Explore Our Curriculum

History

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, philosophy, women’s studies and civil rights. Throughout the program, students increase their curiosity, develop their capacity for critical and creative thinking,
and expand their openness to new ideas and different ways of experiencing our common humanity.

Upper School History Sequence
Grade 9 Global History II: Late Modern World
Grade 10 United States History
Grade 11 Semester or Yearlong Electives, including the completion of an oral defense in one elective. Students are encouraged to continue their study of history during senior year.

Note: Electives are tentative, pending enrollment and staffing. 
  • United States History: 1968-present

    Through an exploration of United States history since the mid-1960s, this course seeks to understand the fault lines of class, race, politics, gender and sexual identity that unite and divide Americans today. We begin our work with an inquiry into the 1960s debates over social welfare programs, the causes and consequences of Vietnam War and the emergence of the Black Power movement. As the semester progresses, we delve into such topics as the emergence of the New Right and the continuing problem of racism in the United States. Students examine the 1980s and 1990s debates over women's and gay rights, welfare reform and mass incarceration. Final topics include War on Terror, the Obama Presidency and the election of Donald Trump. Students deepen their appreciation of the role of media and technology in political discourse, as well as the importance of considering multiple perspectives.
  • History of Love and Marriage

    For most of human history, marriage served a distinct purpose: to preserve social order. How and why did the relatively recent phenomenon of marrying for love transform societal norms and expectations regarding romantic relationships? To what extent did marrying for love threaten to upend the social order of the nineteenth and twentieth century world? This course explores the intersection of love and marriage, examining the invention of marriage as a means of forging networks of cooperation, the transformation of marriage into an institution for transmitting status and property, the origins of courtly and romantic love, and the emergence of a radical new idea: marrying for love across race, class, and gender. Our study of the past, and the complex and diverse human relationships that developed in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the United States and Europe, enable us to imagine the future of a social convention unique to humankind.
  • Campaigns and Elections

    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.
  • Globalization

    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.
  • International Relations

    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.
  • 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, parks, skyscrapers, to 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.
  • 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.
  • Constitutional Law

    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 indivdual 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.
  • Identities in American Art

    Can art history inform our understanding of contemporary issues around race, gender and identity? This elective explores the theme of identity in American art as a lens through which to deepen our understanding of U.S. History and the debates of the present. Starting with 18th century colonial portraiture, students delve into a variety of artistic movements along with the social, political and economic developments that defined the course of U.S. history. The class explores such movements as “the Hudson River School,” Abstract Expressionism and “Pop” art. We also delve deeply into the evolving portrayals of indigenous persons, African Americans, and women in the visual arts of the United States. Students consider the challenges faced by female, black and gay artists to achieve recognition for their work. As we examine both the artwork and art historical writings, we continually challenge ourselves to define "American art" and the role that the visual arts play in reflecting and advancing change.
  • Art History of Asia

    This course explores the relationship between the visual arts and the dynamic histories of China, Japan and India. Through a close examination of sculpture, ceramics and painting, students deepen their understandings of the arts and culture of these countries. Following our initial study of art from China’s early Shang, Zhou and Han dynasties, we explore Buddhist art as it traveled from India along the Silk Road and influenced the cultural histories of China and Japan. Over the course of our journey, we investigate a range of historical questions, including: Why did landscape painting emerge as a treasured art form in China? Why did the aesthetics of Japanese prints captivate 19th century painters in Europe? How did the tension between modernity and nationalism impact Japanese art during the Meiji period? As students examine these and other questions, they draw on interdisciplinary source materials and analyze the complexity of cross-cultural relationships.

Faculty

  • Georgina Emerson
    History Teacher
    Dartmouth College - B.A.
    Dartmouth College - M.A.
  • Rachael Flores
    Head of Upper School
    Princeton University - B.A.
    George Washington University - M.A.
  • Rebecca Hong
    Director of Institutional Equity and Interim Head of History Department
    Cornell University - PhD.
  • Jason Perlman
    Upper School History Teacher
    Yale University - B.A.
    New York University - M.A.
  • Bajia Reed
    History Teacher
    Spelman College - BA
    Teachers College, Columbia University - EdM
  • Sandra Smith
    History Teacher
    Davidson College - B.A.
    University of California at Berkeley - M.A.
    University of California at Berkeley - Ph.D.
  • Joanne Yoon
    History Teacher
    Trinity University - B.A.
    Teachers College, Columbia University - M.A.