Senate Historian Don Ritchie Explains Why A Congress

Kicking off the Fall 2010 semester of the Washington History Seminar: Historical Perspectives on International and National Affairs is Donald A. Ritchie, the Historian of the United States Senate, with “Why a Congress and Not a Parliament?”

As the tortuous legislative proceedings on health insurance demonstrated, the United States Congress operates differently from the parliamentary systems of most Western democracies. Drawing on his new book, The U.S. Congress: A Very Short Introduction, historian Donald Ritchie will discuss the historical evolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives; their contrasting rules, powers, and cultures; and the reasons why such a cumbersome system has managed to function for more than two centuries.

Click here to watch a video presentation of seminar.

Donald A. Ritchie is Historian of the U.S. Senate. He has served on the councils of the American Historical Association and the International Oral History Association. He has also served as President of the Oral History Association. He has edited for publication the closed hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist investigations. His books include Press Gallery (1993); The Oxford Guide to the United States Government (2001); Reporting from Washington (2005); and Electing FDR (2009).

The seminar is sponsored jointly by the National History Center (an initiative of the American Historical Association) and the Wilson Center. Wm. Roger Louis and Christian Ostermann are the co-directors. The seminar meets weekly during the academic year, January to May and September to December. See for the schedule, speakers, topics, and dates as well as videos and podcasts. The seminar is grateful for support given by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.