Skip to Main Content


POL 121: Introduction to Politics [Reynolds]: Introduction

Supplementary Internet materials for students taking the Introduction to Politics course at Saint Leo University

About "Introduction to Politics"

What this Course is About: This course is designed to give the beginning student of politics a uniquely broad perspective of the subject matter; for it touches on a number of different academic disciplines, including political philosophy, literature, sociology, political rhetoric, and history, both ancient and modern.  

Machiavelli, The Prince: We will then move on to Machiavelli's short masterpiece of political realism, The Prince: a work that reputedly served as Adolph Hitler's bedside reading. As we shall see, Machiavelli has not only been an instructor of tyrants, but, through reaffirming the importance of domestic peace, economic freedom, and structural limitations on government, has laid much of the theoretical groundwork for the rise of the modern commercial state.  

Publius, The Federalist Papers: 

Lincoln, Selected Speeches: The centerpiece of this course will be an inquiry into the deeds and speeches of Abraham Lincoln. The rhetorical works of his political apprenticeship will be scrutinized, leading up to his struggle with Senator Stephen Douglas and the Supreme Court. His role as wartime leader and his position as the Great Emancipator will be investigated and evaluated, as well as his revised understanding of the meaning of the Declaration of Independence in light of the Civil War.  

Thucydides, the Peloponnesian War: We will return to politics in the ancient world with a survey Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, an historical treatment of the conflict between the ancient Greek cities of Athens and Sparta. Not only will we concentrate on the art of democratic statesmanship, as exemplified in the life and speeches of the Athenian general and politician Pericles, but we will pay close attention to the problem of bipolarity in international relations, which until recently characterized world politics.  

Expected Results: By the end of this course, the beginning student of politics will have acquired some idea of the breadth and depth of the content of political science. Obviously, the student who completes this course will also have become acquainted with the most notable experiments at self-government; namely, Ancient Athens, Sparta, Republican Rome, the Italian Renaissance city-state of Florence, early 19th century United States, and 20th century Britain.

Reading List

Lincoln, Abraham.           

Machiavelli, Niccolo.        The Prince. Trans. Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1998. Second edition. (pbk)

Thucydides.                      The Landmark Thucydides. Touchstone, 1998. ISBN 0-684-82790-5 (pbk)

Note: the readings for this course are absolutely first-rate. Unfortunately, we shall have neither the time to read the longer works from cover to cover nor to explore any of them with the concentration they deserve. Instead, selections from these works will be read according to the changing focus of the course. It is hoped that the better students will be inspired to read these works in their entirety, if not during the course of the semester, sometime in the near future. Warning: these are books to be treasured, periodically revisited and scribbled upon, and added to one's mature intellectual landscape, not rented nor sold back the the bookstore at the conclusion of the course. Consider them them as belonging to the core of a personal library.