History U | Foundations of American Government

Foundations of American Government

This History U course examines the “why” and the “how” of American government through in-depth discussion of its history and workings.


Course Instructor: Professor Denver Brunsman, The George Washington University
Eligibility: High school students


Image Source: N. Mendal Shafer, "Diagram of the Federal Government and American Union," 1881 (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, 98503857)

Nineteenth-century diagram showing the complicated nature of federalism
  • History U

  • Free for high school students

Course Description

This History U course examines the “why” and the “how” of American government through in-depth discussion of its history and workings. Professor Brunsman begins with the early trial and error of American government, detailing the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence, the flawed initial attempt at governance in the Articles of Confederation, and the debates over the US Constitution. It continues with a practical examination of the three branches of government, focusing not only on the work that each branch does but the interaction between the branches. Finally, the course focuses on linkage institutions, including interest groups, political parties, and the media, that connect Americans with their government and influence their votes.

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The views expressed in this course are those of Dr. Denver Brunsman.


  • Twenty-four video sessions led by Professor Denver Brunsman
  • Links to optional resources
  • Short quizzes to review your knowledge
  • A certificate of completion for 12 hours of course time

How to Access

  1. Click Log In and either log into your account or click the Sign Up link on the login screen to create an account.
  2. Click the Register Now button and complete the order form.
  3. After registering, you may access your course by signing in and visiting your My Courses link under My Account.

Course Introduction

Kevin Cline explains what you will learn in this course.

About the Scholar

Denver Brunsman, Professor of History, The George Washington University

Denver Brunsman is an associate professor of history at the George Washington University, where he writes and teaches on the politics and social history of the American Revolution, early American republic, and British Atlantic world. His courses include George Washington and His World, taught annually at Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. His book The Evil Necessity: British Naval Impressment in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World (2013) received the Walker Cowen Memorial Prize for an outstanding work in eighteenth-century studies in the Americas and Atlantic world. He is also a co-author of the college and AP US History textbook Liberty, Equality, Power: A History of the American People (2015; 2020) and an editor of The American Revolution Reader (2013) and Colonial America: Essays in Politics and Social Development (2011).

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