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HIS 33 — Great Republics: Lessons from History

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Thursdays
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 9 weeks
Date(s): Sep 27—Nov 29
Time: 7:00—9:05 pm
Drop Deadline: Oct 10
Units: 2
Tuition: $485
Instructor(s): Bruce Elliott
Status: Closed
Please Note: No class on November 22
7:00—9:05 pm
Sep 27—Nov 29
9 weeks
Drop By
Oct 10
2 Units
Bruce Elliott
Please Note: No class on November 22
For most of human history, political power has invariably tended to concentrate. Through the centuries, the dominant governmental form has been autocracy, either in the form of monarchy or dictatorship. History provides us with just a handful of instances in which this tendency was successfully counteracted. At a time when democracy appears to be under threat around the globe, this course will examine and evaluate strategies employed by the principal historical republics that managed to endure and prosper for considerable periods.

Devoting a class session to each republic, we will begin in Classical times with the Athenian and Roman republics, then proceed to medieval Italy for the creation of the Venetian and Florentine republics. Our survey will next move northward to the astonishingly successful Dutch republic, and then to the series of five French republics, each seeking to avoid the pitfalls of its predecessor. Crossing to Great Britain, we will examine the evolution of its parliamentary version of representative government. Our final case study will be the United States, focusing on the framing of the Constitution, in which the framers drew on previous republics in seeking to craft a system that would combine effective leadership with the protection of individual rights. The course will culminate in a recapitulation session oriented toward considering what historical lessons might be relevant for responding to contemporary challenges to democracy.

Bruce Elliott, Independent Scholar

Bruce Elliott teaches courses in European history for Stanford Continuing Studies, UC Berkeley, and Sonoma State. Impelled by recent domestic and international developments, he has increasingly oriented his historical research in a political direction, seeking ways in which history can be utilized as a tool for better understanding and intelligently responding to present-day situations. He received a PhD in history from UC Berkeley.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.