English, 2017 curriculum - Free topic 6: From Custer’s Last Stand to Last Superpower Standing: 1880-2001 + The American Presidency, 1789-2017

Course content

From Custer’s Last Stand To Last Superpower Standing: 1880-2001

The From Custer’s Last Stand element provides an in-depth exploration of the transformation of the nation from 1877 to the 9/11 Terrorist attacks. Recently “complete” as an industrial behemoth and continental power, the U.S. seemed to have become an unchallenged “hyperpower” by 2001 to some observers. The element charts the relationship between America’s internal and external growth. Economic, social, political, technological, and cultural viewpoints will be covered, using an interrogative and explanatory method towards primary sources and secondary explanations. This method will allow us to contemplate critically how and by whom history is studied and constructed.

The American journey was never certain. The nation confronted a multitude of challenges, including expansion and westward movement; industrialization, urbanization, and immigration; the status of gender and color; imperialism, world wars and world roles; competing economic and social ideas; mutually assured destruction in an age of mass affluence; and an increasingly complex and antiauthoritarian culture and society. Together, the way these dilemmas were handled affected and affects our understanding of the present.


The American Presidency, 1789-2017

Writing in 1973, as the Watergate debacle was drawing to a close, presidential historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. remarked that the American presidency was in crisis. A year later, President Richard Nixon resigned. What may have seemed as a temporary phenomenon to Schlesinger forty years ago —the limitations on the presidency—has arguably become an endemic feature of the executive—as the institution has been under fire. A few years earlier, that same Schlesinger had written of how the presidency had moved from primacy to supremacy within the US political system. All the same, many observers suggest that the current era of American experience dates back to the early-mid 1970s. While this element examines the development of the presidency (and, by implication, the other branches of government) from Washington to Trump, the main focus will be on presidencies from FDR onwards.

For two hundred years the constitutional wellsprings of presidential power narrowly defined have remained largely unaltered. Yet the effective power of the chief executive has mostly waxed and occasionally waned. Interlinked central questions will help steer this American Presidency element. How have presidential powers changed over time? Is it imperial, imperiled, protean, diminished, rhetorical, shrunken, or personalized beyond party? Or can all of the above be true to a degree? Were presumptions of crises in presidential leadership accurate, and does that crisis continue to the present? Will any individual seem “flimsy” when the full weight of presidential power (and impotence) is thrust upon him or her? Was it always thus, as presidential powers jostle and bump within a field created by the tri-division of power? What are the limits of power for President Donald J. Trump? Can one man redeem the nation?

Classes, with particular emphasis on reading primary and secondary texts, oral discussion and developing proficiency in English.

Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assessment


  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • English
  • 409,5