History

Philosophy

The history department program in Forms III through VI is designed to provide students with the skills needed to meet the challenges of even the most rigorous college education. Emphasis is placed on the development of comprehension and communication skills and facility with handling primary and secondary source evidence. Students master the craft of essay writing. Research techniques are stressed, in particular library skills and the judicious and careful use of the Internet as well as the use of proper bibliographic citations.

Form III: Western Civilization

Fall Term: Religion and Culture in the Ancient World. This is a study of the African and Near Eastern origins of the first human beings; the evolution of small kingdoms and mighty empires in Egypt, Israel, Assyria, and Persia; and the great legacy of Greece to Western Civilization. There is an early visit to the American Museum of Natural History. Analysis of a wide range of primary and secondary sources is encouraged, including appropriate selections from the Old Testament, lm, poetry, and literature. Text: McKay, Hill, and Buckler, A History of Western Society, vols. A and B.

Winter Term: Rome, Christianity, and the Making of Europe. Students analyze the fall of
the Roman Republic and its transition into Empire, the rise of the great monotheistic religions, Christianity and Islam, and the rediscovery of Empire under Charlemagne. Judicious use is made of a variety of sources, including Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Text: McKay, Hill, and Buckler, A History of Western Society, vols. A and B.

Spring Term: The Challenge of the West from the Renaissance to the French Revolution. This class traces the growth and expansion of France, Portugal, Spain, and England into the Americas and India; their role in the African slave trade; and the growing conflict between authoritarian and constitutional forms of government culminating in the French Revolution. The importance of the scienti c revolution in increasing the power of the West is also analyzed. A variety of primary sources and secondary sources is used, including lm, especially Zinneman’s A Man for All Seasons and Wajda’s Danton. Text: McKay, Hill, and Buckler, A History of Western Society, vols. B and C. 

Form IV: World History

Fall Term: Ideology and Revolution from the French Revolution to World War I. The great forces unleashed by the French Revolution are analyzed in depth. Nationalism, liberalism, socialism, Marxism, and democracy are also seen within the context of 19th century Industrialization. Imperialism in Africa and Asia is also examined. World War I is seen as the culmination of the ‘isms.’ Text: McKay, Hill, and Buckler, A History of Western Society, Volume 2.

Spring Term: China and Japan and the Coming of World War II. This sequence analyses the rise of Nazi Germany, international communism in the Soviet Union, the weakness of the great democracies, and the coming of World War II in 1939. It also examines the cultural and social foundations of traditional Chinese and Japanese society. China and Japan’s interactions with the West in the early modern era are compared and contrasted, and their differing responses to Western imperialism are evaluated. The course also traces the rise of the communist party dictatorship in China under Mao Ze Dong, Deng Xiaoping, and Jiang Zemin. Texts: Moise, Modern China; Spence, The Search for Modern China; Duus, Modern Japan; McKay, Hill, and Buckler, A History of Western Society, Volume 1. 

Form V: Advanced United States History
Advanced United States History is an intensive college preparatory course covering major political, economic, social and cultural developments in American history from first contact to roughly the end of the Cold War. The course is designed to provide students with the analytical skills and factual knowledge necessary to deal critically with the intellectual challenges of United States history, as well as to master the AP exam in May. Students will learn to assess historical materials—their relevance to a given interpretive problem, their reliability and their importance—and to weigh the evidence and interpretations presented in historical scholarship. In addition, there is a heavy emphasis on essay writing and defending a strong thesis, as well as comparing similar themes across various time periods in American history. Because this course is the formal preparation for the AP exam, special attention is given to practice with multiple-choice questions, document-based questions and, generally speaking, the topics that are most commonly found on the AP exam. Most students will be highly encouraged to take the AP exam.

The year begins with a study of both the reasons for and methods of colonization. The religious, economic and political motives of the various groups are examined. The focus then turns to the tensions between the colonies and Britain and the ensuing war for American independence. The fall ends with a close examination of the 1787 Constitutional Convention and the establishment of the republic.

The increasing democratization of American politics and society, the impact of the idea of Manifest Destiny on the settlement of the West, the increasing industrialization of the North and the establishment of the Monroe Doctrine are the next topics covered. Subsequently students examine the sectional differences dividing the North and South in the antebellum period before looking at the key personalities and events in the American Civil War.

The spring begins with an examination of the role of industrialists, labor unions, journalists and reformers in shaping the latter part of the 19th century. The Spanish-American War leads into an examination of America’s role abroad. Next, the course focuses on World War I, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and the New Deal. Finally, U.S. involvement in World War II, the Cold War, the civil rights era, Vietnam and Watergate are some of the last topics of investigation.

Forms V or VI: Roots of Contemporary Geopolitics
Roots of Contemporary Geopolitics is a full-year elective offering for students in either Form V or Form VI. The course goal is to assist students in more fully understanding contemporary American history as well as America’s place within the context of global affairs since the end of the Cold War.

Fall Term: Students begin by studying the vast differences between the pre and post-WWII Americas. Coverage then turns to the roots of the Cold War, containment policy and the changes that the fear of communism brought to American culture and society during the 1950s. The curriculum next moves on to coverage of the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, the counterculture, and the expansion of individual rights that occurred as a result of that turbulent time period. In the second half of the first semester, students immerse themselves in the mid 1970s – the point where the Form V US History curriculum begins to end, and a critical juncture in American history. We discuss the consequences of the Vietnam War and the Watergate era, the “crisis of confidence” and the roots of the Reagan revolution before making our way through the bold 1980s and the implications for American behavior during this decade.

Spring Term: Upon reaching the beginning of the second semester, students are reminded what exactly this “new world order” is before considering the victorious 1990s and the ensuing era of globalization. Understanding this time period requires a working understanding of the expansion of free trade, the characteristics and personality of globalization itself, and the pros and cons of this unprecedented paradigm. Thus, the remainder of the third quarter of the year is spent discussing the events of the Clinton era and the global economic and societal effects of globalization. The fourth quarter of the year is spent covering emerging markets and the impact on America of what has been called “the rise of the rest” in the 21st century. Specific attention is paid to Brazil, Russia and the Eastern Bloc, India, and China, as well as case studies in Africa and the Middle East. The course concludes with a brief inquiry into the state of American democracy and the outlook for America’s place in the world in the rest of the 21st century. 

Form VI: Advanced European History
Advanced European History is a rigorous college preparatory course covering major political, economic, social and cultural developments in European history from 1450 to the present. This course is an effective vehicle for the acquisition of those skills of critical analysis needed for success in college. It is the formal preparation for the AP exam. The great breadth of content of this course necessitates considerable reading beyond the confines of the classroom. A significant interest in history itself is a prerequisite for success. Heavy emphasis is placed on essay writing under time constraints in the course. Texts: Palmer and Colton, “A History of the Modern World”; Kennedy, “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers”; and a variety of primary texts and sources.

Fall Term: European History from the Renaissance to Napoleon. The significance of the Renaissance and Reformation in creating the European nation state is studied. Students also examine Europe in the 17th century, the great conflict of ideas brought about by the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, and the causes of the French Revolution.

Spring Term: From Vienna to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Peacemaking efforts in Europe in 1815 and 1919 are compared and contrasted; revolutionary ideologies such as revolutionary nationalism, liberalism, socialism, Marxism, and anarchism are analyzed in great depth. Economic developments, especially Industrialization, are also examined. World War I is seen as the logical outcome of these cataclysmic forces. Students also study the rise of fascism and communism, the collapse of capitalism, and the crisis of democracy leading to World War II. The collapse of European power as a result of World War II and the emergence of the superpowers and Europe’s resurgence after 1945 with the growth of the European Union are analyzed. Europe’s role in the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 complete the sequence.

Form VI: Introduction to Philosophy
It is said there are three questions all human beings ask. Who am I? What is the world? What is my relationship to the world? This course invites students to ponder these questions in company with the writings of some of the world’s greatest thinkers. After reading selected texts, students share their questions and understanding in class discussion. Students are also expected to examine in experience the practical implications of these philosophies for their daily lives. Each unit concludes with a special assignment, usually in the form of an essay, requiring expression of what a specific aspect of the material has revealed to them. The culminating activity for the course is a project in which each student designs a universe of their own choosing and explains their rationale for the laws that govern it. Throughout the course, the aim is to enhance reasoning capacity, refine the ability to express views in writing and speech; to be respectful of opposing views always; and to employ all forms of communication to discover truth. 

Fall Term: The Western Philosophic Tradition – Platonism, Stoicism and Epicureanism.
The year begins with an exploration of Plato and the beginnings of the Western philosophic tradition. Students read Plato’s trilogy, the Apology, Crito and Phaedo, which examine the trial, imprisonment and last day of Socrates’ life. Excerpts from The Republic, which include the Ring of Gyges, the Tripartite Soul, the Myth of Er and the Cave Allegory, provide a laboratory for the consideration of justice, happiness and the nature of reality. Two films, The Matrix and Twelve Angry Men present modern adaptations of Socratic questions concerning levels of awareness and the dialectic process. Next, we examine Stoicism. The Enchiridion of Epictetus and the The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius serve as primary texts. The biographies of these philosophers illustrate the concept of unity in diversity as the former slave and Roman emperor embrace the same teaching. Courage Under Fire by James Stockdale illustrates how an American prisoner of war applied Stoic principles to survive brutal treatment during confinement. Finally, the Selected Writings and Testimonia of Epicurus acquaints students with an important school of thought in Ancient Greece, one that emphasized moderation, self-reliance and friendship. 

Spring Term: The Eastern Tradition – Vedanta, Buddhism, and Taoism.
The study of Eastern philosophy begins with an examination of Vedanta, one of the world’s oldest philosophies. Ancient and modern exponents such as Shankara, Vivekananda, and Dayananda provide the basic tenets of this school of Indian philosophy. The Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita are the two foundational texts, which examine the underlying nature of the individual and the world. Next, the life and teachings of Siddhartha, also known as the Buddha, are studied to understand his path to the elimination of suffering. The two primary texts are The Dhammapada, which consists of sayings attributed to the Buddha, and Thich Nhat Hahn’s The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, which offers a contemporary view of the Noble Eightfold Path. David Grubin’s award-winning lm The Buddha is viewed. Finally, the course turns to China. The teaching of Lao Tzu as presented in the Tao Te Ching focuses on wu wei or effortless action and inner tranquility. The 1951 documentary lm portraying Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition across the Paci c Ocean to Polynesia, Kon-Tiki, presents a practical example of wu wei.