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.
HIS310 Comparative Cultures
required major | grade: 9
Students of Comparative Cultures will gain background knowledge 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 quarter-long 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.
HIS420 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. 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.
HIS410 Latin History
required major for students concurrently enrolled in Latin III (History) | grade: 10
co-requisite: 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 the course concerns the immediate events that 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 that 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 become familiar with the rhetorical style of Cicero by translating his first oration against Catiline (In Catilinam I). From March through 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 that 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.
HIS610 United States History: Advanced
required major | grade: 11, 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.
major elective | grade: 11, 12
Students electing to pursue these topics must select both a fall and a spring course to create a year-long history major that allows them to delve into two different areas of interest for one semester each.
HIS471 African American Studies: Advanced
This course will take a holistic approach to analyze African American heritage and the pressing issues that impact the African American community today. We will commence with a thorough investigation of contemporary issues that face the African American community, ranging from identity to the disparate criminal justice system. Our study will shift to a review of African empires such as Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. This will enable us to gain a concrete understanding of African rituals, customs, arts, religion, and social organizations. Students will be able to trace the retention of African culture as millions of slaves were forced into bondage through the middle passage to be seasoned in Caribbean plantations. African culture and the slave experience will be examined through as we explore the literary works of Olaudah Equiano, Phyllis Wheatley, George Moses Horton, Jean Toomer, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, and Sonia Sanchez. We will explore the same themes in music, from ragtime to hip-hop, and in 20th-century film, with particular attention to how the stereotypes rooted in D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation reveal the shifting societal and gender roles of African Americans over time.
HIS461 The Making of the Modern World: Advanced
The “Age of Reason” spans the era from the Reformation and Scientific Revolution in the 16th and 17th centuries to the Enlightenment of the 18th century. The changes brought about during this “early modern” period shaped the mindset of the modern age from the American and French Revolutions to the present. In this course, we will study the events and ideas that have contributed to our current world, focusing on the political, social, and intellectual developments that have formed the basis for democratic societies.
HIS431 United States Government & Civics: Advanced
This course will cover the structure and operation of the modern United States government. It will be rooted in the United States Constitution and the three branches of government described therein but will extend far beyond that. Students will also explore ways that citizens can effect change and will consider how they can get involved in governance. Topics may include presidential power, the two-party system and its machinations, campaigning, how committees work within Congress, lobbying and interest groups, gerrymandering, the creation and jurisdiction of administrative agencies, the federal courts, federal civil rights including those included in the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment, political action committees (PACs), and how power is divided between the federal and state governments.
HIS451 War and Peace: The Modern Middle East: Advanced
This course will examine the conflicts and politics of the Middle East in the 20th- and 21st-centuries. Our studies will include history and geography of the region, focusing on the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, the mandate system, and the lead-up to the UN partition of Israel and Palestine. Students will grapple with multiple perspectives in that complex conflict, as well as others, and examine peace negotiations. The ongoing conflict in Syria will also be studied, as well as other case studies based on student interest and current events. The course will prioritize analyzing the causes and effects of current challenges, understanding the perspectives of diverse stakeholders, and considering possible local and international solutions. US involvement in Middle East conflicts in recent decades, with an eye towards the US government’s strategy, may also be discussed.
HIS432 Europe: World War II and Beyond: Advanced
In this course, we will explore the political and social developments in Europe before, during, and after the Second World War. We will study how the lingering effects of the First World War led to continued conflict and how ideological and geopolitical differences split Europe between the United State and the Soviet Union after the war ended. We will also look at the rise of liberal democracy in the West, the formation of the European Union, the fall of Communism, and the current rise of right-wing nationalism.
HIS482 Genocide and Human Rights: Advanced
In this course we will work to understand the historical roots, immediate causes, implementation, and the aftermath of acts of state-sponsored violence and genocide. The term genocide emerged near the end of WWII and was further defined by the United Nations Genocide Convention as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”. Case studies may include the Holocaust, Rwanda, Cambodia, Armenia, an examination of indigenous peoples in the Americas, and the Rohingya among others. Studying both primary sources and historians’ interpretations of the events, we will work to comprehend genocide as both a personal human experience and also as a brutal form of government policy.
Our study will require considering the plight of victims, their various forms of agency through acts of resistance, perpetrators, and complicit nature of bystanders. Due to the inherent nature of genocides content covered in this course will be difficult and often times disturbing, but necessary to foster empathy and deeper understanding of the atrocities. As citizens of the world the greater understanding we have of past genocides, the better equipped we are to identify, prevent and respond to future genocides and mass atrocities.
HIS472 History of Science: From Darwin to DNA: Advanced
This course will explore the historical development of the biological sciences over the past two centuries. Topics to be studied include: Darwin and evolutionary theories of the origin of species, including religious objections and social applications; materialist theories of heredity and development; eugenics and the application of scientific theories of genetics to human social issues; and the rise of molecular genetics, the biotechnology industry, and cloning and gene editing. Students will learn about how current scientific issues affect the political process, business decisions, societal norms, and their day-to-day lives.
HIS462 Modern U.S. Political Ideologies and Issues: Advanced
This course will focus on the ideologies of the modern Democratic and Republican parties and the central political debates in the modern United States. The purpose of this course is not to debate who is right, although we will carefully examine facts and arguments, but rather to understand the nuanced motivations and arguments underlying ideologies and policy preferences. In addition, we will explore our own political identities and the various factors that play into their formation. Specific issues for study may include civil rights, immigration, foreign policy and national security, government spending on entitlement programs, gun rights, the national debt, education, energy and the environment, abortion, regulations and the free market, and tax policy.