History of the U.S. Presidency

History of the U.S. Presidency

Throughout this course, you have been asked in your journals to choose your own understanding of the most important points of presidential history. This is the role of an historian. There is a basic, constructed narrative of a specific topic or field that is made up of the interpretations of those who came before us, and it is our role to use that narrative as a context by which to examine and re-examine past events. In your final assignment, you will take on the role of the historian: to use the basic narrative presented to you in this course, to analyze it and your understanding of it, to recreate this narrative in your own voice with ample evidence.

The narrative threads you will examine in your final essay are crisis and evolution. The modern presidency faces a crisis of power and prestige, regardless of one’s support or lack of support for the administration in place. Questions of the validity of election results, the influence of the office holder, the president’s representation or lack of representation of the populace, and if crisis will significantly alter or destroy the executive branch of the <link is hidden> government all float through the representative democracy of the United States on a daily basis. These questions are not new, and they have been front and center since the first presidential election of the 21st century.

As we have seen in this course, the presidency has consistently faced crisis, loss of influence, and even possible extinction. Territorial expansion, domestic and international war, economic catastrophe, sociocultural changes, and corruption have all threatened the institution. Yet, to this point, the presidency has survived, even though it changed in major ways.

Based on three to five major historical periods of crisis, in a 4-6 page (double-spaced) essay, answer the following question: How did the presidency survive previous periods of crisis and what effect did the survival tactics employed have on the office, especially its powers, its role in the federal government, and its representation of the populace?

Because this is a 300-level college course, there are specific writing requirements that you must follow beyond just understanding and analyzing the materials.

The requirements for a 300-level history essay include:

An introductory paragraph that introduces your topic and leads the reader to your thesis statement.

A thesis statement that contains an argument that the author can prove via historical evidence (in this case provided by secondary sources created by academics, <link is hidden> the books and lectures from the course).

Body paragraphs that logically move from point to point to prove your argument (keep in mind when you are writing that all roads lead back to the thesis)

Historical evidence that proves your argument and is thoroughly cited in either MLA or Chicago Style formatting (again, as mentioned, this evidence coming from the learning materials for the course)

A concluding paragraph that reiterates your thesis and main points, indicates the importance of your findings, and, if possible, makes prescriptions for the future.

*Also, you do not have to use outside sources for this assignment, but you may, if you run them by me first for approval.

So, this is your task for the final assignment. Don’t be intimidated by it. It is “doable”<link is hidden> you already know all of this material.


Milkis, Sidney M. and Nelson, Michael. The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776-2014 (7th Edition). Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2016.

Brinkley, Alan and Dyer, Davis, Eds. The American Presidency: The Authoritative Reference. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.


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