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Politics North America


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies and Leiden students who are following the minor track in Amerikanistiek (American Studies).

Limited places are also open for exchange students. Please note: this course takes place in The Hague.


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 is 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.

Course Load

Total course load for the course is 5 EC x 28 hours is 140 hours, broken down by:

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 32 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature: 60 hours

  • Assessments: 48 hours
    h3. 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.

To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following:
the final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average


Blackboard will be used. For tutorial groups: please enroll in blackboard after your enrolment in uSis

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)


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.
h3. Contact

Dr. M.L. de Vries, email


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).