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The Presidency takes an in-depth look at the executive office through case studies of twentieth- and twenty-first-century presidents. Through the examination of modern presidents, students shall develop an understanding of the evolution of presidential power in relation to other branches of government, and in the country more generally. Course materials shall include selected readings from a number of texts as well as archival audio and video. Lectures will be presented in interview format with two lectures devoted to each president under discussion.

The course is designed and taught by two scholars, Meg Jacobs and Julian Zelizer.

Meg Jacobs is a Research Scholar in the Woodrow Wilson School, teaching courses in public policy and history. She received her PhD in 1998 from the University of Virginia and was an associate professor of history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has been a fellow at the Harvard Business School, the Charles Warren Center, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. Her new book, Panic at the Pump: The Energy Crisis and the Transformation of American Politics in the 1970s, looks at why American politicians failed to devise a long-term energy policy. She is the author of Pocketbook Politics: Economic Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America, which was published with Princeton University Press and won the Organization of American Historians’ 2006 prize for the best book on modern politics. She has recently published Conservatives in Power: The Reagan Years, 19811989 (2010).

Recent publications include “Wreaking Havoc from Within: George W. Bush’s Energy Policy in Historical Perspective” in The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment, edited by Julian E. Zelizer (2010); “The Uncertain Future of American Politics, 1940 to 1973” in American History Now, edited by Eric Foner and Lisa McGirr (2011); “The Politics of Environmental Regulation: Business-Government Relations in the 1970s and Beyond” in Whats Good for Business: Business and American Politics since World War II, edited by Kim Phillips-Fein and Julian E. Zelizer (2012).

Julian E. Zelizer has been one of the pioneers in the revival of American political history. He is the author of Taxing America: Wilbur D. Mills, Congress, and the State, 1945–1975 (1998), On Capitol Hill: The Struggle to Reform Congress and Its Consequences, 1948–2000 (2004), Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security—From World War II to the War on Terrorism (2010), Jimmy Carter (2010), Conservatives in Power: The Reagan Years, 1981–1989 (2010), and Governing America: The Revival of Political History. His most recent book is The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society (2015). He has edited ten books on American political history, with subjects ranging from politics and the media to the presidency of George W. Bush. In addition to his scholarly articles and book chapters, Zelizer is a frequent commentator in the international and national media on political history and contemporary politics. He has published over seven hundred op-eds, including his weekly column on He has received fellowships from the Brookings Institution, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and New America.

Reading List

Elizabeth Drew, Richard Nixon 
Meg Jacobs and Julian Zelizer, Conservatives in Power
Barack Obama, Dreams of My Father 
Richard Polenberg, The Era of Franklin D. Roosevelt
Bruce Schulman, Lyndon Johnson and American Liberalism
Julian Zelizer, Jimmy Carter 

Arthur Schlesinger, The Imperial Presidency.

Because the final paper refers to arguments made by Arthur Schelsinger in this book, you will need to read it and become familiar with Schlesinger’s argument during the course. Apart from the final, there are no assignments directly related to this book, so you should read it on your own schedule.

Course Section Numbers (CRNs) for This Course, HI 540

Use these CRN codes to register for this course, HI 540, on the Adams State University web page starting July 1.

CRN 12215, Instructor: Dr. Jennifer Seman
CRN 12216, Instructor: Dr. Paul Kahan
CRN 12217, Instructor: Dr. Paul Kahan
CRN 12218, Instructor: Dr. Jeremy Maxwell
CRN 12219, Instructor: Dr. Jeremy Maxwell

Course Structure

The course syllabus and readings will be made available when the course site opens, shortly before the beginning of the semester. Check your ASU Blackboard page for that information. 

The course will run from August 21 to December 15. It includes 12 pre-recorded lecture sessions of approximately one hour each and two live Q&A sessions of one hour each with the lead scholars. Q&A sessions will run from 7 to 8 p.m. Eastern Time and will be recorded and archived so that those who cannot participate live can watch later.

Each Gilder Lehrman Online Course has a Lead Scholar (in the case of this course, two Lead Scholars) and Instructors. Frequently, courses also feature guest speakers. Instructors, each of whom has earned a PhD in American history, are responsible for all grading and for facilitating discussion.

The typical workload for online courses is 8 to 10 short response papers and one longer project completed in stages during the semester. Reading assignments are 150-250 pages. Students will also be required to participate in online discussion forums each week.