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 take an interdisciplinary approach to this study of culture and society, developing important skills in critical thought, research, writing, and collaboration. By examining how different peoples address a variety of social challenges, students gain a better understanding of their own cultures and societies. The course also fosters cultural competence with its careful look at the context and history of people around the world. Topics covered may include value systems, governance, social relationships, economic systems, cultural expression, and intercultural dynamics. The course’s rigorous writing curriculum helps students grow as analytical thinkers, requiring them to organize large quantities of course material in crafting arguments that are clearly expressed and supported with trustworthy evidence. One quarter-long unit guides students through a step-by-step research process that starts with formulating a question on a topic of their choice and ends with writing a sound research paper.
HIS500 African American History
required major | grade: 10
This course will take a comprehensive approach to studying the African American experience, including contemporary issues, in the United States through explorations of identity formation, African history, and the contributions of Black people to the growth and development of the country. Central to the course will be seeking to understand the ways that race and racism, both institutional and individual, influence our larger history as well as our interpersonal relationships and experiences. Students will continue to hone skills including critical reading of primary and secondary sources, in-depth analysis of historical concepts, identifying and evaluating historical sources, and presenting ideas in writing and presentations. In this course students will deconstruct the traditional mainstream view of America’s history, understand the complicated ways that we come to know and live race in the United States and, in the words of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, “dream a world anew.”
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 electives may select either a yearlong course or two semester-long courses. For the latter option, students must select both a fall and a spring course to create a yearlong history major that allows them to delve into two different areas of interest for one semester each.
FALL SEMESTER ELECTIVES
HIS474 History of Science: The Origins of Modern Science
In this course, students will study the historical development of science in the modern world, focusing on developments in astronomy, mathematics, physics, and chemistry from the 16th century to the present. We will take a comparative approach, investigating how societies around the world developed an understanding of nature and were able to apply this knowledge to control and configure their environment. Specific topics include: astronomy and astrology in ancient Egypt and China, Islamic science, alchemy and chemistry, Galileo’s trial and the Catholic Church, and the Scientific Revolution, among others. Students will also explore the interaction between scientific research and the political process, societal norms, religious beliefs, business decisions, and their day-to-day lives.
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. Topics may include an investigation of when the president is permitted to act without the direct consent of Congress, how courts should interpret the Constitution, the efficacy of the two-party system, how committees work within Congress, whether lobbying is problematic or beneficial for our system, campaign strategies, federal civil rights including those included in the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment, the strengths and limitations of democracy, and how citizens can effect change.
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 the 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.
HIS471 African American Studies
This course will take a holistic approach to analyze African American heritage and pressing issues that impact the African American community today. The course 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 with 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 as we explore the literary works of Olaudah Equiano, Phyllis Wheatley, George Moses Horton, Jean Toomer, James Baldwin, Amari Baraka, and Sonia Sanchez. The same threads will be analyzed in music from ragtime through hip-hop. We will examine 20th-century film and consider the stereotypes rooted in D.W. Griffith’s Birth of Nation to gain a sense of the shifting societal and gender roles of African Americans over time.
SPRING SEMESTER ELECTIVES
HIS473 History of Science: Biology from Darwin to DNA
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, cloning and gene editing. Students will learn about how current scientific issues affect the political process, societal norms, business decisions, and their day-to-day lives.
HIS462 Modern U.S. Political Ideologies and Issues: Advanced
Why are conservatives such jerks? Why are liberals so clueless? We live in a culture that encourages us to demonize those who hold different political views than we do. This class seeks to overcome that divide by discovering how kind, thoughtful people can come to drastically different conclusions about what is best for the country. After spending half of the semester seeking to uncover the core values of conservatives and liberals, the course turns to careful analyses of modern issues that divide the American electorate, such as immigration, health care, and inequality. The final project requires groups of students to research a modern issue of their choosing, find compelling arguments from the political left and right about how to solve that issue, and lead the class through a careful analysis of the arguments.
HIS482 Genocide and Human Rights
This course 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 WW II 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 the complicit nature of bystanders. Due to the inherent nature of genocides, content covered in this course will be difficult and oftentimes 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.
HIS433 Europe: World War II and Beyond
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.