What are the foundational ideas that inform American political history –and who are its most influential thinkers? In this course we will explore the origins, development, and complexities of American political thought through the Civil War. We will pay particular attention to conceptualizations of freedom and national identity, including those expressed in American literature, religion, political speech, and film. Students will be asked to become familiar with the historic paradoxes and ongoing debates about the nation’s foundational documents and their meaning. Over the course of the semester we will grapple with the diversity, changes,and continuities found in American political thought from the Puritan founding to 1865.