What Are the Philosophical and Historical Foundations of the American Political System?
Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1992. 416pp. ISBN: 978-0-67444-302-0. Winner of the Pulitzer and Bancroft Prizes. Chapters on the sources of colonists' thought and their understanding of the concepts of power and liberty especially helpful.
Ellis, Joseph J. What Did the Declaration Declare?. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1999. 110pp. ISBN: 978-0-31219-063-7. Five leading scholars discuss the meaning and larger implications of the Declaration of Independence. "Questions for Closer Reading" follow each selection. Brief and thought-provoking.
Holton, Woody. Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution. New York: Hill and Wong, 2007. 384pp. ISBN: 978-0-80908-061-8. Although a traditional reading of the reason for calling the Philadelphia Convention focuses on the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, Holton maintains that the economic slump of the 1780s was primary reason. He contends that the decade following the Revolutionary War was as disastrous as the Great Depression of the 1930s. Americans-especially debtors and farm families-blamed state governments for high taxes and tight money. They demanded something be done for their relief. Shays' Rebellion and other protests were one result. The Constitution yielded tremendous economic benefits but, the author argues, it came at a political cost. The Constitution made the national government less responsive to the public than its state level counterparts.
King, Anthony. The British Constitution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. 428pp. ISBN: 978-0-19923-232-1. King begins by answering the question "What is a constitution?." He then describes and discusses Britain's traditional constitution. He concludes by looking at "Britain's new constitution", or the great changes and reforms of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Sandoz, Ellis, ed. The Roots of Liberty: Magna Carta, Ancient Constitutions and the Anglo-American Tradition of the Rule of Law. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1993. 363pp. ISBN: 978-0-86597-709-9. This collection of essays explores the Magna Carta, the ancient constitution of medieval England, and the contexts in which they developed. It looks for how ideas of liberty and the rule of laws in earlier times came to maturity. It examines how these issues sharpened during the eighteenth-century conflict that led to American independence and the framing of the U.S. Constitution.
Tuck, Richard. Hobbes: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. 168pp. ISBN: 978-0-19280-255-2. A very readable, short account of Hobbes's life and his work as both a philosopher and a scientist. The book emphasizes the importance of Hobbes not only in the debates of his own time, but in the debates of today.
Wood, Gordon. The Creation of the American Republic 1776-1787. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998. 675pp. ISBN: 978-0-80784-723-7. Winner of the Bancroft and John H. Dunning Prizes, this book focuses on the ideology of the American Revolution and the influence of the English constitution on the colonists. Part Two, which discusses the period leading up to the Philadelphia Convention, is especially helpful. Wood's focus on major concepts-social contract, representation, republicanism and constitutionalism-contributes to the reader's better understanding of the founding era.
How Did the Framers Create the Constitution?
Broadwater, Jeff. George Mason: Forgotten Founder. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. 352pp. ISBN: 978-0-80783-053-6. A sympathetic, but balanced portrait of an underappreciated Founder.
Conley, Patrick T. and John P. Kaminski, ed. The Bill of Rights and the States: The Colonial and Revolutionary Origins of American Liberties. Madison, WI: Madison House, 1992. 568pp. ISBN: 978-0-94561-229-2. These introductory essays provide a concise overview of the evolution of American individual rights. The state-by-state chapters that follow look to the foundation and development of liberty in each of the first fourteen states.
Kaminski, John P., ed. A Necessary Evil?: Slavery and the Debate Over the Constitution. Madison, WI: Madison House Publishers, 1995. 301pp. ISBN: 978-0-94561-233-9. A superb collection of primary sources regarding slavery from the Constitutional Convention through the ratification debates in the New England, Middle, and Southern Colonies.
Ketcham, Ralph, ed. The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates. New York: Mentor, 1986. 416pp. ISBN: 978-0-45152-884-1. This volume includes complete texts of selected Anti-Federalist writings, the Constitutional Convention debates, commentaries, and a very useful index of the ideas discussed and debated during the ratification debates. The introduction helps to put Anti-Federalists and their thoughts in a larger context.
Larson, Edward J., and Michael P. Winship. The Constitutional Convention: A Narrative History from the Notes of James Madison. New York: The Modern Library, 2005. 256pp. ISBN: 978-0-81297-517-8. The authors' goal was to make the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention accessible to modern readers. They have edited out materials deemed extraneous to the main debates while maintaining the integrity of the historical record. The delegates' arguments speak for themselves and will afford the reader insight into the controversies and compromises of the Philadelphia Convention.
Levy, Leonard W., and Dennis J. Mahoney, eds. The Framing and Ratification of the Constitution. New York: Macmillan, 1987. 395pp. ISBN: 978-0-02918-790-6. Short selections on major events and issues of the time written by leading scholars. Writing accessible to diligent students.
Meyerson, Michael I. Liberty's Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote the Federalist Papers, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World. New York: Basic Books, 2008. 336pp. ISBN: 978-0-46500-264-1. Legal scholar Michael Meyerson has provided a short, fresh look at how and why the Federalist Papers were written. He examines the collaboration of two very different individuals, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, and explains why the two friends became political enemies. The Federalist Papers, Myerson contends, remain as relevant today as they were during the founding era. They are a guide to understanding current contentious constitutional issues.
Rakove, Jack N. Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996. 464pp. ISBN: 978-0-67978-121-9. Pulitzer Prize-winning reexamination of principal issues that the Framers of the Constitution grappled with: federalism, representation, executive power and rights. In examining the sources of contention, the author reveals the character of the central actors in the Philadelphia Convention.
Rossiter, Clinton, ed. The Federalist Papers. New York: Signet Classics, 2003. 688pp. ISBN: 978-0-45152-881-0. Complete text of the Federalist Papers aided by a brief introduction and very helpful notes. Also contains a copy of the Constitution collated with the papers.
St. John, Jeffrey. Constitutional Journal: A Correspondent's Report from the Convention of 1787. Ottawa, IL: Jameson Books Inc., 1987. 302pp. ISBN: 978-0-91546-355-8. Written as a journalist's eyewitness day-to-day account of the Philadelphia Convention. Praised as "lively, gripping and informative," it makes the debates at the Convention come alive. The Bicentennial Commission donated a copy to every high school in the United States.
Storing, Herbert J. What the Anti-Federalists Were For: The Political Thought of the Opponents of the Constitution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981. 120pp. ISBN: 978-0-22677-574-6. Exploration of Anti-Federalist criticisms of the Constitution and their pertinence today. Storing argues that Anti-Federalists are entitled to be counted among the Founders.
Webster, Mary E., ed. The Federalist Papers in Modern Language Indexed for Today's Political Issues. Bellevue, WA: Merrill Press, 1999. 408pp. ISBN: 978-0-93678-321-5. Extended index, glossary and translation into modern language are aids to reading and understanding the original texts.
Winik, Jay. The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World 1788?1800. New York: Harper Collins, 2007. 688pp. 978-0-06008-313-7. Highly acclaimed and very readable, comparative history of three countries-the United States, France, and Russia-in the throes of revolutionary change. Winik captures the men, women, and tumultuous events of the late eighteenth century, and shows how they are interrelated and how they have affected the modern world.
Wood, Gordon S. Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different. New York: Penguin Press, 2006. 336pp. ISBN: 978-0-14311-208-2. Pulitzer Prize winner. A delight to read, fresh, and insightful. See especially epilogue, "The Founders and the Creation of Modern Public Opinion." Wood's first Pulitzer book, Radicalism of the American Revolution, is still useful and incomparable.
How Has the Constitution Been Changed to Further the Ideals Contained in the Declaration of Independence?
Farber, Daniel A. Lincoln's Constitution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004. 256pp. ISBN: 978-0-22623-796-1. The Civil War brought some of the deepest, most critical constitutional questions to the fore. Farber examines those issues and pays special attention to their relevance to today. A well written work by a fine scholar.
Fehrenbacher, Don E. The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. 741pp. ISBN: 978-0-19514-588-5. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, it remains one of the best histories of a landmark constitutional case. Very readable and very interesting.
Friedman, Leon, ed. Brown v. Board: The Landmark Oral Argument Before the Supreme Court. New York: The New Press, 2004. 416pp. ISBN: 978-1-56584-913-6. The Brown transcripts provide an opportunity for teachers and students to read for themselves everything that happened in oral argument of a case that's been called "the most important American act of government...since the Emancipation Proclamation." The questioning of Justices Thurgood Marshall, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, and Robert Jackson are of special interest.
Keyssar, Alexander. The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States. New York: Basic Books, 2000. 496pp. ISBN: 978-0-46502-969-3. Examines how states and the nation have expanded-and at times curtailed-the right to vote, from colonial times to the present. An extraordinary appendix includes twenty tables that track the right to vote, state by state, across categories including race, gender, property requirements, and much more.
Kluger, Richard. Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education. New York: Random House, 1975. 864pp. ISBN: 978-0-39472-255-9. Surveys the history of American slavery, the evolution and passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the famous Supreme Court case ordering desegregation of the public schools. One of the best case studies of a Supreme Court decision and the context in which it was set.
Miller, William Lee. President Lincoln: The Duty of A Statesman. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008. 512pp. ISBN: 978-1-40004-103-9. An award-winning scholar, Miller explores the decisions "of utmost gravity" Lincoln made as a wartime president. The section on Lincoln and the Declaration of Independence, and Lincoln's view of the Constitution and his interpretation of the powers it grants to the executive are illuminating.
Orth, John V. Due Process of Law: A Brief History. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2003. 116pp. ISBN: 978-0-70061-242-0. Brief, but accessible history of due process from its origins in medieval England to its applications in recent cases. Covers both procedural and substantive due processes.
Wilson, Douglas L. Lincoln's Sword: the Presidency and the Power of Words. New York: Vintage Books, 2006. 352pp. ISBN: 978-1-40003-263-1. A fascinating study of origins, writing and rewriting of Lincoln's most important presidential papers. Very helpful for understanding Lincoln's views on slavery and secession. Chapter Five, "Proclaiming Emancipation," is especially good.
How Have the Values and Principles Embodied in the Constitution Shaped American Institutions and Practices?
Aberbach, Joel D., and Mark A. Peterson, eds. Institutions of American Democracy: The Executive Branch. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. 640pp. ISBN: 978-0-19530-915-7. Another volume in the series, Institutions of American Democracy. Essays by leading scholars and practicing politicians deal with the invention and evolution of the presidency and with the executive agencies. Essays on the relationships between and among the other institutions of government are especially insightful.
Gerston, Larry N. American Federalism: A Concise Introduction. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2007. 197pp. ISBN: 978-0-76561-672-2. Short, readable introduction to federalism. Examines historical and philosophical underpinnings of federalism; how federalism works in the United States, and how it affects the lives of Americans. Concludes with consideration of the international dimensions of federalism and how it might change in the twenty-first century.
Gould, Lewis L. The Most Exclusive Club: A History of the Modern United States Senate. New York: Basic Books, 2005. 402pp. ISBN: 978-0-465-02778-1. An analysis of the United States Senate in the twentieth century. Gould focuses on personalities, controversies, and current concerns. Chapter Five, on the Senate and the League of Nations, and Chapter Eleven, on "The Age of McCarthy," are worth special attention.
Hall, Kermit L., and Kevin T.McGuire, eds. Institutions of American Democracy: The Judicial Branch. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. 624pp. ISBN: 978-0195309171. Another volume in the series, Institutions of American Democracy. Essays by leading scholars deal with the impact of courts on American life and the role of courts in the constitutional system. Section IV, on rights, liberties, and democracy as well as Section V, on property rights are particularly noteworthy.
Jones, Charles O. The American Presidency: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. 192pp. ISBN: 978-0-19530-701-6. A concise, readable survey of the American presidency. Jones considers not only how the presidency was invented and how federal power has grown, but how the presidency might change in the future also.
Quirk, Paul J., and Sarah A. Binder, eds. Institutions of American Democracy: The Legislative Branch. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 624pp. ISBN: 978-0195309164. One of the volumes in the outstanding series, Institutions of American Democracy. Essays by leading political scientists and scholars of public policy examine the historical development of Congress and its current organization along with its strengths and weaknesses.
Remini, Robert V., and Library of Congress. The House: The History of the House of Representatives. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books in association with Harper Collins Publishers, 2006. 624pp. ISBN: 978-0-06134-111-3. Winner of the National Book Award. A very readable account of the controversies and characters that have figured in the history of what some have called "the finest deliberative body in human history."
What Rights Does the Bill of Rights Protect?
Dershowitz, Alan M. America on Trial: Inside the Legal Battles that Transformed our Nation. New York: Warner Books, 2004. 608pp. ISBN: 978-0-44652-058-4. Dershowitz, a Professor of Law at Harvard University, has written short sketches of the most influential trials in America beginning with the Peter Zenger and Boston Massacre trials of the colonial era to the cases of the terrorist detainees at Guantanamo and on the United States mainland.
Foster, James C., and Leeson, Susan M. Constitutional Law: Cases in Context. Vol. II: Part A and B. Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1998. 1184pp. ISBN: 978-0-13568-759-8. Each case in this volume begins with the setting or context in which the case arose. Highlights of the Supreme Court arguments as well as summaries of the briefs and the Court's decisions are presented for each case. An opening section on "Understanding the Supreme Court" is very helpful. This volume deals with religion, speech, press, and assembly cases. It also deals with Fourteenth Amendment cases. Part B is concerned with voting rights, privacy, and personal autonomy rights as well as the constitutional rights of the criminally accused Very readable and accessible for high school students.
Hall, Kermit L. The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. 1272pp. ISBN: 978-0-19517-661-2. This invaluable reference guide contains brief articles about justices, constitutional topics, and landmark Supreme Court decisions. Articles appear alphabetically.
Klarman, Michael J. From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 672pp. ISBN: 978-0-19531-018-4. Traces the social and political history, as well as legal interpretations of civil rights issues from the 1880s through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Insightful and interesting.
Lewis, Anthony. Gideon's Trumpet. New York: Random House, 1964. 288pp. ISBN: 978-0-67972-312-7. A very readable and widely acclaimed account of Gideon v. Wainwright (1963). Gideon's case reflected the emergence of a nationwide concern for equal justice of the poor. In a unanimous ruling, the Court established the right to counsel in every felony or potentially lengthy imprisonment case.
Lewis, Anthony. Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment. New York: Random House, 1991. 368pp. ISBN: 978-067973-939-5. Another important case study of a landmark Supreme Court case. The book provides background and context for the decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, in which the Supreme Court adopted a new legal standard governing the law of libel as it relates to public officials.
O'Connor, Sandra Day. The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice. New York: Random House, 2004. 352pp. ISBN: 978-081296-747-0. The High Court's first female justice reflects on her experience, some landmark cases, and the Constitution. Very readable.
Perry, Michael J. We the People: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Supreme Court. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. 288pp. ISBN: 978-019515-125-1. Historical background of the Fourteenth Amendment and an examination of the norms the Fourteenth Amendment established. Separate chapters deal with race and affirmative action, sexual orientation, abortion, and physician-assisted suicide.
What Challenges Might Face American Constitutional Democracy in the Twenty-first Century?
Brookhiser, Richard. What Would the Founders Do?: Our Questions, Their Answers. New York: Basic Books, 2006. 261pp. ISBN: 978-0-46500-819-3. With his characteristic wit and insight, Brookhiser used his knowledge of the Founders and of modern politics to apply their views to today's issues. An early chapter compares "Their World, Our World". Brookhiser then looks at what the Founders might think about current concerns such as war and peace, race and identity, and education and the media. A brief work, but it is a provocative and enjoyable one.
Clapham, Andrew. Human Rights: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. 144pp. ISBN: 978-0-19920-552-3. A very readable introduction to human rights. After a brief review of the historical development of international human rights, the book focuses on specific concerns including torture, privacy, discrimination and equality, education, and the death penalty.
Dahl, Robert A., Shapiro, Ian, and Cheibub, Jose Antonio, eds. The Democracy Sourcebook. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2003. 568pp. ISBN: 978-0-26254-147-3. A superb collection of classic and contemporary readings. The book is divided into nine self-contained chapters. The Final chapter, "Democracy and the Global Order," expands on ideas presented in Unit Six.
Kagan, Robert. Dangerous Nation: America's Place in the World from its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the Twentieth Century. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. 544pp. ISBN: 978-0-37572-491-6. In this very readable book, Kagan refutes what he calls "The myth of America's isolationist tradition." The Declaration of Independence firmly established America's conviction that the inalienable rights of all humankind transcended territorial borders and blood ties. A re-examination of early American foreign policy, Kagan contends, will show that the United States has not only been regarded as a wellspring of political and social revolution, but as an ambitious and, at times, a "dangerous nation."
Koser, Khalid. International Migration: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. 138pp. ISBN: 978-0-19929-801-3. A balanced, thoughtful introduction to migration, a matter of worldwide concern. Koser puts migration to the United States in a global perspective.
Power, Timothy J., and Rae, Nicol C., eds. Exporting Congress?: The Influence of the U.S. Congress on World Legislatures. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh University Press, 2006. 248pp. ISBN: 978-0-82295-921-2. Analysis of how the United States Congress has influenced elected assemblies in both old and new democracies. The essay comparing the U.S. House of Representatives with the European Parliament is especially insightful.
Sabato, Larry J. A More Perfect Constitution: 23 Proposals to Revitalize Our Constitution and Make America a Fairer Country. New York: Walker and Company, 2007. 352pp. ISBN: 978-0-80271-621-7. Twenty-three proposals, ranging from reforming Congress and the electoral college to requiring national service and a new constitutional convention, are intended to stimulate discussion and debate.