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Ruth Marris-MacaulayDepartment Head

The History Department is committed to a wide-ranging program of history offerings as well as to helping students develop a set of higher-level skills that are important both in and out of the history classroom. Courses explore broad themes in American and world history, as well as focusing on particular histories, countries, and periods. Students are expected to develop expository writing ability, intellectual curiosity through critical reading and thinking, and discussion and debate skills.  Geography, current events, and how to be a responsible citizen in a democracy are also integrated into history courses.

Department Requirements

Successful completion of three years of History, including Topics in European History in Grade Nine and US History (or AP US History) in Grade Eleven.

Topics in European History 1350 - 1900
Grade Nine

All students in the ninth grade study the first part of the period, which we call "modern," covering the period from circa 1350 to 1800. The course asks what forces changed the assumptions, beliefs, and everyday practices of a world that was quite different from the one, which we now inhabit into one that was recognizably "modern." In asking the question of what defines modernity, we look at such events as the Crusades; the interaction in trade and ideas among Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and, ultimately, the Americas; the Renaissance and Reformation; and the Enlightenment. This is followed by a study of the revolutionary movements of the 19th century, the coming of industrialism, and the effects of nationalism and imperialism. Course materials include a textbook and numerous selected primary sources ranging from literature to philosophy to visual art to music. Topics include politics, religion, gender roles, economics, and intellectual and cultural trends. Evaluation will be through frequent quizzes, class discussions, short essays, and tests that include both objective and written questions.

prerequisite: none

Contemporary World Issues
Grade Ten

This course, which covers the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, picks up where Topics in European History ends and takes students beyond Europe to see more recent history from a global perspective.  Its main focus is intellectual history and it demonstrates how changing patterns of thought and new ideas have had an impact on society and its institutions from the First World War to the War on Terror. Revolution, industrialization, nationalism, and the making of the post-colonial world are central themes as well as world war, communism and fascism, science and technology, literature and the arts, popular culture, and changes in the lives of women and minorities. Units on Indian independence, African nationalism, and issues in the Middle East are the focal points of the study as well as the struggle between Islamic fundamentalism and Western values, environmental issues, and the world economy. There is heavy emphasis on the use of primary source materials, writing, and discussion.

prerequisite: none

AP US History
Grade Eleven

This course is a survey of American history from the first European settlers to the recent past. The course is taught as a college-level course. Therefore, the student is expected to learn and retain most of the factual narrative of American history through her own reading. Class work and assignments focus on wrestling with and understanding the larger problems and questions of American history. Through the reading of primary and secondary sources, the student also confronts the issues historians face in trying to interpret the past. Summer reading is required, as well as good expository writing and critical thinking skills.

prerequisite: A skills assessment exercise will be given in Grade 10 for placement in AP US History in Grade 11.            

US History
Grade Eleven

Throughout history, the storied strength of the United States has been defined as the unity found between different peoples, bridging their differences in the interest of the common good. This strength in unity, however, has often come at a price, as particular groups – immigrant and native – have been forced to sacrifice their beliefs and rights, struggling to become accepted members of mainstream society: struggling to be American.

Through thematic units and exercises to develop critical thinking, reading, and writing, this course will trace the history of the United States from the American Revolution through the beginning of the 21st century. But our examination of the trends and particular moments in American history will be done through the eyes of those for whom unity has not been so easy. Their struggles to become accepted as American will, in turn, help answer the following question: Who is American and who decides?

prerequisite: none

AP Art History & Art History
Grades Eleven & Twelve

These courses are taught together and are designed to provide an introductory course in art history through an understanding of architecture, sculpture, painting, and other art forms within historical and cultural contexts. Students will examine major forms of artistic expression from both the past and the present, and Western and non-Western cultures will be represented. Students will learn to look at works of art critically, with intelligence and sensitivity, and to analyze what they see through frequent written assignments. The course will follow the Advanced Placement curriculum, a survey of western and non-Western art from prehistory to the present. Students taking the AP course will have different assignments from those taking the regular Art History survey.  This class is also open to juniors (in addition to a US History course).

prerequisiteAny student may take this course, but to take  it at the AP college level course students will need to complete a skills assessment exercise successfully.  

Postcolonialism in Africa, Asia, & Australasia
Not offered 2014-15
Grades Eleven and Twelve

By examining the legacy of colonialism in Africa, Asia, and Australasia, students will come to grips with the issues facing the contemporary world through the study of history, ideas, film, political science, sociology, the arts, literature, and feminism.  We will look at the effects of imperialism on culture and how these parts of the world have moved and are still moving beyond colonization toward mutual respect.  This will involve deconstructing concepts of racism and imperialism and creating a forum in which diverse voices are heard without labeling those voices as "other."  To do this we will do our best to step back from a western point of view and understand that postcolonialism is not just a period of time after colonialism, but a new way of thinking about the world.  Inherent assumptions will be challenged and critiques of the legacies of colonialism will be undertaken.  We will also look at how cultural identity is articulated in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.        

prerequisite: none

Tradition and Modernism in the Middle East
Grades Eleven and Twelve

This course is designed to provide an introduction to the Middle East - from its roots in antiquity to the present day.  We will approach this topic in an interdisciplinary way - from looking at the political, social, and economic history of the region to reading literature, viewing films, and attending lectures and events in the local Providence and Boston area.  One focus will be on the rise of Islam and the interactions between the Islamic empires and countries of the area and the West.  Another focus will be on the lives of individuals and the impact on those lives of big historical events, as well as critical reading, writing, and thinking.  This course will also make wide use of all the technology we have available - from viewing news reports on Al Jazeera and reading blogs from across the Middle East, to Skyping students in schools in Jordan, to making presentations on wikis and participating in blogs.

prerequisite: none

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