Thursday, 7 July 2011

Textbooks for the Study of Congress

Over the last few weeks I have posted about some of the excellent volumes containing scholarly work on the US Congress. They are great for developing specialised knowledge about particular aspects of Congress. But what about introductions for those starting an undergraduate course - or seeking to increase their general understanding of Congress?

Over the years I've been introduced to a number of textbooks, which are frequently brought out in new editions. I've put links to the latest editions that i could find - though of course over the summer new editions could appear. My personal favourites are -

Congress and Its Members by Roger H Davidson; Walter J Oleszek and Francis E Lee. The 13th edition is due out on 19th September, but can be pre-ordered using the link below. It is always well written - by individuals who are real experts in their subject. Walter Oleszek works for the Congressional Research Service and is a mine of information. Roger Davidson has worked in Congress as well as having had a very distinguished academic career. Francis E Lee is a younger scholar, who has already been recognised for the quality for her work - winning a series of awards for her writings. She edited, with Eric Schickler, The Oxford Handbook of the American Congress

Congress Reconsidered, edited by Lawrence C Dodd and Bruce I Oppenheimer, is also a high quality book. It is now in its 9th Edition. Oppenheimer commented in his article in The Oxford Handbook of the American Congress, "when Larry Dodd and I collaborated on the initial volume of Congress Reconsidered, we did not anticipate that there would be a need for subsequent editions or, if there were subsequent editions, that they would entail a greater number of new than of revised articles". But then recent years have seen many changes in Congress and much scholarly activity. This textbook highlights - in each edition - the key changes (and explores why they have happened.

Barbara Sinclair's book "Unorthodox Lawmaking" highlights how law is actually made, as opposed to the theoretical pattern described in the "traditional how-a-bill-becomes-a-law diagram". The fourth edition is due out at the end of July in the US, and in early September in the UK. I'll be getting a copy (I have the previous editions - but together they will provide a series of snapshots - of particular value to someone interested in the historical development of Congress and its practices). I have found Barbara Sinclair's work particularly interesting and readable.