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Politics North America


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies.


This course examines political institutions and democracy in North America. It discusses constitutional structures, electoral arrangements, and political parties, with a view to assessing the scope and effectiveness of democracy. While the course concentrates on the recent past, an historical overview furnishes essential context. Most of the course deals with the United States, but discussion of Canada and Mexico provides a comparative element.

Course objectives

The aim of the course is to provide a sound understanding of the political systems of the North America, and to enable them to make critical comparisons between them. The course will also help students to assess the political systems of these countries in the context of democracy and democratization as an international phenomenon.

Academic skills to be acquired and developed during the course:
Critical thinking; essay writing; writing under pressure (time management); teamwork; presentation; peer assessment.
Most precisely, as determined in the Course and Examination Regulations of the Bachelors’ Programs of the Faculty of Humanities and particularly of International Studies: 3; 7-11; I.1-5; II.1-2; III.1-3; IV.1-4.


The timetable will be available on the BA International Studies website .

Mode of instruction

Lecture and tutorials

Attending lectures and tutorials is compulsory. If you are not able to attend a lecture or tutorial, please inform the tutor of the course. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the final exam or essay.

Assessment method

  • Tutorials 30%

  • Midterm Exam 30%

  • Final Exam 40%

If the final grade is insufficient (lower than a 6), there is the possibility of retaking the full 70% of the exam material, replacing both the earlier mid- and endterm grades. No resit for the tutorials is possible.


Blackboard will be used. Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

  • Richard M. Valelly, American Politics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford UP).

  • L. Sandy Maisel, American Political Parties and Elections: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford UP)


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.



Attendance is compulsory;
Be on time;
Participate in discussion every week;
No cell phone use; no use of Facebook, Twitter etc.;
No swearing or profanity;
Do not eat in class: wait until the break;
If you are to miss a tutorial, notify the Tutor in advance;
Absence without advance notification may result in failing to receive a grade for the tutorials (30% of the total grade). –