Module Details

GV369-6-SP-CO: American Political Institutions

Year: 2016/17
Department: Government
Essex credit: 15
ECTS credit: 7.5
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: No
Outside Option: Yes

Supervisor: Professor Lawrence Ezrow
Teaching Staff: Professor Lawrence Ezrow
Contact details: Module Administrator: Daniel Gobbitt [] Administrator Sallyann West sawest (add

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

This module is designed to provide students with a comprehensive introduction to the office of the American president. All aspects of the office will be examined, including recruitment and presidential elections, staffing, policy making and relations with Congress, the public and the political parties. The role of individual leadership characteristics will be given particular attention, but the presidency will also be placed in the context of the broader American political landscape, with special emphasis paid to the capacity of the office to cope with the domestic and, especially since 9/ 11, the international environment of the 21st Century. No other executive position in the world has the status of the US presidency. Both in foreign/ military and economic affairs the world looks to the US for leadership even if it often does not get it. And yet the formal powers of the presidency within the American political system are limited. It is a system that was created to frustrate leadership, not to give the president free rein, and therein lies the central dilemma of the office.

Learning and Teaching Methods

The module will be structured like a graduate seminar on special topics in the United States. In essence, there will be a mix of lecturing and class discussion to suit the topic being addressed in a particular week.


50 per cent Coursework Mark, 50 per cent Exam Mark


One essay 70%, presentation 20%, participation and attendance to class 10%

Exam Duration and Period

2:00 during Summer Examination period.


  • Autumn:
  • Abramson, Paul, John H. Aldrich, and David W. Rhode. 2011. Change and Continuity in the 2008 and 2010 Elections. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press.
  • Kenski, Kate, Bruce Hardy, and Kathleen Hall Jamieson. 2010. The Obama Victory: How Media, Money and Message Shaped the 2008 Election. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Lewis-Beck, Michael S., William G. Jacoby, Helmut Norpoth, and Herbert F. Weisberg. 2008. The American Voter Revisited. University of Michigan Press
  • Spring:
  • Fred Greenstein, The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Obama (Oxford: Princeton University Press, 3rd edition, 2009. A survey and comparison of the leadership qualities of eleven post-war presidents. It will be used mainly in the Spring Term.
  • Stephen Graubard, The Presidents: The transformation of the American Presidency from Roosevelt to Obama (London: Penguin, 2009)

Further information