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HIST 348 U.S. Legal History: A Survey

This course is a survey of U.S. legal history from the colonial origins of the U.S. Constitution to the "rights revolution" of the 1960s and 1970s and the "revival" of conservative constitutionalism in the 1970s and 1980s. The course will emphasize the tension between two ideological perspectives on the role of government. Should government function primarily to ensure collective rights and provide social control or to protect individual rights and liberties? These two perspectives on the function of government are evident in the shaping of law and public policy over the course of U.S. history. Students will learn how the concepts of individualism, rights, and equality have changed over time and how collective behavior and social movements have recast constitutional principles and judicial practices. We will explore these concepts and developments through consideration of the following subjects: commerce and the industrial state, civil rights and civil liberties, women and citizenship, and liberal versus conservative constitutionalism.
4 Undergraduate credits

Effective December 15, 2012 to present

Meets graduation requirements for

Learning outcomes


  • The political principles and assumptions underlying the U.S. Constitution;
  • the foundation of the U.S. political system;
  • how the concepts of individualism, equality, rights, and liberty have changed over time;
  • how collective behavior and social movements have recast constitutional principles and judicial practices.

Minnesota Transfer Curriculum

Goal 5: History and the Social and Behavioral Sciences

  • Employ the methods and data that historians and social and behavioral scientists use to investigate the human condition.
  • Examine social institutions and processes across a range of historical periods and cultures.
  • Use and critique alternative explanatory systems or theories.
  • Develop and communicate alternative explanations or solutions for contemporary social issues.

Goal 9: Ethical and Civic Responsibility

  • Examine, articulate, and apply their own ethical views.
  • Understand and apply core concepts (e.g. politics, rights and obligations, justice, liberty) to specific issues.
  • Analyze and reflect on the ethical dimensions of legal, social, and scientific issues.
  • Recognize the diversity of political motivations and interests of others.
  • Identify ways to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.