Understanding the development of the United States’ political and governmental system is necessary for any legitimate study of American history. Forget about anything specific to basketball. You just have to know the development of political parties, the ratification of the Constitution, compromises on slavery, the realignment(s) of the political system, the threats of disunion, and other events prior to the Civil War.

These chaotic, caustic events reveal touch upon and synthesize other important themes like technological development, racism, economics, social hierarchy, and more. Basically, it shows how American citizens (and those aspiring to be such) organized themselves into rival camps to power through or blunt the influence of other competing groups.

Grand procession of Wide-Awakes at New York on the evening of October 3, 1860. Republican Wide Awakes in N.Y. – Lincoln-Hamlin Campaign (Library of Congress)

Although this is not of direct relation to basketball history, having a grasp of politics and government in the larger American historical context provides a feel for how politics within sports – whether labor negotiations, front office machinations, or team dynamics – have developed and played out.


Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967.

Bouton, Terry. Taming Democracy: “The People,” the Founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Maier, Pauline. Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Potter, David M. The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861. 1976. Reprint, New York: Harper Collins, 2011.

Varon, Elizabeth R. Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.

Watson, Harry L. Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America. Rev. ed. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006.