History Program & Faculty
The study of the past and of human culture is essential to the creation of an educated mind. History courses are intended to give students a rich understanding of the past, an empathy for other cultures and peoples, and a civic awareness of the catalysts for—and consequences of—social, political, economic, and cultural change. Students explore and examine these ideas at the same time that they develop and refine their reading, writing, synthetic, and analytical skills.
Requirements in History
The Walnut Hill diploma requires two years of study in history, one of which must be United States History. Incoming 9th graders are also required to take The Medieval World. It is strongly recommended that students enroll in additional departmental offerings.
Courses in History
THE MEDIEVAL WORLD
This course explores the medieval world in order to ask questions that are fundamental to nearly any era of history: What is authority and where does it come from? How do cultures respond to their context and to what degree are they shaped by the past? What roles do individuals play in the larger society? This course emphasizes history as an active pursuit of asking questions, constructing arguments, and examining multiple points of view.
This course is in the standard sequence for 9th-grade students not in ELL Intermediate.
THE MODERN WORLD
This course examines the early modern history of a number of places around the world, including the Americas, Oceania, and Europe. With a special focus on interaction across political, cultural, and economic boundaries, the course is organized into thematic units that progress roughly chronologically from the 16th to 20th centuries. Our work includes examining primary sources in context, critiquing secondary sources, and collaborating on group presentations. What are the stories we tell, and who gets to tell them?
This course is in the standard history sequence and is most often taken in grade 10.
US HISTORY - THE EVOLUTION OF CULTURE AND IDENTITY IN AMERICA
How have American culture and identity been shaped through the years? Is there such a thing as a true American identity? In United States History, students will explore these questions and the many dimensions of the American experience from the colonial period through the 20th century. Our studies of American identity will be richly informed by close readings of primary and secondary texts and careful attention to select images and film.
This course is in the standard history sequence and is most often taken in grade 11. This course fulfills the graduation requirement for US History.
CREATING AMERICA: US HISTORY FOR ELL STUDENTS
This course is designed for international students with little or no background in the History of the United States. Exploring essential questions, students will examine a range of factors that shaped America’s economy, politics, and culture. In addition to providing a rich introduction to America’s past, this course focuses on developing skills of reading comprehension, academic writing, and classroom participation that will support students as they pursue further study in mainstream English-speaking settings.
This course is an option only for international students and fulfills the graduation requirement for US History.
ACTIVISM & DEMOCRACY (HISTORY ELECTIVE)
Is activism necessary to maintain a prosperous democracy? A key part of democracy is the ability to vote and have your voice heard. In the United States, it also affords its citizens and inhabitants a set of inalienable human rights based on moral understanding and beliefs. In this course, students will explore the moral compass of movements for voting rights and civil rights as well as movements to protest the Vietnam war. Students will pay particular attention to the historical voices of activists and compare their intent and contexts to social theory.
20th CENTURY US HISTORY THROUGH ART & MEDIA (HISTORY ELECTIVE)
How did Americans understand, shape, and participate in their society in the 20th century? Students in this course will examine 20th-century U.S. history through the lens of art and media, discovering how these reveal vital information about American culture across different decades. Careful consideration will be given to the power of the arts and the media to both influence and reflect upon social movements, politics, and the shaping of various American identities.
ART HISTORY: REPRESENTATION, REALISM & ABSTRACTION (HISTORY ELECTIVE)
This course is designed to provide a foundation of understanding of art and art making post-Renaissance. Each week will focus on a particular, iconic artist to explore the role of artist identity and to analyze artistic evolution. The course aims to explore a wide range of media and aesthetics, and expose students to artists of diverse cultures, gender identities, and backgrounds. Works of art will be examined in relation to their function, artistic expression, and cultural impact—all of which are tied to their social, political, and technological contexts.
THE MODERN MIDDLE EAST (HISTORY ELECTIVE)
Understanding the Middle East today requires both a long view of history and an up-to-the-minute appreciation for globalization and global politics. Students in this course will map the region’s timelines, from early Islam through the Syrian Civil War, and they will chart its overlapping ethnic, religious, political, and economic landscapes. Special focus will be placed on developments around World War I, the Cold War, and the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. In addition to the skills central to the Humanities Department, students will practice connecting current events to deep historical patterns and events in the region and around the world.