Challenging girls to become women of 
intellect, character, innovation, action, and faith


Girls working on laptopsThe history curriculum presents a challenging, developmentally appropriate course of study for students in grades five through twelve. The program provides a solid foundation in history as well as the rest of the humanities. Students study geography, investigate the complexity of human society through an analysis of culture, and come to an understanding of diverse political and economic systems. The program develops an appreciation of the interrelatedness of peoples and nations and challenges them to prepare for involvement as active and compassionate members of a democratic society.

Sequential skill building is a prime focus throughout the Middle and Upper School years. At each grade level, history and English faculty collaborate to reinforce and coordinate approaches to reading, writing, research, and analysis. Honors and Advanced Placement level courses are offered Grades 10, 11, and 12.

Middle School

History 5: The Medieval World

The study of history in the fifth grade engages students in the medieval world through the examination of art, technology, religion, political systems, culture, and women’s role in society. Students will explore life in medieval Europe, the Middle East, and Asia by studying cathedrals, knights, the Black Death, serfs, feudalism, the Silk Road, Marco Polo, and more. To help students better understand the medieval world, history classes will be devoted to small group and class discussions, skill building, individual and group projects, and role-playing activities.

History 6: The Eastern Hemisphere

In this course, students study the history, geography, and culture of various regions in the Eastern Hemisphere, with a particular emphasis on the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. The course is built around historical case studies set in Afghanistan, the Sudan, and India that provide the context for age-appropriate discussion of periods of conflict and recovery. Students master the geography of each region and become attuned to the impact of geography and resources on culture. Class time is devoted to map work and geography skills, discussion, small-group activities, mini-lectures, visual literacy, research, and individual and group projects. History 6 invites students to examine connections between the past and the present, to discuss global issues and current events, and to participate in the National Geography Bee.

History 7: The Western Hemisphere

History 7 is a geographical and historical introduction to the Western Hemisphere. Through their study of North America, South America, and the Caribbean islands, students learn about the history of human interaction with the natural environment. Students spend significant time studying pre-Columbian societies of the Americas, including the Maya, the Inca, the Taino, and dozens of indigenous North American tribes. They debate the role of Columbus and the Spanish conquistadors and explore current issues in the Americas such as land use conflict in the Amazon Rain Forest and environmental challenges in the Great Lakes as they seek to understand how the geography and history of each region shape the lives of people today. Throughout the year, students continue to develop important skills, such as close reading and critical thinking, analysis of both visual and textual primary sources, note-taking, and historical research. They apply these skills as they compose position papers and as they construct resource maps, cause and effect charts and annotated timelines to maximize their historical understanding.

History 8: American History

Beginning with the Colonial Era and moving chronologically through Reconstruction, this course highlights major events, individuals, social movements, and legislation in the history of the United States. An extensive unit on the writing and ratification of the Constitution provides students with essential knowledge of American civics and, as the course progresses, enables them to analyze the extent to which America has lived up to the ideals upon which it was founded. The course provides students with the knowledge and analytical skills necessary to understand and examine current events in a historical context. To this end, the course emphasizes primary document analysis, research strategies, expository writing, geographical knowledge, recognition of cause-effect relationships, and oral presentation skills. A class trip to Washington, D.C. allows students to apply what they have learned while exploring historical sites in our nation's capital.

Upper School

History 9: World History I

World History I introduces students to the history of early human societies with an eye towards helping them understand the diverse cultures of today's global world. The course examines early dynastic China, the Persian Empire and other early societies of Central Asia, Classical Greece, the Roman Republic and Empire, the rise of Christianity and Islam, the Byzantine Empire, and Medieval Europe. Through individual projects, class discussion and group activities, students explore historical themes, including the significance of geography in human history, the development of agriculture and commerce, the rise and fall of political states, the evolution of intellectual and cultural traditions, and the impact of technological innovation on society. Through the critical reading and analysis of primary and secondary sources, students hone their skills of oral presentation, persuasive writing, and historical research. Clarity and contextualization in historical writing and visual literacy remain departmental priorities throughout the high school years.

History 10

In this course, which covers the period from the European Renaissance to the present, students explore the impact of trade, technology, political philosophies, conquest, culture, and war on human societies. Students study major topics in global history, including the Reformation, the growth of the Muslim empires, China under the Ming and Qing dynasties, pre- and post-Columbian Latin America, the Enlightenment, the French and Industrial Revolutions, imperialism, World Wars I and II, and the Cold War. During the year, students research a theme, event, or figure of historical significance, which culminates in an analytical essay. Through close reading of primary and secondary documents, students are introduced to the principles of historiography as they construct their own historical arguments.

Honors History 10

This honors course in world history enables students to explore in greater depth the impact of trade, technology, political philosophies, conquest, culture, and war on human societies. Students study major topics in global history, including the Renaissance, the Reformation, the growth of the Muslim empires, China under the Ming and Qing dynasties, pre- and post-Columbian Latin America, the Enlightenment, the French and Industrial Revolutions, imperialism, World Wars I and II, and the Cold War. During the year, students research a theme, event, or figure of historical significance, which culminates in a thesis-driven analytical essay of significant length. Through close reading of primary and secondary documents, students are introduced to the principles of historiography as they construct their own historical arguments drawn from a variety of source materials. The structure of this honors-level course allows students to develop a more sophisticated understanding of both history and historical study. 

Advanced Placement European History

Covering the period from 1450 to the present, this course is a survey of modern European history and prepares students to take the AP European History exam. Although it emphasizes political ideas and institutions, the course also devotes considerable attention to the social, economic, cultural, and intellectual aspects of European history. Among the topics studied are: the religious, intellectual, and political factors that weakened the unifying forces of medieval civilization; the struggle for mastery in Europe; the development of representative forms of government in the West (especially in England and France) and authoritarian rule in the East (in Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia); challenges to conventional notions of truth and authority during the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, and the Enlightenment; the rise and decline of empire, focusing on the experiences of Spain, Austria-Hungary, France, Russia, Germany, and Britain; the growth of the nation-state in Europe; the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of new forms of economic and political organization; and the ideological conflicts of the twentieth century, focusing in particular on fascism, communism, and democracy.

History 11

This course develops and enhances students' understanding of the major events, individuals, movements, and ideas that have contributed to the development of the United States from the seventeenth century to the present. As they progress through their study of American history, students trace particular themes, including race and slavery, ideals of liberty and equality, American political and governmental development, the struggle of women and minorities for equality, social movements and reform traditions, major economic developments and cycles, immigration and ethnicity, the tension inherent within federalism, and the search for an American identity. The course emphasizes the following skills: making logical inferences, establishing cause and effect, analyzing and synthesizing historical data, interpreting documentary material, and supporting logical arguments. As students pursue independent study on a topic of their choice in order to produce a substantial research paper, they develop skills in critical thinking and expository writing.

Honors History 11

This course is an advanced introduction to the history and culture of the United States from the early seventeenth century to the present. The course aims to help students achieve a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the complexities of American history without the constraints imposed by preparation for a standardized exam. To that end, students trace some of the most significant themes in American history, including the problem of race, the concept of American Exceptionalism, the role of women, the balance of power between the states and the federal government, and the definition of citizenship. Students also study both historiography and historical memory to understand the differing ways in which historians and ordinary Americans interpret the past. The course places particular emphasis on the use of primary sources, including maps, diaries, fiction, images, and film. During the course of the year, students will be required to master factual information; to analyze and synthesize historical data; to interpret documentary material in a thoughtful and historically responsible manner; and to construct and support logical arguments. Students develop and employ these skills through the process of researching and writing a substantial analytical essay on a historical topic of their choice.

Advanced Placement United States History

Covering the period from the early seventeenth century to the present, this course is a survey of United States and prepares students to take the AP United States History exam. Among the principal topics to be covered are the peopling of North America; the effects of English settlement and expansion on Native American civilization; the establishment of political institutions; the varieties and significance of American religious experience; the impact of the Industrial Revolution on American politics and society; westward expansion and the American Dream; the experience of slavery and its legacies; the evolving roles of women in American life; social movements and reform traditions; the changing role of government in the lives of American citizens; and the growth of American power in the international arena.

African American History

This course examines African-American history in the broad contexts of American social, economic, and political history. The aim of the course is to show how, over a period of 400 years, the African-American experience has been both an integral component of American history, and, at the same time, a wholly singular development, marked by unique causal factors, social patterns, economic conditions and cultural contributions. To this end this course focuses in particular on the following: social and political tribal patterns in central and west Africa prior to the rise of the European slave trade; racial slavery in the context of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century global trade; American slavery in the Age of Enlightenment; patterns of slave culture, religion, and society; rebellion and other responses to enslavement in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; the activities and impact of black abolitionists; African Americans and the Civil War; emancipation and Reconstruction; the Jim Crow Era and various forms of “slavery by another name”; the emergence of conflicting “-isms” in black political thought in the early twentieth century; the Harlem Renaissance and other cultural developments in the first half of the twentieth century; the Civil Rights Movement, its achievements, and its critics within the black community; and, in the post-Civil Rights Era, increased opportunities and abiding inequities. By the end of the course, students will have acquired an understanding of the complex variety of historical events and circumstances that have contributed to and shaped the multi-faceted nature of the African-American experience.

Advanced Placement Art History

Covering the period from 30,000 B.C.E. to the present day, this course thoroughly prepares students for the Advanced Placement Exam in Art History. Rooted in visual, contextual, and comparative analysis, the AP Art History curriculum deepens students' understanding of works of art within their historical contexts by examining issues of politics, class, religion, patronage, audience, gender, function, and ethnicity. Through investigation of diverse artistic traditions from prehistory to the present, the course fosters an in-depth and holistic understanding of the history of art from a global perspective by analyzing works from 10 content areas: Global Prehistory; Ancient Mediterranean; Early Europe and Colonial Americas; Late Europe and Americas; Indigenous Americas; Africa; West and Central Asia; South, East, and Southeast Asia; The Pacific; and Global Contemporary.

Advanced Placement Comparative Government and Politics

In preparation for the AP Comparative Government and Politics exam, this course introduces students to the discipline of comparative politics through the examination of the governments in six case-study countries: Mexico, Great Britain, Russia, China, Iran, and Nigeria. The course exposes students to the contemporary political situations in key news-making countries around the world. By examining significant turning points and persistent challenges, students learn about the evolution of each country's political system, political culture, and economy. Because the class includes significant emphasis on coverage of these countries in both domestic and international newspapers, students become more savvy consumers of media. Regular video and multimedia components bring political themes and characters to life as students navigate their way through the often turbulent and always exciting subject of contemporary politics. 

Advanced Placement United States Government and Politics

By inculcating in students the analytical skills and factual knowledge necessary for a critical understanding of American government and politics, this course prepares students to take the Advanced Placement exam in U.S. Government and Politics. Students study the founding, structure, and operation of American national government; the government's constitutional basis and its major institutions, such as Congress, the presidency, executive agencies, and the courts; the role of political parties, elections, interest groups, public opinion, and the media; the relationship of government to the American economy and culture; and the ways in which the political dynamics of the policy-making process vary from one area of public policy to another. The overall goal of the course is to prepare students to be informed and critical observers of past and contemporary developments in government and politics.