What are some good sources for American political history reading?
February 5, 2004 8:06 PM   Subscribe

AskMefi provided some great answers a few weeks ago to my solicitation for book recommendations. Now for a similar but unrelated question. I have a friend at law school who is an exchange student from Europe. He has had none of the mandated high school U.S. history curriculum that had been drilled into the heads of the rest of us years ago. As such, he would like some background on American political history to supplement our constitutional law lectures and McCloskey and Levinson's The American Supreme Court, which has been assigned for the class. Any suggestions?
posted by PrinceValium to Law & Government (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Brethren maybe, its from 1980, if you mean politial history pertaining to The Court.

If you mean political history in a broader sense, then any book by Theodore White is excellent and a very entertaining read.
He was a great chronicler of the presidential elections 1960-1980.
I often wonder what he'd have to say about today's sorry state of electoral affairs...
posted by Fupped Duck at 8:21 PM on February 5, 2004

Response by poster: By "political" I mean American history in general, but with an emphasis on attitudes and debates on policy that provide the context for the major SCOTUS decisions.
posted by PrinceValium at 8:34 PM on February 5, 2004

Irons's A People's History of the Supreme Court is about Supreme Court cases from the perspective of the individuals who were actually parties to those cases. It's by no means a complete treatise on American History, but it may help your friend to understand the historical context for these cases. (For a general treatise, there's always Zinn's People's History of the United States, although that's sort of depressing.)

To follow up on Fupped Duck's initial suggeston, I think Lazarus's Closed Chambers is an excellent book (and, IMHO, better than The Bretheren -- Lazarus got a bad rap, but his work seems better sourced than Woodward's). Those behind-the-scenes books were wonderful (and captivating) additions to my legal education.
posted by subgenius at 9:39 PM on February 5, 2004

A second for subgenius's Zinn recommendation.
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:08 AM on February 6, 2004

Brest, Levinson, Balkin, & Amar. Processes of Constitutional Decisionmaking.

It is yet another casebook, but its fantastic and gives a great historical context along with the caselaw. It heavily emphasizes the role of slavery, jim crow laws, the civil rights movement in the Court's opinions. I know, I know - a casebook, bleh. But seriously, its fantastic. Its used at my school both for some ConLaw lectures and for our stand-alone 14th Amendment course.
posted by buddha9090 at 11:06 AM on February 6, 2004

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