Foundations of American Government

This 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.

Read the course outline here and listen to a history teacher introduce the course below. 


Please create a free K–12 student account. Note: Only K–12 logged in students will be able to access the registration form.


  • Twenty-four video sessions led by Professor Denver Brunsman
  • Primary source readings that supplement Professor Denver Brunsman’s lectures
  • A certificate of completion for 12 hours of course time

Readings: Recommending readings related to the course are listed in the “Resources” tab on the course page. Please note that you are not required to read or purchase any print materials. Quizzes are based on the content of the seminar recordings rather than the readings.

Course Access: After registering, you may access your course by signing in and visiting your “My Courses” link.


Denver Brunsman is an associate professor of history at 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) and an editor of The American Revolution Reader (2013) and Colonial America: Essays in Politics and Social Development (2011).

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