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The History Department prepares students to critically examine the human condition from pre-history through the contemporary world. We use historical study to cultivate empathy, cross-cultural understanding and other skills essential to citizenship. To accomplish that, our classes explore individual and group identities from a myriad of viewpoints and study the ways that groups have interacted with one another through warfare, trade and colonialism. Required courses in world and U.S. history are complemented by a diverse selection of elective offerings, including European history, a sequence in global and U.S. citizenship, and a Model United Nations course that prepares students for competition at national and international conferences.

Across all offerings, teachers place particular emphasis on doing the work of a historian: analysis, criticism, perspective, narrative and argument. To clearly articulate their understanding, we teach students the fundamental skills of clear and concise historical writing. Students learn to break long and complex processes into periods and analytic categories. Those thinking skills empower them to evaluate change over time and debate causal relationships with one another and their teachers. Students learn that that their views are valued, and they learn to invest time and energy in developing their unique individual perspectives.

MPH history students are engaged in the historical process. Their classroom experiences include research, collaborative projects, and both group and individual presentations. Those activities produce refined and sophisticated communication skills, both in writing and public speaking. Marked by an atmosphere of respect for the past and the broad experience of human beings across time, our students emerge as informed global citizens who are able to understand and be understood.


History 6 – Digging the Past: Foundations of History

How do we know what we know about history? The past is often difficult to read and understand, so a good historian must interpret the events of the past to help accurately retell what happened. Historians often need to look at multiple perspectives, analyze primary sources, create a claim supported by evidence, and piece together the historical context of a situation in order to understand the past. What better place to start than understanding the human foundations of our world? In History 6, we will begin by honing our analytical talents through historical skill-building, enhance our understanding of world geography and how it intersects with human development, and explore the development of civilization and governments over time, focusing on both Mediterranean and Mesoamerican civilizations in the ancient world. The course will finish with an examination of European contact and early American colonization. At the end of this year, students will become increasingly comfortable with the critical skills and conceptual foundations necessary to study history successfully at MPH.


History 7 – Pivotal Points in United States History

Why did American colonists fight a revolution against the British Empire? How did the new American citizens decide that their government was failing and write, in one summer, a Constitution that is still in use over 220 years later? How did that government almost fall apart during the Civil War? By forgoing the usual “survey” approach to history and examining just a few periods – the “pivotal points” – we find out what makes history both exciting and crucial. Primary sources are stressed throughout the year, and students write, edit and revise analytical, narrative and creative assignments. Give me liberty or give me death!


History 8 – Current Events Literacy 

Too often, reading a news article or watching the news on TV is like arriving late to a movie that happens to be in another language. You may catch a few good action scenes, but will probably leave the theater unsure of what just happened. To effectively comprehend world events today, it is necessary to critically examine their historical roots and grapple with a variety of viewpoints. In this course, we will focus on themes of identity, conflict, and social responsibility. The course spans the 20th century to present, from politics to social reform, allowing students to identify similar events and issues throughout history. This course will be grounded in the concrete experiences and situations of people of color in the United States, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. We will cover events such as the Civil Rights movement, the Cuban Revolution, the Iranian Revolution and South African apartheid. The major purpose of this course is to educate students to be politically, socially, and economically conscious about their connections to local, national, and global history. By the end of the year, students will have analyzed an assortment of primary and secondary source documents, become curators of creative projects, and completed a variety of written works.


History 9 – Comparative Civics and Government

In an increasingly interconnected world, the social contract between citizen and government has become under increasing scrutiny, where protests, activism, and civic engagement have become part of our international experience. This course provides a historical examination of various governmental systems, how those systems have changed and evolved, and the role of the citizen within these systems. Beginning with an in-depth examination of democratic governments, students will study the development of democracies in the past (e.g. Ancient Athens, Roman Republic, Iroquois Confederacy), ultimately spending time examining the US democratic system. Students will explore the ideological origins of the US political system, the shifts and changes of the system across history, and the strengths and limitations of the system today. Students will also examine the role of the individual citizen in the US system, the centrality of voting, the influence of lobbying, and the role of the media in modern US democracy. Students will also examine other modern structures of government, including the parliamentary system (UK), communist system (China), and theocratic systems (Iran). The major forms of assessment are quarterly projects that focus on a specific historical skill (research, historical writing, textual source analysis especially primary sources). These major assignments are supplemented with smaller writing projects, note-taking exercises, and oral presentations. Later in the year, students will take their conceptual understanding of government and apply it to their own independent research of a political leader, allowing them to apply the historical research, writing and critical thinking skills developed throughout the year to an in-depth research project. The goal of this course is to provide students with an enhanced understanding of civics and government, helping shape them into engaged and informed civic actors, as well as provide opportunities to develop the historical skills necessary for success throughout high school. 


History 10 – Modern World History

Modern World History traces the development of the modern world from the mid-fifteenth century to the present day. The goal of this class is to gain an understanding of our “modern” world through the lens of the major historical events of the recent past like the Age of Exploration & Colonialism, Enlightenment & Atlantic Revolutions, Industrialization & Imperialism, European Collapse, and the Global 20th Century. Throughout the course, students will work on synthesizing commonalities between civilizations, warfare, and cultures; evaluate current situations in historical terms; write a thesis social studies paper; and complete two long-term projects. In addition to traditional assessments, class discussions and mini-projects will occur frequent


Advanced Studies: Post-Classical World History

Making the connection between history and identity, this course surveys the human condition from the post-classical era to the present. Broadly, the course examines the patterns that develop across historical periods, continuities and changes within periods, and the causal effects of major historical developments on future events. Thematically, the course explores the development and transformation of social structures, state-building, and conflict, the interaction between humans and the environment, the intersection between cultures, and the development of economic systems both in theory and practice. Additionally, the course focuses on developing the historical thinking skills of perspective and context, periodization, argumentation, analysis, and synthesis. Although this course uses standard forms of assessment, students will also engage in class discussions and debates, write research papers, and explore history creatively through projects and multimedia presentations.


History 11 – US History through Primary Sources

This course examines the narrative of our national history through the lens of American primary sources, with emphasis on key moments in US history. Examining US history through the rich collection of historical documents not only grounds the student in an understanding of the narrative history of the country, but the examination of these texts develops critical thinking that inspires the student to question and historical moments they are studying. From the Iroquois’ Great Law of Peace, to the Federalist papers, to the Emancipation Proclamation, these seminal documents will help students navigate through the story of our nation, addressing topics such as: fundamental American political principles, the development of an American identity, the institution of slavery, growth of business, and America’s role in the world during the 20th and 21st centuries. As well as textual analysis, students are expected to complete written papers of varying lengths, participate in class discussions, debates, and oral presentations.


Advanced Studies: The American Experience

Operating under the premise that the “language of the United States is protest,” from its revolutionary origins to the modern fight for civil rights, this course provides students with an opportunity to navigate US history through social-cultural lenses. While this interdisciplinary course will investigate the social, political, economic and cultural trajectory of the US over time, it will do so using voices that have often been marginalized in the national story, such as women, enslaved Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants. It will also examine the moments of social and political change throughout the nation’s history, looking at how the founding ideals of the nation were incorporated into protest movements, and expanding inclusion into the American identity. The readings for this course will include modern historical scholarship and primary sources, which will be supplemented with American novels, poetry, photography, and film. Students will have the opportunity to produce research-based historical writing, oral presentations, and documentary filmmaking, as well as engage in college seminar-style discussions of the texts.


Full Year

Advanced Placement European History

Modern European history is a compendium of the European story from the Renaissance to the present. Against the thematic backdrop of European identity, students build a substantial body of knowledge on developments in European warfare, politics, philosophy, art and literature, and cultural and social change during the modern era. Thematically, the course carefully studies the interaction between Europe and the World, Europe’s dichotomy in poverty and prosperity, science and religion, and individual and state expression. Students will delve into the classics from Machiavelli to Locke and Hegel to Marx. Students will also write college-level papers and complete projects using a variety of technologies. This course prepares students for the Advanced Placement European History exam by combining the model of an intensive introductory survey course with that of a thoughtful and reflective college seminar.


Fall 2022

Economic Literacy: Understanding Economic Principles

This is an introductory course in macro- and microeconomics. In simple terms, economics is the study of who makes and gets what, when people can trade with each other, and who owns what. Thus, economics can provide insight into a wide array of circumstances, such as the wage you are paid, how many iPhones will be sold in the U.S. this year, and the root causes of economic crises. Macroeconomics focuses on the big picture, the economy on a national and international scale, understanding economic systems and production. Microeconomics focuses on the choices of consumers and businesses, using the tools of economics to analyze behavior. In this course, we will focus on concepts related to supply and demand, government policy, economic theory, production, labor, and trade.


Advanced Studies: Model United Nations

Model United Nations is a class available first semester, to any high school student, and may be taken multiple years. Students routinely enroll in MUN for all four years of Upper School. This course allows students to represent assigned countries at Model United Nations conferences. Students are required to attend a specified number of local or regional conferences. The long-term goal of the course is to produce students who are prepared to go out into the world with intellectual, psycho-social-emotional, and communicative skill sets necessary to be change agents in their communities and the world. These skills are developed as students conduct in-depth research, write position papers and resolutions from different perspectives, negotiate policy and agree on resolutions. Students learn about a host of world issues such as international economics, nuclear proliferation, the weaponization of space, biopiracy, and trafficking of women and children. During conferences, after being assigned a UN committee, students adopt the perspective of a country and must maintain this perspective while formulating their arguments and creating solutions to global issues. During the research process, students are challenged to verbalize and communicate what they are learning through debate and public speaking. MPHMUN students learn the importance of being informed global citizens. MUN can be taken in multiple years.


(Advanced Studies) More Than a Game: Sports and American Culture

Once upon a time, sports were viewed as leisure activities, ways to occupy one’s time as a distraction from serious pursuits (such as work and religion) while demonstrating physical gifts and moral virtues. Today, competitive sports have become serious pursuits on par with work and religion, and like those older spheres of activity, sports have come to shape identities, allegiances, and values. This course, which is designed for sports fanatics as well as people who are baffled by sports, will strive to advance students’ understanding of the prominence of sports in contemporary American culture. To do so, students will read historical, sociological, political, and journalistic accounts of the social and cultural dimensions of sports. In addition, the course will view sports through four lenses: gender, race, fairness, and capital. Along the way, students will explore several essential questions: How do our understandings of masculinity shape our perception of who is an American sports hero? How have sports been a site of racial progress and racial backlash? Why does a domain based on rules and fair play attract so much cheating and criminal activity? Who are the financial winners and losers of the game beyond the game? 


Citizenship in America: Civic Engagement and Social Activism

The job of the United States citizen is no easy task. While democracy empowers us to freely discuss, advocate, and act, citizens must be informed and grapple with the responsibilities of political action. In the age of tweets, blogs, and polarizing media figures, we must navigate a colossal amount of information, discern its validity, and apply it to our own personal values. This course attempts to help students do just that. After a review of the workings of American democracy, students will examine critical, contemporary U.S. issues, and citizen participation at the local, state, and federal levels. This course cultivates thoughtful, informed citizens through theoretical study and hands-on practice of engagement and activism. Experiential component provides opportunities for students to participate in activities ranging from working with veterans to challenging social injustice. 


Abraham Lincoln’s America

Abraham Lincoln lived during a period of rapid economic growth and social change in America. From the dawn of the Jacksonian period of Lincoln’s childhood until the end of the Lincoln administration in 1865, discussions over slavery, abolitionism, women’s rights, and territorial expansion took on consequential layers of significance. In this course, political and cultural topics will predominate, but we will also study social, military, diplomatic, and religious questions, and perhaps engage in some local history. Students will produce work in a variety of styles, from formal papers to more creative pieces, and the use of technology in graded work will be encouraged. 


Spring 2023


Global Citizenship: Through the Female Lens

In the twenty-first century, networks of trade, information, and migration crisscross the globe. As a result, people make everyday choices that stem from and impact the lives of others in distant territories. Although national governments are responsible for official political decisions, globalization has politicized a host of choices that stretch beyond the recognized borders of nation-states. This course examines the roles and responsibilities of the average woman as a citizen of the world in the twenty-first century. Students will learn to inform themselves about global issues by using a variety of traditional and non-traditional media, and they will produce a diverse array of scholarship to convey their mastery of the course’s skills and contents.


Museum Studies

Students enrolled in Museum Studies will learn the basics of museum curation through exploring the history of MPH and studying Museum Design. MPH has a rich history dating back to 1869, when it was established as a military academy.  Many of our continuing traditions, including Red and White Day and the opening day Handshake Ceremony, began at our predecessor schools. Students new to the course will engage in the practice of history exploring MPH records and artifacts.   All students will then select an area of their choice to build their own exhibit. and continue the long-term project of building and maintaining a living museum for Manlius Pebble Hill.  The course will have local field trips and, potentially, field trips to larger museums in cities on the east coast.  Finally, we will be partnering with faculty from universities, and with alumni, to enhance our understanding of the field.  


US Foreign Policy Since the Second World War

The class will examine the foreign policy of the United States in modern times, providing an overview of the role of the US in the world from our entry into the Second World War to as close to the present day as is practicable.  The course will focus more on the more macro political, cultural and diplomatic influences on US actions on the global stage, rather than on strictly military history in individual conflicts. Topics will include: the isolationist-interventionist debate upon entry into WWII; the US global strategy during the Second World War; the progression of the Cold War between the Truman Administration and the 1980s (including the containment doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and events in Europe, Korea, Latin America and Southeast Asia); the historic role of the Middle East in American foreign policy; the legacy of 9/11; and the role of the US as a global actor in the 21st century. Student work will emphasize formal analytical papers, with the possibility for non-written submissions using graphic art, digital narrative, and oral presentations.


Advanced Studies: The North American City 

This course will be an interdisciplinary examination of various North American cities, exploring the geography as well as the urban, social, and cultural history of each city. Each American city (New Orleans, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles) will be examined as a case study, studying the historical origins of the city, the urban development of the city,  as well as encountering the literary and film productions each city has inspired. Throughout the semester, the students will engage with and discuss a variety of materials and sources from each city, with the objective of understanding the socio-cultural differences of each city and the city’s relevance to the broader American historical narrative. This course models many classes taught at college level now – interdisciplinary in nature, thematic in direction, and learning holistically about the interaction of history, geography, literature and film in the United States. Field trips and travel opportunities may be a possibility.