Upper School
US Curriculum

History

The Upper School history curriculum, from required courses to senior electives, is grounded in the basic understanding of the historical enterprise.
Students develop and apply reading, writing, note-taking, oral, visual and analytical skills to the acquisition and analysis of historical facts. Our students engage in independent research, learn how to make effective fact-based historical interpretations, to understand their own inherent intellectual biases, and to appreciate that their acts of interpretation are a perpetually incomplete undertaking within the ongoing effort to understand history’s impact and the perspectives we gain from it.

History Required Sequence

List of 3 items.

  • History 9: Sources of Modernity

    6 meetings per seven-day cycle/3 credits
    Required for ninth-graders.

    The ninth-grade course develops both content and skills that form the basis for further historical investigation throughout the Upper School. The course treats the period 1400-1789 through an examination of key questions whose resolutions have given rise to the modern word. These questions include conflicts focused on cultures, economies, religions, political philosophies and power structures, and intellectual and artistic currents. Key conflicts may include: Aztec/Spanish contact; cross-cultural contact and conflict between Europeans and Africans during the slave trade; the clash of scientific, economic and philosophic ideas during the Renaissance and the ensuing religious tumult of the Reformation; Tokugawa power and isolationism as a response to European trade and religious expansion; the ascendancy of the Qing dynasty and the origins of a problematic interdependence on global trade and conflict with European trade and religion; conflicts over power sharing between king and subjects in Britain and in France and the revolutions they engender.

    Within the context of the study of content, the course aims to build basic historical skills in areas such as reading, writing and research and to apply more general skills such as note-taking, oral presentation and visual skills to the particular demands of historical endeavor.

    As in English 9, students not meeting a minimum standard of competency in writing in History 9 may be asked or required to enroll in a writing workshop or to participate in some other program to support their writing.
  • History 10: United States History, Colonization to 1900

    6 meetings per seven-day cycle/3 credits
    Required for sophomores.

    The course treats the history of the US from the colonial period to its emergence as a world power around the turn of the twentieth century. Within that scope, the course considers the vast changes in the US under the impact of westward movement, immigration, economic and military growth and expanding global significance. The course exposes students to the transformation of American society from a largely homogeneous one to a socio-economically diverse one, from a largely agricultural one to a largely industrial one. It presents the political and economic choices faced by the country over the time period, most potently the choices that led to Civil War in the middle of the nineteenth century. It explores the development of a uniquely American culture, increasingly distinct from its antecedents. It asks about the inclusion of various demographic groups within the fabric of that emerging society. Finally, the course examines the impact of nineteenth century nationalism and imperialism on an America newly victorious in the Spanish-American War of 1898.

    As in English 10, students not meeting a minimum standard of competency in writing in this course may be asked or required to enroll in a writing workshop or to participate in some other program to support their writing.
  • History 11: The Twentieth Century World

    6 meetings per seven-day cycle/3 credits
    Required for juniors. (In special circumstances, may be taken senior year, with permission of the department head.)

    Using as its springboard the emergence of the US as a major world power as a result of the Spanish-American War and World War I, the course explores the increasingly inter-connected global world of the twentieth century. Central to that consideration is the primacy of US power (economic, military and cultural), the global uses of that power and global reactions to that power. The two world wars and their aftermaths are significant concerns, as are the overarching realities of post-World War II bipolar geopolitics. The course considers far-reaching regional studies: the Middle East and Asia as targets of colonization and also during decolonization; the European totalitarian regimes of mid-century; race in both the US and South Africa; proxy wars of the Cold War period; the end of the bipolar world and the emergence of non-state threats are among the topics considered.

    Students who are successful at both History 204 and 206 often take the AP examination in US History. History faculty hold review sessions for that examination in the spring of each year.

History Major Electives

List of 5 items.

  • History Electives Information

    Major and minor history electives are open to sophomores, juniors and seniors. When enrollment space is an issue, preference will be to seniors, juniors, and then sophomores. The department encourages you to consider your history choices over a three-year period so that you have the best chance of taking all the history electives you want to take.
  • Economics

    6 meetings per seven-day cycle/3 credits

    Economics is the study of the choices people make about how to use scarce resources, such as time, money, and the natural world. How much time should I study for a test, and how much time should I hang out with friends? Is there a “best” way to decide? Economics tries to figure that out. What should businesses produce? What if some people can’t afford a place to live? Should the government build more schools, or more tanks, or less of everything? Exactly how bad is it to cut down a rainforest? How do we make these decisions? Economists have offered many answers to these questions, and some of these answers have had profound effects on modern history. This course will attempt to understand the questions, the answers, and those profound effects. In doing so, we will examine the principles of micro- and macroeconomics, such as supply and demand, the theory of the firm, competition/monopoly, the Classicals and the Keynesians, fiscal and monetary policy, and more.
  • Modern European History

    6 meetings per seven-day cycle/3 credits

    While the past 100 years were known as “the American Century” and the next 100 may be “the Chinese Century,” the fact remains that many of our global mechanisms, institutions, legal and cultural norms have roots in the past 500 years of European history. The curriculum spans the era when Europeans first exploded onto the global stage. It continues through the Renaissance and religious wars, empire-building and revolution, Napoleon, industrialization, world wars, Communism, the EU, environmentalism, and the current uncertain moment. By spring the course arrives at the present moment with its multiple issues, such as immigration, the rise of the new nationalism, prospects for a common European identity, the challenge posed by Russia, among others. Among other topics, this course explores a) the creation of modern politics, including democracy; b) intellectual breakthroughs, particularly in science; c) the development of the modern economy – markets, finance, trade, industry, agriculture and skilled labor; d) the role of wars and peace in shaping Europe and the world; e) cultural innovation in visual arts, literature, and music; f) shifts in moral values, philosophy, and religious belief. While the course is not officially designated as such, it does provide a sound foundation for students wishing to take the AP exam. There is a range of assessments, including short oral presentations. Course-related activities include the notorious “Diplomacy” game and two optional and popular European pizza-and-film evenings.
  • Government and Politics: The United States and the World

    6 meetings per seven-day cycle/3 credits

    This course examines government and politics from both domestic and international perspectives. In an era of diminished interest and participation, this course aims to instruct and engage students in the political process. By reading, discussing, and writing about secondary texts and current events, students will gain both a historical and contemporary point of view of the vagaries and complexities of political systems.
  • History of Media & Culture

    6 meetings per seven-day cycle/3 credits

    This course examines the history of media in the United States from the emergence of the penny press in the 19th century to the rise of “new media” in the 21st century. In studying the development of newspapers, film, broadcasting, and digital media, the course’s primary focus is the historical relationship between media and democracy. How have communications technologies influenced the ways in which citizens both understood and participated in public life, and how have Americans shaped media to meet the requirements of a democratic society? To answer these questions, the course investigates not only the media’s impact on public opinion, political behavior, and policymaking, but also how government has shaped technological innovation, the political economy of the media, and freedom of expression. Finally, we will look at the relationship between culture, democracy, and the market, and how the media have configured public discourse, with particular attention to race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and class. Throughout the course, students will work to analyze the institutional development of communications technologies, the print, visual and digital texts they have produced, and contemporary responses to those media from both theoretical and empirical perspectives, and to develop their own historical interpretations through original research.

History Minor Electives

List of 11 items.

  • History Electives Information

    Major and minor history electives are open to sophomores, juniors and seniors. When enrollment space is an issue, preference will be to seniors, juniors, and then sophomores. The department encourages you to consider your history choices over a three-year period so that you have the best chance of taking all the history electives you want to take.
  • Contemporary Issues Seminar

    3 meetings per seven-day cycle/2 credits

    A seminar that is characterized by discussion, Contemporary Issues focuses on themes, topics, and controversies. In that sense it’s not simply a current events course that chases yesterday’s news headlines. Instead it examines the context of behind recurrent stories. This approaches enables students to more skillfully analyze both events and trends as they continue to develop in the future. In addition to discussion, class activities include debate and student presentations. The curriculum is typically designed by the teacher during the first half of the course. During the latter half students propose and select topics that interest them in particular. Class participation comprises 50% of the course grade, so active engagement is essential.
  • Topics in the History of Warfare

    3 meetings per seven-day cycle/2 credits

    This course will focus on the development of warfare between the Napoleonic Wars and the First World War. It will begin by looking at the horror of 1914; one million total casualties inflicted over a two-month period, numbers so staggering that the belligerent nations were forced to dig in across a massive line stretching from the English Channel to Switzerland. Moreover, soldiers in East Africa, Poland, the Balkans and the Dardanelles suffered similar fates.

    While it is easy to say that technological innovation is the only culprit responsible for the catastrophic losses of 1914, a more in depth examination of the battles demonstrate that both tactical and philosophical views of warfare had a major impact on the way in which the initial campaigns of WWI were fought. Nations often fight the last war; in this case, technology outran military doctrine. Thus, the combination of misguided military science along with the lethality of new weapons left commanders in the position of having to radically alter the way war was fought. Armies in 1914, which would not have been out of place on the Napoleonic battlefield, were nearly unrecognizable by 1918 due to the sweeping changes made.

    This course will build a bridge from Napoleon to those first few months of WWI, with the express purpose of tracking the changes, both tactical and technological, which led to the catastrophe of 1914. Conflict considered may include:
    • The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815
    • The American Civil War 1861-1865
    • The Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871
    • The Second Anglo-Afghan War 1878-79
    • The Boer War 1899-1901
    • The Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905
    • The Balkan Wars 1912-1913
    • World War One 1914-1918
  • Debate

    3 Meetings per cycle/0 credits
    Open to all Upper School students.

    Debate will provide students opportunity within the school day to prepare for scheduled debates. Students will be able to improve their research skills, their ability to put forward a cogent argument and their public speaking skills. Students who sign up for the course are expected to participate in interscholastic debates. These debates occur on Saturdays throughout the school year. Students who wish to take part in competitive debates must sign up for this elective if their schedules allow. Students whose schedules do not allow them to enroll in this course may be allowed to participate on a case-by-case basis.
  • History of the Middle East

    If forced to choose between your religion, your country, and your ethnic community, to which would you remain most loyal? This is one of the moral and political dilemmas that has dominated the region we call the Middle East since the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. To explore how the peoples of the Middle East have tried to negotiate their contested loyalties, we will begin our work with some basic geographic, social, and theoretical context of the region. Where, precisely, do the borders of the Middle East lie? What is a caliphate? Why do Middle Easterners frequently feel so misunderstood by the west? Having grounded ourselves in that basic understanding of the region, we will proceed to examine the Middle East’s history of competing loyalty claims by looking at three major periods of its history: The end of the First World War and the creation of the first nation states in the Middle East, the 1950’s and 60’s and the emergence of ethnic nationalist movements across state lines, and 1970’s signaling of the rise of Islamist movements within the region. Along with our study of history, we will be tracking the current events in the region to get a better sense of how the Middle East’s past affects its present.
  • American Law (Not Offered 2018 - 2019)

    3 meetings per seven-day cycle/2 credits

    This course is designed to begin to explore how the law works and give students some actual experience in doing what lawyers and judges do. It consists of the following units/topics:
    1) What is Law? To start off the course we will examine the different sources of law (statutory, case law, etc.) and the organization of the American court system, and get a basic understanding of how laws are used;
    2) Criminal Law and Juvenile Justice: This topic will fascinate students who consume shows like Law & Order. In this unit they get a deeper understanding of the challenges behind criminal justice such as balancing protecting the community with rehabilitation for the offender;
    3) Individual Rights and Liberties (Constitutional Law): The U.S. Constitution is a unique and rich source of personal rights that has made the United States an example to the rest of the world. But how to interpret the Constitution and the rights it affords has been a long, difficult, and ongoing process. Some of the most interesting debates contained in the law can be found in this field of law. Some topics will include: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Due Process, The Right to Privacy, Discrimination. This unit may vary year-to-year depending on what issues the Court is addressing in its current term.
    4) Torts (A Civil Wrong): Almost everyone is aware of the “lawsuit,” but most people don’t really understand the principles behind lawsuits. This unit will bring this concept into focus and highlight some different kinds of torts and provide examples by examining real cases.
  • Art and Society: Medieval and Renaissance (Not Offered 2018 - 2019)

    3 meetings per seven-day cycle/2 credits

    This course will investigate the ways in which groups of people who were considered outside the mainstream were represented during the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. It will consist of the following units/topics:

    1- “Bright lights, big foreheads”
    What was considered beautiful by the standards of the time? What were standard ways in which things were traditionally represented and what were meaningful counterexamples.
    2- “Jousting on Snails”
    It is difficult to see why such strange images were painted into the margins of medieval texts. Why were they there? Who was represented there and what were their odd peccadillos? Were these the meaningless doodles of bored scribes? If not, to what extent did these images shed light on the text or its patron?
    3- “Sorcerous Jews and Muslim astronomers”
    What were the sources of fear and suspicion of Jews and Muslims at this time? To what extent did literacy, science and speculative philosophy seem demonic? How was this represented in art?
    4- “Cloaked”
    How were gender and sexuality represented in clothing, nudity and general appearance? What ideas about femininity or masculinity were current?
  • Modern Africa (Not offered in 2018-19)

    The course is not intended as a survey, but one in which students will explore historical and present-day forces in a number of African nations. The chronological focus will be on the 20th and 21st centuries. Nations likely to be studied include South Africa, Rwanda, Congo, Kenya, Algeria, Egypt and Nigeria. Current events inform topics explored. The course utilizes an array of texts, including historical monographs, memoirs, biographies, novels and films.
  • Modern China (Not offered in 2018-19)

    China is perhaps poised to become the dominant economic, political, cultural and military powerin the next decades. This course is intended to provide an understanding of the history of China and to prepare students for the so-called Asia/China century. The aim is to provide students with a solid understanding of the main milestones, leaders and philosophies of the period from the late Qing Dynasty to the present. Students will consider what has shaped China’s vision and its perception of its place on the world stage.
  • Modern Latin America (Not offered in 2018-19)

    The course will look at a number of themes in the history of Modern Latin America, investigating specific countries insofar as they exemplify those themes. Thus, it is not a survey course, though it will necessarily investigate the narrative chronologies immediately surrounding the thematic material. Themes may include the following: race; competing economic models; the role of the military in Latin American polities; democratization and the search for “democracy without adjective”; US-Latin American relations, and others. Students will also have the opportunity in the last part of the year to explore questions of their own devising.
  • The Good Life: Seminar in Moral Philosophy (Not Offered 2018 - 2019)

    3 meetings per seven-day cycle/2 credits
    Open to juniors and seniors. Enrollment Limited.

    What does it mean to live a good life, and what is the relation between living well and making moral choices? In this course, we will think hard about these questions and wrestle with some of the most compelling issues of the human condition. Why should I want to do the right thing, and how do I know what that is? What makes a dilemma a moral dilemma? Is it more important to act morally, or to be the sort of person who makes moral choices? What does it mean to be a friend? Is there a relation between our happiness and the moral values we hold? Students will consider theories by thinkers such as Aristotle, Epictetus, Kant, Mill and Frankel and test them against their own experience and lived dilemmas. The goal is to become more sensitive to the moral dimensions of our everyday life and to develop the thinking skills and vocabulary to address them. For the final project, each student will develop their own “Credo,” a set of self-identified principles essential to living one’s life well.