Democracy in America assignment
As promised last Thursday, here are the parameters for your analytical reviews of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Your papers should be formatted like any formal academic paper, and remember to properly cite everything you use. Title pages and separate bibliographies are optional. When you cite, I don’t care whether you use footnotes or endnotes, and I’m not concerned which style guide you use (Turabian, APA, MLA) as long as you are consistent.
This is not a group assignment. However, you should feel free to discuss your papers with your small group partners, if you wish. There’s no harm in that. Now, while I encourage you all to seek and offer help when appropriate, I do not tolerate cheating.
In an essay of 500-750 words, please do the following:
(1) Explain who was Alexis de Tocqueville, and why his biography is relevant? To put it another way, before you can understand why he visited America, you have to understand where he came from. What in his background accounted for his interest in American politics and society?
(2) Explain why de Tocqueville visited America when he did, and what did he come here to do? Once he was here, where did he go? What kinds of people did he meet? How long did he stay?
(3) Explain why it matters that Alexis de Tocqueville was French.
(4) Explain de Tocqueville’s audience. Who did he write this for? How did he come to be read in America?
Once you are comfortable you understand 1-4, then you’ll turn to the fifth element of this project.
(5) Select a single concept or chapter from Democracy in America and explain how de Tocqueville’s observations on that theme stand as a unique observation of Jacksonian-era American politics and society. You are free to choose any that strike you as interesting. However, because this sort of work is new to many of you, I’ll offer a few suggestions that are classic assignments for history and political science courses:
-de Tocqueville on crime and punishment
-de Tocqueville’s encounters with human chattel slavery
-de Tocqueville’s consideration of “self interest rightly understood.”
Before you begin writing, make sure you have understood that I’ve said “explain” deliberately. I do not need for you to tell me what de Tocqeville said and did—I need you to explain it to me. And don’t feel that you have to set up your papers as a set of five separate answers. You are free to offer these explanations however you see fit.
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