In our history classrooms, students and faculty explore and challenge ideas together, building on the foundational Quaker belief in continuing revelation. Examining differences and empathizing with multiple perspectives are central to this process. We endeavor to help students make meaning out of a variety of sources through thoughtful questioning, close reading, analysis and research. Students and faculty practice communicating ideas with clear, direct expression supported by evidence. Creating historical consciousness—the consciousness that people in the past had different values, assumptions and worldviews from people in the present—is foundational to our work together. Our hope is to gain a deeper sense of our own identities, develop moral understanding, and foster engaged citizenship that will contribute positively to the world.
231 Comparative Cultures
required major | grade: 9
Students of Comparative Cultures will gain background in three cultural areas: China, Ghana and Mexico. They will be encouraged to appreciate cultures other than their own, and to discern those qualities that are universal and those that are unique. An examination of value systems, government legitimacy, political and social movements, and problems of modern nation building will help them to apply their background knowledge to current events. Students will also gain experience in analytical thinking and the organization of large quantities of material through writing short essays, essay tests, and one long-term research paper. Emphasis will be placed on learning to support generalizations with solid evidence and verifying sources. One quarterlong unit will be devoted to guiding each student through a step-by-step process of research that begins with crafting a question on a topic of their choice and ends with writing a sound research paper.
242 Ancient and Medieval Civilizations
required major | grade: 10
The course examines the evolution of the civilizations of the Middle East and the Mediterranean basin, from their origins in the ancient world to the Middle Ages. The analysis of how societies and civilizations function is a key component of the course. The course also includes discussion of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and topics of student interest from the ancient and medieval time periods.
Emphasis will be placed on writing and on analyzing evidence to support historical claims. To that end, students’ intellectual skills will be honed by the critical reading of primary and secondary sources, the development of historical imagination, and the construction of well-reasoned arguments both on paper and in classroom discussion. Students will spend one 5-week unit writing a sound research paper on a topic of their choice.
241 Latin History
required major for students concurrently enrolled in Latin III | grade: 10
co-requisite: 541 Latin III (History)
By combining the study of history and third year Latin, this course affords students a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in interdisciplinary study. The centerpiece of this course concerns the immediate events which brought the Roman Republic to an end. By reading Caesar’s account of the Civil War (De bello civili) and Cicero’s letters describing the same events, students become intimately familiar with the only primary documents which have survived from this time – documents which every historian of this period must rely upon and know. The reasons for the Republic’s demise are set within the overall trajectory of Roman history, beginning with the pre-monarchic period. However, students spend most of the year studying the rise of the Roman Republic, its constitution, and the ethos of its ruling class.
In Latin III, students are familiarized with the rhetorical style Cicero by translating both his first and fourth orations against Catiline (In Catilinam I & IV). From March to the end of the year, students study the Roman imperial period, the rise of Christianity, the proto-states of Western Europe and their evolution into distinct nations up to the year 1100, concentrating on England and France. While analyzing the reasons for the collapse of the empire in the West and the historical conditions which created the medieval world, students read excerpts from relevant Latin texts of Augustus Caesar, the Gospel of Matthew, Tacitus, Lactantius, Orosius, Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Einhard, and Fulcher of Chartres. This assortment of primary Latin texts allows students to discover the evolution of the Latin language, as well as the refocusing of human concerns from a Classical to a medieval perspective.
251 Europe and the World
major elective | grade: 11 or 12
Modern European History covers the political, social, and intellectual developments on the European continent from the 16th century to the present. Major topics include the Renaissance, Reformation, Scientific Revolution, Enlightenment, French Revolution, Industrialization, Imperialism, World Wars, Holocaust, and Cold War.
To complement these historical topics, students also work on three projects throughout the year. In the fall, students study the impacts of the “Reformation in Germantown,” exploring the history of the churches along Germantown Avenue and linking these with developments in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the spring, students examine the ways that the Second World War and the Holocaust have been instantiated in museums, films, and other “sites of memory.” In the yearlong project called “History in the Making,” students follow a specific European country in the news and relate current events with their historical past.
Students are exposed to a wide array of primary and secondary source documents, as well as images and films, to develop an appreciation of how events in Europe over the past 500 years have shaped and influenced the world today. In addition to examining the diversity of actions, ideas, and people within Europe, students also explore the interactions between Europeans and the rest of the world.
261 United States History
required major | grade: 11 or 12
United States History is a survey course that examines the development of the United States as a cultural, political and economic entity from its 17th-century European and African antecedents to the recent past. Heavy emphasis is placed on primary sources through numerous documents and images collated by the faculty. Students are also given recent books by historians, which change from year to year, together with selected scholarly articles. Students are required to express their understanding through a combination of intensive class work, papers, tests, debates, presentations, and simulations.
892 History of Science
(a Junior-Senior Seminar)
major elective | grades: 11, 12
Science is an integral component of modern society and a crucial element of the history of Western Civilization and other cultures. In addition to providing a coherent understanding of the natural world, the scientific process plays a crucial role in a host of societal, political, and economic issues ranging from climate change to genetic engineering. In this seminar, students will explore how modern science developed and how new scientific knowledge impacts day-to-day life. We will begin in the first semester with an analysis of the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century, exploring the influence of Ancient and Medieval philosophies and examining the impact of new institutions such as the Royal Society. In the second semester, we will turn our attention to the history of biology in the 19th and 20th centuries, beginning with new theories of species change (including but not limited to Darwin’s) and continuing to an examination of the rise of molecular biology, the biotechnology industry, and recent developments in synthetic biology. With the approval of the Science Department, students may present their research findings at Science Night.