nl en

American Radicalism: Challenging and Empowering U.S. Democracy


Admission requirements

This course is intended for students from a limited number of programmes. Because of the limited capacity available for each programme, all students who will enroll are placed on a waiting list. The definite admission will be made according to the position on the waiting list and the number of students from each programme.


Since the days of the Early Republic, radicalism has been a central element of American political culture and national identity. Throughout the history of the U.S., American dissenters – or dreamers – have pursued greater equality, freedom, welfare, and social inclusion. They have contributed to a large extent to the progressive emancipation of traditionally excluded groups like women, African-Americans, workers, and immigrants. They have pushed for reformative agendas and exposed the many contradictions of unbounded capitalism. All in all, they have often been among the most compelling driving forces of social and political change, thus proving to be instrumental to the development, strengthening, and consolidation of the American democratic system itself.

This course will explore the long story of American radicalism and its most important facets, touching on such themes as anti-slavery and civil rights, old and new populisms, early and modern feminism, leftism, socialism, and environmentalism. A particular emphasis will be placed on the interaction between radical forces and the mainstram culture, so as to grasp the complex interaction between the conflicting dynamics of marginalization and institutionalization that American radical ideas and social movements have recurrently gone through.

Chronologically, the course will cover almost two centuries of American history, going from the freedom songs of the first half of the ninenteenth century to the rise of the Labor movement at the turn of the century, from the rise of the New Left in the 1960s to the emergence of the so-called no-global movements in the late 1990s and 2000s.

The course will be taught in form of seminars and it will include an individual presentation and a research essay based on the study of primary sources available at several online repositories as well as at the International Insitute of Social History in Amsterdam and at the Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg.

Course objectives

Learning objectives, pertaining to this research seminar

The student:

  1. understands the historical relevance and impact of radicalism in the U.S;
  2. is familiar with the historiographical and theoretical debates regarding American radicalism and radical groups/individuals in the U.S.;
  3. has a working knowledge of radical theories and practices as they developed in the U.S.;
  4. has a critical understanding of the concept of “American exceptionalism”;
  5. can independently do research using digitally available, published, and unedited primary sources on American radical individuals/groups;
  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/or cultural 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;
  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:

  • Lectures: 26 hours;

  • Preparing class (including individual presentation): 24 hours;

  • Required reading: 80 hours;

  • Researching and writing paper: 150 hours.

Assessment method

  • Written paper (ca. 7000 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography);

  • Oral presentation;

  • Participation in discussions and peer review groups.


  • Written paper: 70%;

  • Oral presentation: 20%;

  • Participation: 10%.


The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


If the final grade is insufficient, only the research essay can be rewritten.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • general communication between instructor and students;

  • submitting final paper through Turnitin.

Reading list

  • Howard Brick, Christopher Phelps, Radicals in America: The U.S. Left since the Second World War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015);

  • Michael Kazin, American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation (New York: Vintage Books, 2012);

  • 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