Academic Program
Upper School



The History Department fosters in Upper School students an appreciation for the richness of their world by discovering the impact of social, political, geographic, economic and cultural patterns within and across time periods; researching primary sources that present different perspectives on historical events, along with the ideas and debates behind them; and analyzing and synthesizing their sources to produce original research.
Our core program continues the global history sequence begun in Middle School and then returns to an in-depth study of United States history. Subsequent electives allow students to investigate more closely topics of particular interest, including those in American and global studies. Throughout the program, students increase their curiosity, develop their capacity for critical and creative thinking, and expand their openness to new ideas and different perspectives.

Upper School History Curriculum

List of 4 items.

  • Grade 9: Global History

    Global History 1: 1700-1900
    How do we know what we know about the past? This course examines the power and the limits of the historical method through an exploration of the emergence of the modern world. Students will learn to analyze change and continuity within and between historical periods and evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time, place, and context. Topics include the “Atlantic World,” global slave systems, the Enlightenment, the French and Haitian Revolutions, Latin American independence movements, the Industrial Revolution, and Imperialism and Colonialism.

    Global History 2: 1900-1945
    How does our interpretation of sources shape our understanding of history? This course is a continuation of Global 1. Students will learn to analyze sources using historical thinking strategies in order to explain what happened in the past and its significance for the present. A key feature of this course is a research project that invites students to develop a well-supported response to a question that considers multiple perspectives, draws defensible conclusions, and addresses counter-claims. Topics include the origins of World War I, the global Great Depression, and World War II.
  • Grade 10: Global History and US History

    Global History 3: 1945-2000s
    Global History 3 begins with the challenges of establishing peace and global recovery in the wake of World War II. We examine the aspirations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approved in 1948 by the General Assembly of the newly created United Nations. The principles outlined in this document guide our analysis of post- WWII anti-colonial movements as well as the impact of late - 20th and early 21st century globalization on human experiences. A major part of this semester- long course will consider the demands for independence and for human rights by historically oppressed voices. We will explore the challenges underlying the establishment of new nation-states across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa during the Cold War era. Students will also investigate how voices for democracy in China and Eastern Europe contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union. The multiple dimensions of identity, economics, environment, human migration, and public health will inform our culminating study of topics related to 21st century globalization. Throughout the semester, students will continue to develop their critical thinking, research, and writing skills by evaluating diverse sources of evidence, identifying missing voices commonly omitted from the historical narrative, posing critical thinking questions, and considering the role of civic engagement in providing solutions to human rights issues. The course will culminate with a research-based project and collaborative activity in which students will deliberate on solutions to current global challenges and conflicts. 

    United States History 1: 1500-1865
    We begin the course by exploring the “First Encounters” of indigenous peoples in North America with Europeans in the late 16th and 17th centuries and the experiences of people from Africa following their initial forced arrival in Virginia in 1619. Lessons will stress the primary theme of democracy, calling attention to the roles of land, slavery, and freedom in British colonial societies, the expansion of revolutionary thought leading to the founding of the republic, the ratification of the United States Constitution in the late 18th century, and the construction of race as slave societies tightened their legal and social restrictions on enslaved people. As we explore the evolution of political, economic, and social freedoms and their limitations, we will understand better the contributions of enslaved peoples and free Black Americans to the Market Revolution and how a racialized democracy shaped cultural and social relations. We will then focus on the ensuing developments of democratic institutions and practices, as well as reform movements by the mid-nineteenth century, including abolitionism, women’s rights, and the religious revivals of the Great Awakening. Along with an emphasis on geography, we then examine the many voices that shaped the national debate over the Mexican-American War; the sectional crisis over the expansion of slavery by 1861; and the transformative role played by Black soldiers in the Civil War
  • Grade 11: US History

    United States History 2: 1865-1945
    We will explore the multiple perspectives on the question “Who is an American?” and the theme of immigration, allowing us to examine experiences of new immigrants and the laws and attitudes shaping immigration policy. Readings and materials will also highlight the formation of the free Black political communities during Reconstruction, and the subsequent rise of systemic racial institutions and laws through violence and segregation. Next we examine the process of urbanization and the transformation of the West--a diverse region that included embattled cultures of indigenous peoples and new Chinese communities. As we shed light on the history of the nation’s inclusion and exclusion of social groups, we will study the emergence of the U.S. as an imperial power at the turn of the century, the changing role of the government during the American involvement in the two World Wars, and the transformation of economic, social and cultural institutions during the interwar years of the 1920’s and the Great Depression—including the music, art, and literature of the Harlem Renaissance--as well as the diversity of political thought. An emphasis will be placed upon group projects on gender, race and intersectionality in the women’s suffrage movement and the Chinese American experience. 

    United States History 3: 1945-2000s
    With “rights” being the primary theme of the course, we will examine how Americans have sought to uphold the rule of law established by the U.S. Constitution, which begins with the phrase “We the people” in its preamble. We explore how the checks and balances principle (amongst the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of federal government), and the separation of powers principle (between national and state governments), influenced power relationships in the U.S. We will inquire how individuals and groups have sought to end inequalities and we will examine a diversity of experiences that shaped the history of the U.S. since WWII. The course begins with an introduction to the long civil rights movement (LCRM) through the lens of the Japanese American experiences during and following their WWII incarceration, including their demands for redress of their loss of civil liberties and economic power. We then learn about the origins of The Cold War, the rise of consumer culture during the post-war economic boom, and the anti-communism that defined the 1945-1959 period. We explore the many voices within The Black Freedom Struggle, 1950s-1970s, honoring in particular the roles of Black women in the movement. The course follows with the Social Movements of the 1960s-1970s that contested established power while seeking to extend freedoms to all. In the following units, Turning Right: Political and Economic Fault Lines of the 1970s, The New Divisions of the 1980s, and The Roaring Nineties, students will investigate how new media and technology created opportunities with modern globalization, but also how political polarization and culture wars defined the late-twentieth century. We also examine the differing economic experiences of Americans, controversies related to presidential powers, and the ongoing tensions between government policy and individual freedoms. Finally, the course ends with a look at early-twenty-first century challenges--such as sustaining democracy and climate change--calling attention to the roots of the state of political discourse today. Throughout the semester, students will continue to develop their critical thinking, research, and writing skills by evaluating diverse sources of evidence, identifying missing voices commonly omitted from the historical narrative, posing critical thinking questions, and considering the role of civic engagement in providing solutions to “rights” issues. 
  • Grade 12: Electives

    Campaigns and Electives
    Are campaigns and elections in the United States a sign of democracy in action or a broken system in need of repair? Although presidential elections attract the most attention, campaigns and elections influence all levels of American political life. Grounded in the contested history of the right to vote, this course explores the American electoral process, the transformation of American campaigns, and modern campaign strategies. In conjunction with members of the mathematics and computer science departments, the course examines how data is gathered, analyzed, presented, and interpreted, most commonly in the form of polls, surveys and statistics. Students will learn how to graphically represent information, using data visualization tools like charts, graphs and maps as a means of understanding trends, outliers and patterns.

    International Relations: Peace, Perception, and Power
    Wars, epidemics, terrorism, economic globalization, human rights, refugees and genocides: How does the world deal with transnational issues? In this course, students explore the fundamental concepts and theories of international relations and analyze components of the international system: state and non-state actors, NGOs and intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations. The first part of the course uses historical events of the past hundred years to understand the variety of past approaches to global issues. Students then move into an examination of twenty-first century case studies that encapsulate current challenges and allow students to assess the policy, structures and strategies used to respond to a complex world of conflicting ideologies and goals.

    American Cultural History
    Representation has been central to America’s multicultural history. Whether in political campaigns, street parades, theater performances, music, or rituals, culture (that is, the ways that we make meaning of our experiences) has shaped and has been shaped by identity and intersectionality. Gesture, masquerade and reproductions can be alternatively empowering and deceiving. How has representation reflected and manifested power and privilege as well as oppression and resistance? In this course we we will explore how racial, ethnic, gender, sexual, and national identity in the United States during the nineteenth through the early twenty-first centuries show up in and influence our political culture, consumer culture and expressive cultures. We will seek to understand these developments within the context of an increasingly global economy.

    Globalization During the Contemporary Era (1970s to present)
    This course will explore the economic, political, and cultural processes of globalization through a few focal points--migration, gender, and the environment--from roughly the 1970s to the early twenty-first century We will seek to examine the broad social consequences of these transformations (such as climate change) particularly for marginalized groups, and the various ways that they have addressed and challenged the implications of globalization. Further, our assigned readings, group projects, and independent research will explore how responses to the consequences of globalization have intersected--for example: international climate treaties; maternal health research; building sustainable cities; and social impact investing. As writers in history, we will put traditional pencil to paper to document our own journeys, while we also learn how new digital technologies for data analysis can allow historians to grapple with the evidence. We will invite guest speakers as well as utilize resources throughout NYC.

    History of New York City
    What do Emma Goldman, James Baldwin, Tito Puente, Grace Meng and Alicia Keys - and you - have in common? All are New Yorkers who have experienced and represented the city in many political, economic, social and cultural ways. From subways, bridges and parks to skyscrapers and bike lanes, the five boroughs have shaped New York City. Local urban geographies have been crafted by ordinary people including: immigrants, social activists, public housing residents, construction workers, graffiti artists, pop stars, journalists, photographers, marketing agents, fashionistas, media and real estate moguls, deli owners, educators and students. What does it mean to be a New Yorker? Why is this city one of the most diverse and dynamic in the world? This course explores the tumultuous and remarkable evolution of the Big Apple as the global capital of capital and culture from consolidation in 1895 through the present. As our shared learning focus, we explore several key challenges that Gotham faces today, find and examine the historical roots of those problems and imagine how to address them for a better tomorrow.

    Constitutional Law: Civil Rights & Liberties
    This course is designed to develop a greater appreciation of the rights and liberties set forth under the United States Constitution, along with an understanding of the responsibilities that these rights and liberties engender. In order to achieve these objectives, we will focus on Supreme Court cases that interpret the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment, and we will consider these cases as part of the larger socio-political contexts in which they were decided. The class encourages students to connect Supreme Court decisions to the broader themes of individual empowerment, separation of powers and civic engagement. We will develop our critical and analytical thinking skills using case law and secondary sources (commentaries, current articles, and film) as well as class debates to sharpen our thinking. Topics include Freedom of Expression and Association; Freedom from and of Religion; Search and Seizure; Right to Counsel; Punishment; Right to Privacy; Equal Protection under the Law; and Affirmative Action.

Explore Our Curriculum

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