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Progressivism at High Tide: The Election of 1912

by John E. Moser and Zachary Smith

Debating the Future of American Democracy

Progressivism at High Tide places students in the midst of one of the most fascinating political events of U.S. history--the presidential election of 1912, in which all of the candidates described themselves as "progressive." But what did it mean to be "progressive"? The progressives of the early twentieth century famously disagreed on all sorts of issues, but what held them together? What were the basic principles of progressivism, and how could one apply those principles into specific policy questions, such as what to do about large corporations, whether women should be allowed to vote, whether or not to restrict immigration, and whether African-Americans should have full political and social equality?

This is a Level 3 game that is still under development but has been approved by the Reacting Editorial Board (REB) for general use. A detailed explanation of the editorial process and game levels can be found on our REB Page.



Cultural and Social History; Economics and Economic History; Political Science and Government; Rhetoric and Performance Studies

20th Century; Late Modern Period

United States of America

Notable Roles

Theodore Roosevelt, W.E.B. DuBois, Jane Addams

Level 3 game (what's that mean?

Themes and Issues  
What does it mean for a society to be "democratic"? What is the proper role of the state in economic and social life? How did the economic and demographic changes of the late 19th century influence politics and social life? Who is entitled to the benefits of citizenship?

Player Interactions 
Factional, Competitive, Collaborative, Coalition-Building

Sample Class Titles

The Progressive Era; American Civilization since 1877

Divided Spaces, Rolling Dice, Differentiated Voting, Resurrection roles, Props: campaign paraphernalia

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
This game is mildly chaotic and mildly demanding on the instructor.

Primary Source Highlights
Speech by Woodrow Wilson at Indianapolis (1911); Theodore Roosevelt, "Who is a Progressive?" (1912); William Howard Taft's Acceptance Speech (1912)

In a Few Words

The various ways the term "Progressive" was used and understood in early 20th century America

Using the Game

Class Size and Scalability 
This game is recommended for classes with 14-32 students.

Class Time  
For this game, 2 setup sessions and 6 game sessions are recommended.

Possible Reacting Game Pairings

This game can be used on its own, or with other games. These pairings are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive or prescriptive. The Election of 1912 may pair well with:


You can adjust the assignments based on the desired learning outcomes of your class. This game can include journalism and letter writing. All roles are required to give formal speeches.


Reacting Consortium members can download all game materials below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading.  

Please Fill out the Permissions Request Form Before Using Progressivism at High Tide in Your Class!


All students need a Gamebook, which includes resources and historical content. Members can download the Gamebook, and provide it to students for free or at cost.

VERSION 1.3. Updated September 2022.

Instructor's Manual

The Instructor's Manual includes guidance for assigning roles, presenting historical context, assignments, activities and discussion topics, and more.

Role Sheets

Students also need a Role Sheet, which contains biographical information, suggestions for further reading, and role-specific info or assignments.  


John E. Moser

John E. Moser is professor of history and chair of the masters program in American History and Government at Ashland University. He did his undergraduate work at Ohio University, and has an M.A. and Ph.D. in history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At Ashland he teaches courses on modern European, American and East Asian history, and in 2016 received the university’s Edward and Louaine Taylor Award for Excellence in Teaching. John has published numerous works on subjects ranging from comic books to Japanese foreign policy. He is author of four books, the most recent of which is The Global Great Depression and the Coming of World War II, which was published by Routledge in 2015. He has also published three games for the Reacting to the Past series, including Japan, 1941: Between Pan-Asianism and the West; Europe on the Brink, 1914: The July Crisis; and (with Nicolas W. Proctor) Restoring the World, 1945: Security and Empire at Yalta. He lives in Ashland with his wife Monica, their daughter Stanzi, and their three dogs.

Zachary Smith

Zachary Smith began teaching at Samford University in Fall 2013 in the Core Curriculum and has taught in the Fellows Program since 2018. A native of Indiana, he remained in-state to attend Purdue University, where he received his B.A. in psychology. After briefly considering a future as a clinical psychologist, he relocated to Athens, GA, where in 2012 he earned his Ph.D. in history at the University of Georgia.

Zac’s research has centered on the First World War, race, identity, and the obligations of citizenship. He has published articles on these topics in the Journal of Southern History and the Washington Post. In his first book, Age of Fear: Othering and American Identity during World War I (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), he explores the manner in which concerns about an increasingly diverse society led many Americans between 1914 and 1918 to reimagine their German enemy as a non-white and existential threat to American democracy. His next research project will explore the United States’ entry into World War I from a cultural and social perspective.


Members can contact game authors directly

We invite instructors join our Facebook Faculty Lounge, where you'll find a wonderful community eager to help and answer questions. We also encourage you to submit your question for the forthcoming FAQ, and to check out our upcoming events


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