- The American Proposition - 

2019 Summer Seminar: July 28 - August 3

Is America a normal country? Or is it somehow fundamentally different from other polities? What accounts for its special status, for our American exceptionalism, as it is sometimes called? What are the roots of American political identity? Of American national identity? Have subsequent American developments fundamentally transformed the nature of the country, or is our destiny as a people working itself out in accord with our beginning? How have foreign observers thought about America, and what has it meant to them? The writings of Alexis de Tocqueville and Orestes Brownson offer the starting points in our exploration of the continuities and changes to these and other historically charged questions.

Harvard Government Center.jpg


Location: The Seminar will take place in Harvard University's Center for Government and International Studies - 1737 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA, USA

Accommodation: Harvard dormitory accommodation will be provided - rooms will be shared between seminar participants of the same sex.

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch will be provided at the Seminar and dinner will be provided on three separate nights: first evening together, at the end of an optional social outing and on the last evening together.

Cost: A $550 registration fee is requested for overhead purposes and represents a small fraction of the true cost of the program.

Who should apply?

The seminar is open to advanced undergraduates (including graduating seniors), graduate students and professionals with interests in moral philosophy, politics, sociology, and economics.

How to Apply

  1. Send the following to

    • Cover letter discussing the reasons for your interest in the seminar and an overview of any relevant experience in the seminar’s topic.

    • A writing sample of up to 2,000 words.

  2. Arrange to have a faculty member familiar with your academic work send a short letter of recommendation to

The application deadline for the seminar is March 22, 2019. Applicants can expect to receive a decision by April 5, 2019.

About the Seminar Experience

 - Seminar Faculty - 


Prof. James Nolan - Williams College

Professor Nolan’s teaching and research interests fall within the general areas of law and society, culture, technology and social change, and historical comparative sociology. His latest book, published through Cambridge University Press,  is "What They Saw in America: Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weber, G.K. Chesterton, and Sayyid Qutb", an exploration of the journeys of four distinguished, yet very different foreign visitors who traveled to the United States between 1830 and 1950 . His current research project, "Delivering Little Boy", is a unique look at the Manhattan Project and the early years of the nuclear age. His previous books include Legal Accents, Legal Borrowing: The International Problem-Solving Court Movement (2009); Reinventing Justice: The American Drug Court Movement (2001); and The Therapeutic State: Justifying Government at Century’s End (1998). He is the recipient of several grants and awards including National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships and a Fulbright scholarship. He has held visiting fellowships at Oxford University, Loughborough University, and the University of Notre Dame.


Dr. Danilo Petranovich - Abigail Adams Institute

Dr. Danilo Petranovich is Director of the Abigail Adams Institute and is responsible for the Institute's strategic planning, developing its intellectual mission and academic programming, cultivating faculty and student partners, and contributor outreach in the greater New England area. Dr. Petranovich received his BA from Harvard and his PhD in Political Science from Yale. He taught courses in political theory, social thought, and the humanities at Duke and at Yale. His expertise is in nineteenth century European and American political thought. 


- Questions - 

If you have any questions about the seminar or the application process please do not hesitate to send your queries to