History

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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. 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. Analysis of a wide range of primary and secondary sources is encouraged, including appropriate selections from the Old Testament, film, poetry, and literature. Text: McKay, Hill, and Buckler, A History of Western Society, Volume 1

Spring Term: Rome, Christianity, and the Making of Europe. Students analyze the rise of the Roman Republic and its transition into Empire, the emergence of the great monotheistic religions, Christianity and Islam. This class also traces the growth and expansion of France, Portugal, Spain and England into the Americas and India and their participation in the African slave trade. The role of the European Reformation in increasing divisions in European society is also analyzed. A variety of primary and secondary sources are used, including film, especially Zinneman’s A Man for All Seasons. Text: McKay, Hill, and Buckler, A History of Western Society, Volume 1

Form IV: The Modern World
A survey of the political, social, economic and cultural history of the modern world from the mid-eighteenth through the beginning of the twenty-first century. Employing a Global History approach, topics include: the American Revolution; the French Revolution and Napoleonic Era; Haitian and Latin American revolutions; industrialization and its political consequences; liberalism, socialism, and nationalism in nineteenth-century Europe; imperialism in the Americas, Africa, and Asia; the second wave of industrialization in the late nineteenth century; Great Power competition and the rise of extreme nationalism; World War I; the Russian Revolution of 1917; the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of contemporary Middle Eastern states; the rise of Populist regimes in Latin America; the emergence of the United States as a world power; Weimar and Nazi Germany; Fascist Italy; Africa and Asia between the wars; World War II; the Cold War; decolonization in Asia and Africa, including Indian independence; Communist China; pre-war and post-war Japan; the end of Soviet communism; the end of the Apartheid regime in South Africa; and the rise of the global economy at the end of the twentieth century.

Students read from a textbook and a collection of primary documents and are assessed through a series of tests, quizzes, and analytical essays based on primary sources and secondary readings. Close attention is paid to the writing process, including outlining, using quotations effectively, editing and revision. Students will also conduct library research on post-World War II topics of their choice and write a 10-page research paper.

Form V: Advanced United States History
United States History will cover major political, economic, social and cultural developments in American history from first contact to 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 challenges of United States history. Students will learn to assess primary sources – 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, the course will emphasize essay writing and defending a strong thesis, as well as comparing similar themes across various time periods in American history. Attention is also given to practice with multiple-choice, short answer and document-based questions. 

The Advanced section of this course will emphasize preparation for the Advanced Placement examination; the other section will examine key issues in American history in greater depth.

Forms V or VI: Modern Political Thought 
A survey of modern political thought in the West. It examines some of the key thinkers and concepts in modern political thought and will acquaint students with a range of views within the Western tradition. Our approach will be both historical and conceptual and will aim to provide a complex but clear understanding of political theory as a distinctive form of political inquiry. We will read and discuss many of the great European political theorists from the Renaissance through the beginning of the 20th century, including Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Kant, Smith, Burke, Hegel, Tocqueville, Mill, Marx and Nietzsche. We will attend to the particular crises these thinkers addressed in their work such as the European wars of religion, the English Civil War, colonialism, the French Revolution, the rise of the modern State, industrial capitalism, and the modern self. Close readings of the texts will allow us to discuss enduring questions regarding freedom, equality, legitimacy, political economy, and liberalism.

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 Advanced Placement 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 in the course is placed on essay writing under time constraints. 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: The History of New York City
The History of New York City explores the development of the great American metropolis and the diversity of modern urban life. The course encourages students to deepen appreciation of their home city, while strengthening the reading, research, and writing skills required for college study. Major themes include the ascendance of American capitalism, the rise of mass politics, assimilation, diversity, modernism, and the city’s role in the global imagination. Texts include: Tyler Anbinder, City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York; and Robert Caro, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. Class also features work with primary documents, literature, film, documentary, oral history, and field research.

Fall Term: The History of New York City to 1919. What factors allowed New York City to emerge as the United States’ premier city? And what was life like for earlier New Yorkers? To answer these questions, we explore the city’s many faces: frontier outpost; colonial port; revolutionary battleground; industrial center; immigrant destination; financial capital; sprawling metropolis; suffragist center; and national power. While our narrative is loosely bounded by World War I, thematic linkages to contemporary New York City are also developed.

Spring Term: Modern Gotham from the 1920s to Today. New York’s emergent status world capital is examined as we journey: from the cosmopolitanism of the Roaring Twenties to the austerity of the Great Depression; from the defense mobilization of World War II to the bridges, highways, and housing towers that modernized the post-war city; from Ellis Island to the Great Migration of African Americans; from jazz to hip-hop; and from a European metropolis to a new city of Latin Americans, Asians, and Muslims. We conclude with a look at Gotham’s 21st century challenges: security, income inequality, segregated schools, gentrification, and climate change.