First-Principles Approach - Core Texts

The approach of the School of Statesmanship is classical. It begins with the idea that American politics should be understood in light of its first principles. That requires, first, an understanding of these principles as they were understood by America’s founders. Additionally, it requires comprehending the relation of these principles to the Constitution and their fate in the development of modern American political institutions and practice.

The first principles of American politics are rooted in what Jefferson called the “elementary books of public right,” the classic works of the Western tradition from Plato to John Locke. Students in our graduate program begin by reading these and continue by reading more modern writers such as Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche, to understand the roots of contemporary political thought.

Both the master’s and doctoral programs are centered around the following core texts from the Western and American traditions of political thought. Doctoral students are held responsible for being familiar with and understanding these texts on their comprehensive exams.

  • Plato, Republic
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics; Politics
  • Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Treatise on Law
  • Machiavelli, The Prince
  • Hobbes, Leviathan
  • Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Letter Concerning Toleration
  • Rousseau, Second Discourse, Social Contract
  • Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals
  • Hegel, Philosophy of History; Philosophy of Right
  • Marx, Communist Manifesto; Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right
  • Nietzsche, Use & Disadvantage of History; Beyond Good and Evil
  • U.S. Declaration of Independence
  • U.S. Constitution
  • The Federalist
  • Essential writings of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington
  • Tocqueville, Democracy in America
  • Lincoln-Douglas Debates
  • Lincoln, Lyceum Speech; Temperance Address; Speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act; Speech on the Dred Scott Decision; Cooper Institute Speech; House Divided Speech; First and Second Inaugural Addresses; Message to Congress of July 4, 1861; “Gettysburg Address”
  • Progressive commentaries on American constitutionalism by Woodrow Wilson, John Dewey, Theodore Roosevelt, and Herbert Croly
  • Franklin Roosevelt, Commonwealth Club Address; 1944 Annual Message
  • Other writings on 20th and 21st century thought and politics in America, including institutions and policies, used in coursework during the student’s time in the program


Standard Coursework

Both doctoral and master’s students are required to take a certain number of courses in each of two fields: Political Philosophy and American Politics & Political Thought. The doctoral program has a set of required core courses in each field.

Our courses carry the “POL” designation in the course listings and are offered at the 600-800 level. Some advanced undergraduate courses may be cross-listed for graduate credit and are designated at the 500 level. These courses will incorporate additional requirements and rigor commensurate with graduate level study. All courses are for 3 credit hours, unless otherwise noted.

Political Philosophy

Students in these courses will study the great works of the Western political tradition, and will, in particular, become deeply familiar with the books that the American founders read, studied, and discussed, and that they relied upon in forming a new nation and framing the Constitution.

Core Political Philosophy courses:

  • POL 601 - Plato
  • POL 602 - Aristotle
  • POL 603 - Medieval Political Philosophy
  • POL 604 - Early Modern Political Philosophy
  • POL 605 - Late Modern Political Philosophy

American Politics and Political Thought

Students in these courses will develop a firm knowledge of the first principles of American constitutionalism and will understand the fate of those principles in American political development and contemporary American politics.

Core American Politics and Political Thought courses:

  • POL 621 - The American Founding
  • POL 622 - The Federalist
  • POL 623 - Nationalism and Sectionalism
  • POL 624 - American Progressivism
  • POL 625 - The Modern American Regime

Studies in Statesmanship - POL 810

This course takes as its subject the work of a particular statesman or of a group of statesmen in a particular period. A recurring favorite is the statesmanship of Winston Churchill, but the topics can vary considerably.

Elective Courses

Section 2 of the Graduate Handbook contains a detailed listing of possible elective courses, and the below Course Schedules contain recent offerings of all courses.

Recently offered elective courses include: The Natural Law, Politics and Religion, The American Congress, The American Presidency, Parties and Elections, Constitutional Law I and II, Machiavelli, Administrative Law, American Foreign Policy, and specialized political philosophy courses, such as Xenophon, Thucydides, Locke, or Tocqueville.

Graduate Handbook

Recent Course Schedules

Graduate Handbook

The Graduate Handbook contains authoritative guidance for our program and specific details regarding degree programs, timelines and time limits, academic and general policies, and similar matters.

2023 Graduate Handbook


Apprenticeship Courses

Teacher-Scholar Apprenticeship

(POL 831 & 832)

1 credit hour. For doctoral students interested in teaching at the college level. Enrolled students will work individually with a member of the Graduate Faculty on developing some of the essential skills for a career in college-level teaching and scholarship.

The particular requirements and contact hours of each apprenticeship will be agreed upon by the individual student and faculty member, put in writing, and approved by the Graduate Dean prior to the beginning of the semester in which the apprenticeship is to take place. Requirements may include, but are not limited to: observing the professor as he/she teaches class, drafting sample syllabi and other course material, preparing and delivering mock classes, research (not to exceed 5 hours per week), and co-authorship for scholarly work. Additional information can be found in Section 2 of the Graduate Handbook.

POL 831 & 832 Course Descriptions

Classical School Administrator Apprenticeship (POL 833)

1 credit hour. This apprenticeship is open to both M.A. and Ph.D. students, and may not be substituted for any other requirement in either degree program. This apprenticeship aims to introduce and familiarize students with many of the practical aspects of classical-school administration.

Enrolled students will apprentice at the Hillsdale Academy. Under the direction of the Headmaster of Hillsdale Academy, enrolled students will spend one hour per week at the Academy, learning about various elements of classical secondary education/administration and interacting with Academy staff and administration. Appendix B of the Graduate Handbook has additional information.

POL 833 Course Description & Appendix B


Summer Language Courses

As part of degree requirements, doctoral students must demonstrate reading competence in an ancient and modern foreign language. They must complete this requirement prior to being allowed to sit for comprehensive exams, which are normally taken at the start of their fourth year (see Doctor of Philosophy for more information). To assist doctoral students in obtaining and demonstrating reading competence, we have three language courses that are offered during occasional summers. These courses are also open to interested master’s students.

Our Summer Language courses are for credit and will appear on student transcripts. However, the credits do not count toward degree requirements for the M.A. or the Ph.D., nor are they calculated into the determination of the GPA for scholarship and academic status purposes. Doctoral students should consult Appendix A of the Graduate Handbook for additional information on language requirements. Recent summer language offerings can be found below.

Foreign Language Requirements for Doctoral Students Recent Summer Language Courses

Intensive Greek

POL 805
3-12 credit hours

Intensive Latin

POL 806
3-12 credit hours

Modern Language

POL 807
3-6 credit hours