Comparative History of Government

6 credits

Teacher responsible: Cristina Bon

The course will compare the developments of government in the North Western Atlantic World from the 19th to the 20th century. A number of case studies will be considered in a comparative perspective with the aim of using them to shed light on critical aspects of governmental institutions and processes such as political participation and elections, monarchical and presidential vs. parliamentary rule, the politics/administration ‘dichotomy’, centralization vs. decentralization and federalism. Thus, for example, the British, French, and Italian cases will be discussed as different instances of unitary states and contrasted with two different types of federal state: Germany and the USA. Attention will be paid to issues such as the convergence and the circulation of political models, the use of institutional symbols in the different polities, and the relation between the constitutional structures and the underlying social structures.

The course can be divided in two main parts: the first part focuses mainly on the relations between  constitutional systems and the building of Nation states in the western world with regard to the 19th  century. The second part of the course, devoted to the first decades of the  20th  Century, takes into consideration the crisis of the nineteenth century’s liberal systems and their drifts toward autocracies and dictatorships.

Given the existence of deep interconnections within the Atlantic World, the course treats a series of topics that are closely interlinked. It begins by focusing on the Revolutions of the end of XVIII century and their main institutional innovations. It then moves on to treating the nation-building process and linking this process to the development of the liberal constitutional model. Having considered the republican and monarchical forms of government which characterized the 19th century in Europe and the US, the course analyzes the development of the bureaucratic systems as an essential step in the consolidation of the nation-state; finally, it tackles the problem of the crisis of the liberal model and its consequences.

Students should have a basic knowledge of the politico-social history of the countries under scrutiny or be ready to engage in acquiring some such knowledge.

Preparatory readings:

Any encyclopedia or book providing an outline of the modern political history in the countries that will be considered (see above).

Course Syllabus

N.B. Prospective students can view the full syllabus for this course by signing up to receive the WPIR syllabus package.