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The Rooseveltian Century: The Rise of the U.S. as a Global Power in the Twentieth Century


Admission requirements

This course is part of the MA North American Studies, the (Res)MA History Programme and the MA International Studies.
It is not accessible for BA students.


This course aims to provide students with an alternative perspective on the history of the United States, its political culture, national identity, and, above all, its rise as a global power in the twentieth century. The classes will scrutinize both the stunning transformation of American democracy at home and the progressive consolidation of American hegemony abroad through the lenses of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three leading Americans whose political contributions reveal the sometimes reluctant, sometimes proactive steps towards the U.S. entanglement in world issues.

The course will show that, altogether, the three Roosevelts, by relying on their innovative and unprecedented ability to campaign, mobilize consensus, and master the mass media of their eras, have paved the way for the consolidation of new ideals and principles both in the U.S. and worldwide. At home, they have advanced political agendas revolving around such themes as economic equality, environmental safeguard, social security, and human rights. In doing so, they have largely contributed to reshaping the relationship between governments and citizens. Internationally, the three Roosevelts sought to foster a world order based on multilateral diplomacy and mutual recognition of interests, rights, and obligations.

This course will allow students to appreciate the breadth of the Roosevelts’ collective impact on U.S. and international history by focusing on seven domains where such an influence has been particularly prominent: Power; Security; Reform; Leadership; World Order; Economy; and eventually Freedom. This thematic approach is meant to achieve a twofold objective. First, it connects the individual level of analysis, the one centered upon the personal stories and biographies of the three Roosevelts, with the systemic one, focusing instead on the transformation of the U.S. both at home and abroad. Second, it provides a working example of historical interpretation. The course, indeed, invites the students to further explore the collective legacy of the three Roosevelts by doing research, analyzing primary sources, and connecting all this information with a critical, coherent, and logical interpretive framework.

In addition, the course will benefit form the advantages of blended learning. Students will be asked to integrate their offline study, participation in class, and individual presentations with the enrollment in Leiden University’s MOOC “The Rooseveltian Century” a platform where they are expected to make substantial contributions to the forum discussions and the peer-review process.

Course objectives

Learning objectives specific for this seminar

The student:

  1. understands the role of the three Roosevelts in shaping American political culture and foreign entanglements in the twentieth century;
  2. is familiar with the most relevant biographical studies and historiographical debates regarding the three Roosevelts;
  3. has a working knowledge of key events of U.S. and international history of the twentieth century;
  4. can independently do research using digitally available tools such as MOOCs and published primary sources on twentieth-century American and international history;
  5. has a critical understanding of the concept of “American exceptionalism”;
  6. (ResMA only): has the ability to interpret a potentially complex corpus of sources and identify new approaches within existing academic debates.

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to independently identify and select primary and secondary sources, using traditional and modern techniques;
  2. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of primary and secondary sources with a view to addressing a particular historical and/orcultural problem;
  3. The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;
  4. The ability to formulate and clearly express logical arguments in correct academic English (seminar presentation/essay) and using appropriate citation style consistently and correctly;
  5. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
  6. The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;
  7. (ResMA only): The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.


The timetable is available on the website North American Studies.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours:

  • Attending class: 26 hours;

  • Preparing class (including individual presentations and participation in MOOCs): 44 hours;

  • Required reading: 60 hours;

  • Researching and writing paper: 150 hours.

Assessment method

  • Written paper (ca. 7500 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography);

  • Oral presentation;

  • Participation in discussions and peer review groups;

  • Contribution to MOOC discussion.


  • Final Paper: 70%;

  • Presentation: 20%;

  • Participation: 10%;

  • Contributing to MOOC discussions: required (no grade).

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • general communication between instructor and students;

  • submitting final paper through Turnitin.

Reading list

  • To be read prior to start of class: James MacGregor Burns, Susan Dunn, The Three Roosevelts: Patrician Leaders Who Transformed America (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2001);

  • Course material at The Rooseveltian Century, online syllabus on Coursera;

  • Additional literature will be made available through Blackboard and/or a course shelf in the University Library.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.




Dhr. Dr. D. (Dario) Fazzi