peter Baker, Days of Fire [Ronan Zhitnik]

December 9: Review


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