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A Patriot’s History of the United States

Larry Schweikart, University of Dayton
September 24, 2005

Larry Schweikart went to Arizona State University where he graduated with a BA in Political Science. After spending a few years away from academia to tour with his rock band, Schweikart returned to ASU to obtain a teaching certificate——with the intention of playing drums at night and teaching during the day. While at ASU, he took a history class that changed his life. He immediately decided to ease out of rock and to become a professor. Plagued by bad grades from his misspent youth, though, he had to work doubly hard to convince grad schools to take him——first, ASU, then the Ph.D. program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he completed his degree work in a single year.

By that time, he knew that the only way to overcome his earlier poor grades was by performance: in two years he won consecutively the national prize in graduate student writing; he had a published book before he even entered the Ph.D. program, and had three published books by the time he left UCSB. After one year in Wisconsin, he was offered a full-time job at the University of Dayton. There, he specializes in business and economic history, technology and war issues, and American history.

In 2000, he published The Entrepreneurial Adventure, a history of American business, and in 2004, with Mike Allen, published the already very successful book, A Patriot’s History of the United States. He has published more than 20 books, some 50 academic articles, close to 100 book reviews, and hundreds of essays. His Internet piece, “The Weight of the World and the Responsibility of a Generation,” (9/16) written after President Bush’s National Cathedral speech, circulated so widely that it came to the attention of the President.

Session One:

Topic: Liberty and Property in the American Past

Focus: More than any other nation in history, Americans, from colonial times to the present, have insisted on strong property guarantees. Author Hernando de Soto has even argued that the legal structure of American property rights is what separates it from almost all other nations, especially poorer ones. Some have maintained that these rights were “accidental” or “evolutionary,” while others maintain that the earliest colonists knew the importance of private property. What principles regarding property do you see in the Mayflower Compact, the First Charter of Massachusetts, the Land Ordinance of 1785, and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787? How did property (or “economic”) rights and civil (or “political”) rights become intertwined? What steps did the young American Republic take to ensure that the two remained tightly connected? What threat did slavery, in particular, constitute to these rights? And from your general reading in A Patriot’s History of the United States, do you think 19th century Americans, then late 20th century courts, have upheld these principles?

Readings:

  • Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, A Patriot’s History of the United States, ch. 1, 8, and 20 and appropriate sections in ch. 4 (esp. 103-107); ch. 5 (182-186); ch. 12 (esp. 429-443); ch. 13 (475-78); ch. 15 (esp. 542-545, 550-557); ch. 16; ch. 20 (esp. 727-731, 748-52).
  • “The Mayflower Compact” (Photocopied Reading Packet).
  • “First Charter of Massachusetts”
  • “Land Ordinance of 1785”
  • “Northwest Ordinance of 1787”

Session Two:

Topic: Reinterpreting Reagan and the Cold War

Focus: Many modern textbooks give Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev as much——or usually more——credit for ending the Cold War than they do Ronald Reagan. Yet Reagan not only reversed a decade’s worth of military decline in a short time, but arguably his “Star Wars” speech came close to ending the Cold War by itself. In doing so, he revealed his deep and long-held concerns about getting into “another Vietnam” and nuclear war. How did his “Reagan Doctrine” seek to ensure victory and avoid “another Vietnam” if American forces had to be deployed abroad? What were his major concerns in the START Talks? Why do you suppose Gorbachev was so adamant about SDI——especially if it “wouldn’t work?” What are the connections between nuclear weapons and so-called “limited wars” like Vietnam? Can you explain why, if, in the minds of some critics, all wars would “escalate” out of control, the last three have not?

Readings:

  • Schweikart and Allen, A Patriot’s History of the United States, ch. 20 and appropriate sections from ch. 21 (esp. 766-774; 799-802) and ch. 22 (esp. 811-823).
  • Ronald Reagan, An American Life, pp. 466-467 and 561-583
  • Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” Speech

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