Explore our Curriculum

History and Social Science

The History and Social Science Department strives to provide students with an understanding of past events and the differing viewpoints of those who participated in them. We seek to encourage the development among our students of certain historical skills: intelligent questioning, gathering and interpreting data, analyzing concepts, recognizing the significance of historic occurrences, understanding cause and effect, and synthesizing information to produce one’s own interpretation of the past. As a natural consequence of encouraging the development of these skills, we teach students to express their ideas with clarity and vigor in both class discussion and in their writing. Ultimately, we hope that the study of history will become for them a life-long process and provide them with an awareness of complexity and ambiguity as they confront ethical choices in their own lives and seek to unravel meaning in the world around them.
  • Behemoths: The Decline and Rise of China and India (S)

    Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. During the past few decades, India and China have experienced unprecedented economic growth, reversing two centuries of decline and stagnation, and re-establishing themselves as two of the world's most important states, together comprising around a quarter of the world's economic output and a third of the world's population. This course aims to explain Indian and Chinese society in the 21st century by examining how during the 19th century once great Indian and Chinese civilizations underwent unexpected and dramatic decline and then in the late 20th century re-emerged in equally surprising fashion. The readings in this course are largely from Orville Schell, Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century, and from Barbara and Thomas Metcalf, A Concise History of Modern India.

    Students are expected to be able to conduct independent research and to engage classmates in spirited but appropriate and effective discussion and debate. Students should be able to write well-organized and comprehensive essays.
  • Capitalism: A Global History (S)

    Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. Prerequisite: Modern Global History; can be taken alongside US History. No prior knowledge of economics is required. In the early 21st century, capitalism's global reach is truly unprecedented. How did we get here? This course examines the development of capitalism from its theoretical beginnings to its most contentious political and cultural conflicts with other economic and social ideologies. This course starts with economic history and engages with the political, cultural, and social forces that have come to define it. Students will read original thinkers, such as Adam Smith and Karl Marx, and grasp the development of capitalism in its global manifestations from a variety of academic and popular sources to access the most encompassing range of materials available.
  • Court & Constitution: Equal Protection and the Law (S)

    Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. This course examines the role of the Constitution and the Supreme Court in American life with respect to the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee to the equal protection of the laws. Students will examine the scope and meaning of the Court’s adjudication in this area. Most of their inquiry will look at the Court’s post-war work in this area with respect to race, ethnicity origin, gender, and sexuality. We begin with a brief examination of the meaning and scope of the equal protection clause in the early decades following the ratification of the 14th Amendment, its evolution in the 1930s and ’40s, and its dramatic expansion in the 1950s with the Brown v. Board of Education decisions. The class traces the Court’s equal protection jurisprudence across the landscape of racial segregation, gender discrimination, and ethnic classifications. This study includes an array of issues that define equal protection interpretation in recent decades, including school desegregation, busing, voting rights, employment discrimination, affirmative action, and same-sex marriage. The readings for this class include excerpts from relevant monographs, briefs, opinions, and documents related to the syllabus.

    Students are expected to possess a survey knowledge of US History, a passion for debate, and an ability to compose clear analytical essays. By the end of the term, it is hoped students will be more purposeful and persuasive in their ability to engage in textual analysis of legal briefs and opinions, summarize and assess historical/constitutional concepts and themes, and recognize that the Court’s work is best understood as an interrelated thematic whole. An end-of-term mock court is a capstone opportunity for students to display a mastery of these skills.
  • Court & Constitution: Ind. Liberty and the Law (W)

    Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. This course examines the role of the Constitution and the Supreme Court in American life with respect to individual liberty. The focus in the fall is on individual rights in the development of federal jurisprudence and constitutional interpretation from the framing of the Constitution to the work of the contemporary Court. This study includes the origins and development of judicial review, the nationalization of the Bill of Rights and the “incorporation controversy,” and the development of substantive due process adjudication with respect to individual liberty. The term ends with a public mock court simulation of either a recent Court decision or a hypothetical case. This exhibition includes written briefs, oral arguments, and written opinions. The readings for this class include excerpts from relevant monographs, legal briefs, Court opinions, and documents related to the syllabus.
     
    Students are expected to possess a survey knowledge of US History, a passion for debate, and an ability to compose clear analytical essays. By the end of the term, it is hoped that they will be more purposeful and persuasive in their ability to engage in textual analysis of legal briefs and opinions, summarize and assess historical/constitutional concepts and themes, and recognize that the Court’s work is best understood as an interrelated thematic whole. The mock court is a capstone opportunity for students to display a mastery of these skills.
  • Foundations of Global History (Y)

    Taught jointly by the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department and the History and Social Sciences Department, this course surveys the histories and cultures that have shaped world civilizations and supports students in gaining the requisite skills, intercultural knowledge, and experience for success in the humanities. Global in scope, the course surveys peoples and histories of Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Mediterranean. Societies studied include Angkor, Athens, Babylon, Cahokia, Chichén Itzá, China, Egypt, Great Zimbabwe, Kilwa, Kush, India, Japan, Korea, Mali, Rome, Srivijaya, Yoruba, and more. The course considers a plurality of religious and philosophical traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, and Vodun. The course develops students’ skills for note-taking, critical inquiry, academic dialogue, and analytical writing. In order to prepare students for the Upper School history research paper requirements, one term will feature assessments specifically designed to help students discover, interpret, evaluate, synthesize, and cite scholarly resources.
  • History and Memory: Global Perspectives (F)

    Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. Prerequisite: World and the West; can be taken alongside US History. Remembering and forgetting are intertwined in the fabric of the human experience. How do communities memorialize their histories? How should they? Who owns the past? Whose past is lauded and whose marginalized? This course will examine several examples of historical reparations, as well as monuments, memorials, and museums and the politics involved in their creation, maintenance, and destruction. Students will grapple with theories and examples regarding historical memory, reparative justice, national myth-making, and public commemorations, as well as the enduring ways these processes, programs, and sites have been and remain contested. Touching on material from nearly every continent, this course offers a global perspective and seeks to understand the fruitful ways national comparisons can enrich our understanding of the ways the past is remembered.
  • Microeconomics (F)

    Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. This course introduces students to the fundamentals of microeconomics. The course begins with a study of the basic forces that determine an equilibrium in a market economy. Next, it introduces a framework to analyze how consumers and producers make their decisions. We then look at the role of competition and the impact of market structures on firms' behavior. At the end of the course, we will use microeconomic theory to analyze some of the more advanced topics, such as international trade, behavioral economics, game theory, and equity versus efficiency trade-offs in economic policy. Though this course is not designed to prepare students for the Advanced Placement Examination, students are welcome to take the exam if they wish. They will, however, need to do substantial extra reading during school vacations in advance of the exam.
  • Modern Global History (Y)

    Open to Fifth and Fourth Formers and required of all students in the Upper School. Modern Global History is a year-long course that carries the human story forward from the year 1200 to the present. The course examines the role played by western and non-western societies in the development of the modern world and focuses in particular on the cross-cultural interchange between the world's societies during the past millennia. Because of the broad time span it covers, Modern Global History fills an important role in the larger school curriculum by enabling students to place knowledge acquired in other courses in its proper chronological context.
     
    Students entering Modern Global History should be able to write a five-paragraph essay with effective thesis and topic sentences. They should be able to take notes and organize information on their own when preparing for both objective and essay tests. They should have an enhanced capacity for abstract reasoning beyond that expected in the Lower School. Among the many skills taught in Modern Global History are: an understanding of point of view and the ability to make judgments concerning relative reliability when using primary sources, the ability to use these primary sources in document-based essay questions, the ability to handle multiple-choice questions of a type generally used on standardized national exams, and the ability to engage in spirited but civil class discussions. As they continue to hone their critical thinking and essay writing skills, students will also undertake two research papers sometime during the year. Their instructors lead them through all phases of the process including: identifying an appropriate historical question as a topic, orientation to the library, finding and discriminating among sources (whether accessed in person or online), developing an argument based upon this research, understanding of what plagiarism is and how it can be avoided, and formatting proper footnotes and bibliography according to the University of Chicago style.
     
    Though this course is not explicitly designed to prepare students for the Advanced Placement Examination in World History: Modern, they are welcome to take the exam if they wish. They will, however, need to do extra reading during school vacations in advance of the exam.
  • Monuments, Reparations, and the Politics of the Past (F)

    Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. Prerequisite: Modern Global History; can be taken alongside US History. Remembering and forgetting are intertwined in the fabric of the human experience. How do communities memorialize their histories? How should they? Who owns the past? Whose past is lauded and whose marginalized? This course will examine several examples of historical reparations, as well as monuments, memorials, and museums and the politics involved in their creation, maintenance, and destruction. Students will grapple with theories and examples regarding historical memory, reparative justice, national myth-making, and public commemorations, as well as the enduring ways these processes, programs, and sites have been and remain contested. Touching on material from nearly every continent, this course offers a global perspective and seeks to understand the fruitful ways national comparisons can enrich our understanding of the ways the past is remembered.
  • Racism and Genocide (F)

    Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. This course examines the nature of racism and genocide by exploring in detail the history of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust and of the Atlantic Slave Trade and slavery in the Americas. Students will also conduct independent research on episodes of genocide and ethnic conflict in places such as Cambodia and Rwanda. Readings, which are largely primary sources, including Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, a Slave, Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative and Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavas Vassa, the African, Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz, and Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men. Students are expected to be able to conduct independent research and engage classmates in spirited but respectful and effective discussion and debate. Students should be able to write well-organized and comprehensive essays that reflect an understanding of the topics and an appreciation for the relevance of the material. Some of the language and images used in the various course materials may make some students uncomfortable.
  • Sport and Society in U.S. History Since 1945 (S)

    Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. Students in this course will use sport as a lens for exploring and understanding recent U.S. history. Our study will move chronologically, tracing issues of race, gender, ethnicity, and economic change using figures, events, and trends from American sports history. In addition to examining these topics, students will be given opportunities to pursue areas of personal interest through individual research. This course will draw on a variety of sources from historians, journalists, and documentary filmmakers rather than a single text.
  • Sport and Society in World History Since 1945 (W)

    Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. Students in this course will use sport as a lens for exploring and understanding global developments since the Second World War. Three main topics will be used to organize our study: the Cold War, Decolonization, and Globalization. Within these topics, we will look at the role of major events like the Olympics and the World Cup, as well as the influence of specific sports like soccer, basketball, and hockey. In addition to examining these topics, students will be given opportunities to pursue areas of their own interest through individual research. This course will draw on a variety of sources from historians, journalists, and documentary filmmakers rather than a single text.
  • Sport and Society: United States History Since 1945 (S)

    Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. Students in this course will use sport as a lens for exploring and understanding recent U.S. history. Our study will move chronologically, tracing issues of race, gender, ethnicity, and economic change through using figures, events, and trends from American sports history. In addition to examining these topics, students will be given opportunities to pursue areas of personal interest through individual research. This course will draw on a variety of sources from historians, journalists, and documentary filmmakers rather than a single text.
  • Sport and Society: World History Since 1945 (W)

    Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. Students in this course will use sport as a lens for exploring and understanding global developments since the Second World War. Three main topics will be used to organize our study: the Cold War, Decolonization, and Globalization. Within these topics, we will look at the role of major events like the Olympics and the World Cup, as well as the influence of specific sports like soccer, basketball, and hockey. In addition to examining these topics, students will be given opportunities to pursue areas of their own interest through individual research. This course will draw on a variety of sources from historians, journalists, and documentary filmmakers rather than a single text.
  • The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union (F)

    Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. This course will examine the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. Our study will begin with Lenin and the Bolsheviks and progress through the revolutionary period and the emergence of Stalinism. We will follow Stalin's leadership through the Great Patriotic War (World War II) and the emergence of the Cold War in its aftermath. From there, we will focus on the Soviet role in Eastern Europe and elsewhere as well as the decline and stagnation of the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Finally, we will conclude with Gorbachev's failed reforms and the ultimate collapse of the empire in 1991. We will read Orlando Fige's Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History as our text while CNN's documentary, Cold War, will also be used extensively.
  • International Relations (W)

    Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. What does the WTO do? What is an ICBM? Why is the Korean peninsula still divided? Is Globalization a good thing? What is the ICC? Where is Latvia and why should Americans care?

    This course examines major issues in international relations today, including regional conflicts in places such as the Middle East and Asia, and various trends in global affairs, including trade, migration, and the rise of authoritarianism. Students learn about the international challenges facing both the United States and the world at large. The starting point of the course is a look at differing theories of International Relations and how US foreign policy is made. Students then conduct extensive research to prepare for role-plays, simulations, and debates on a variety of topics including Sino-American relations, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and humanitarian intervention. In addition, students play the board game, Diplomacy, a simulation of international relations. Most readings are articles from the archives of Foreign Affairs magazine, and other readings include articles from journals such as Foreign Policy, The National Interest, Current History, The American Interest, and The Foreign Policy Association’s Great Decisions series. Students are expected to be able to conduct research independently and engage classmates in spirited but appropriate and effective discussion and debate. Students should be able to write well-organized and comprehensive essays that consider solutions to difficult questions as well as reflect an understanding and appreciation of the complexity of international relations and different points of view.
  • United States History (Y)

    Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers who have completed Modern Global History and required of all students in the Upper School, United States History is a survey course that begins with the pre-Revolutionary War Period and continues through the post-War era. While recognizing the different cultures that have contributed to the American experience, this course emphasizes the values we all share in common: democratic participation in government, freedom of expression and basic civil liberties, the rule of law, social movements, and the relationship between liberty and equality. In addition, students also explore the changing role the United States has played in the world.
     
    Enrollment in U.S. History assumes that students will have a thorough grounding in the foundation skills for historical inquiry taught in Foundations of Global History and Modern Global History, including researching and writing a major paper. During the year, students will continue to develop as analytical writers, critical readers, and inquiring discussants in pursuit of an understanding that our history may be interpreted in many and varied ways.
     
    Though this course is not designed to prepare students for the Advanced Placement Examination, students are welcome to take the exam if they wish. They should, however, prepare during school vacations in advance of the exam.

Our Faculty

  • Photo of Ryan Spring
    Ryan Spring
    History and Social Science Department Head
    Bio
  • Photo of Renee Bai
    Renee Bai
    Chinese, History and Social Science
    978-448-7794
    Bio
  • Photo of Harold Francis
    Harold Francis
    Assistant Director of Athletics
    978-448-7247
    Bio
  • Photo of Midori  Ishizuka
    Midori Ishizuka
    History
    978-448-7470
    Bio
  • Photo of Tommy Lamont
    Tommy Lamont
    Lawrence Family Chair in History and World Affairs
    978-448-3363
    Bio
  • Photo of John Lyons
    John Lyons
    Director of New Faculty Development, John Hay Whitney Chair of History and Public Affairs
    978-448-7428
    Bio
  • Photo of Dylan Madden
    Dylan Madden
    History Fellow
    Bio
  • Photo of Eric Spierer
    Eric Spierer
    978-448-7716
    Bio