History Courses

World Cultures

The course, designed for freshmen, is a survey of the peoples and cultures of the Middle East, Africa, and India. It seeks to sensitize students to the history, culture and current affairs of these areas and show similarities between peoples of the various world cultures and those of our own western culture. Comparisons of the histories and cultures of the different areas will be an important part of the course work. Short tests, novels, films and discussions form the basis of the course. 

Western World

What is “Western civilization”? Who and where does it encompass? What, if anything, does it stand for? One broad goal of this course is to equip students with the information and analytical skills necessary to draw their own conclusions about what it means to be “Western.” The course, designed for sophomores, traces the development of major ideas in Western Civilization from ancient Greece to the present. The course progresses chronologically while emphasizing certain themes, including political ideals and realities, philosophical notions of truth, the relationship between religion and power, social dynamics, gender relations, competing ideologies, challenges to orthodoxies, economic trends, and artistic endeavors. A textbook anchors the reading assignments, which also include an array of primary sources. Students will practice the art of historical thinking in daily class discussions and in periodic essays. 

U.S. History

The course deals with major themes and events in American History since Colonial times that have helped shape the American character. Students will investigate the political and social foundation of the United States from European colonization to the present-day. The relationship of geographical diversity, settlement patterns and economic prosperity to political developments over time will be studied. Contributions of diverse racial, ethnic and religious groups to the development of American culture will be emphasized. Using a standard text and supplemental documents and readings, students will be introduced to the following main topics: The Revolutionary War and the Constitution, Early Nationalist Period, Sectional Strife, Civil War, Industrialization, Progressivism, World War I, The Conservative 20's, Depression and New Deal, World War II, the Cold War, Domestic Politics in the 1960's and 1970's and Globalization. 

AP U.S. History

The course is designed for students with special ability and interest in history and emphasizes historical interpretation and the art of inquiry into various areas of U. S. History. Among the topics considered are Puritan theology, the evolution of American nationalism and democracy, the divisive impact of slavery and sectionalism, the nature of reunion, the forces of industrialization and urbanization, Populism, Progressivism and the New Deal, the evolution of foreign policy from isolationism to the Cold War, and Civil Rights. Films, debates, and the study of primary documents will form the basis of the course. The course prepares students for the Advanced Placement exam given in May. 

AP U.S. Government and Politics

The course addresses major themes of U.S. government and politics: constitutional underpinnings; political beliefs and behaviors; political parties, interest groups, and mass media; Congress, the Presidency, the bureaucracy, and the courts; public policy; and civil rights and civil liberties. Extensive reading and writing will prepare us for a productive exchange of ideas and information through discussion and activities in which students act as political scientists, political figures, or policymakers. Students are expected to follow relevant current events and to complete a hands-on political participation project of their choosing. 

AP European History

This course tackles major problems in early modern and modern European history and, in doing so, explores the origins of modern Western society and its inherent perspectives. The course begins in the crises of the late Middle Ages and ends in the aftermath of the Cold War. A course textbook provides narrative overview, but most of class time will revolve around students’ engagements with the broader historical questions and debates related to each topic. The course aims to hone students’ skills of historical analysis through a heavy emphasis on writing and discussion. Course materials include various primary sources and films, but also sophisticated secondary works, including recent scholarly articles and books. In this way, the course familiarizes students with various contemporary approaches to the study of the past, including political, intellectual, feminist, Marxist, and cultural histories. 

AP Human Geography

The Advanced Placement Human Geography course is designed to introduce students to the systematic study of patterns and processes that have shaped our understanding, use and alteration of the Earth’s surface. In addition to defining regions and evaluating the process of regionalization, students enrolled in this course will be expected to develop the skills to interpret maps and analyze geospatial data. Upon successful completion of this course, and in preparation for the Advanced Placement examination, students should also understand how cultural values, political regulations and economic constraints coincide to create particular landscapes. Some of the topics covered in this course include major geographical concepts such as location, scale, regionalization, globalization and gender issues; cultural patterns and processes such as diffusion patterns, assimilation, multiculturalism, cultural conflicts and differences in cultural attitudes and practices toward the environment. Additionally, the political organization of space, the evolution of contemporary political patterns, the development and diffusion of agriculture, origins and character of cities and other contemporary urban issues will also be investigated. We will also emphasize the Burgess, Hoyt, and Harris-Ullman models of internal city structure and development. 

AP Micro Economics

After quickly laying a foundation on efficiency, productivity, specialization, comparative advantage, the law of diminishing marginal utility, non-price determinants of supply and demand, market reaction to regulatory restraints such as price floors and ceilings, and the calculation of supply, demand, and cross elasticities; students will apply their understanding of supply and demand to an important factor market by studying labor economics, wage determination, and causes of income inequality. Then, the course will examine the numerous costs firms calculate when making output decisions, including short-run fixed, variable, average, total, and marginal costs, as well as long-run average cost curves, economies and diseconomies of scale, and the law of diminishing marginal returns. Students will learn how firms use marginal revenue, total revenue, marginal cost, average cost, total cost, and market demand curves to maximize profits in the four major market types: monopoly, oligopoly, monopolistic competitive, and perfect competition. The course will examine the efficacy of government regulation by focusing public goods, negative externalities, and anti-trust law. This challenging, fast-paced course will rely on a college- level text, problem sets, and frequent testing to ensure that students master complex concepts in a course built on a rational cost-minimization and productivity approach to microeconomics. 

Intro to Economics

This course welcomes students to basic economic concepts with concise, accessible readings and short video lessons. Using a variety of lively in-class activities as well as films, position papers, debates, group projects, and plenty of discussion, students will learn about opportunity cost, comparative advantage, supply and demand, unemployment and inflation, and the choices that consumers and producers make in order to get the most for their money. Students will learn about investing strategies, taxes, fiscal policy, banking basics, monetary policy, and the methods politicians and the Federal Reserve use to generate and sustain economic growth. The course will move at a pace that ensures student gain a long-lasting understanding of the economic issues that make headline news every day. The course will prepare students for success in college-level economics courses. 

The Late, Great Nineteen Sixty-Eight

Nineteen Sixty-Eight was a watershed year in American history. The Civil Rights Movement was in full force and after the Tet Offensive in Vietnam; the war protests became more widespread and violent. An active counter-culture emerged among the youth of the time. This counter-culture, including the music that was so central to it, will be explored. A study of the politics and the social/cultural issues surrounding the 1968 Olympic games will be explored. The candidates who ran for the Presidency in 1968 represented many competing points of view on the issues of the day, especially the War in Vietnam. The course will focus on the lives of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. Students will read the “I Have a Dream Speech” and other selections from I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World by James Melvin Washington (ed.). They will be exposed to the power of King’s orations through MLK: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Tapes. The section on Robert F. Kennedy would focus on the era from JFK’s Presidency to 1968. Students will read Robert Kennedy and His Times by Arthur M. Schlesinger. In addition, students will read primary source material and historical interpretations of events, which occurred in 1968. 

Modern Global Issues

How did a desperate street vendor’s self-immolation result in dramatic waves of protest that swiftly toppled powerful dictators like Tunisia’s Ben Ali, Egypt’s Mubarak,and Libya’s Gaddafi? Why are there so many fewer girls than boys in many countries, and what are the implications of this imbalance, both now and for the future? What rights to intellectual property should the creators of films, songs, and pharmaceuticals have, and what protections are reasonable in this unprecedented era of information sharing? How significant a role does the United States play in the world today, and what power balance will develop as we move further into the twenty-first century? These are the sorts of questions that will be discussed in this semester elective concerning significant and timely issues of the day. This class is designed to help students develop an understanding of contemporary events so that they can develop informed and well-reasoned perspectives about them and thus move towards a fuller understanding of the world in which we live. This discussion- based class will incorporate a variety of activities and assignments including simulations, research projects, and multi-media creations. 

Research Seminar: The History of Durham

Durham, North Carolina, has a relatively brief but fascinating — and rapidly shifting — history. In many ways, the city represents the adaptability of the New South and a model of urban reinvention. And yet, it is also a place with visible roots from an earlier and much different social world. How and why has Durham changed? This course begins with an exploration of the history of Durham County, which will include guest speakers and off-campus trips. Each student will then undertake a major research project on a topic of his or her choosing. The possibilities are vast and cross disciplinary, including urban development, civil rights, RTP, athletics, universities, tobacco history, Black Wall Street, school desegregation, the Duke family, the art scene, and more. The instructor will help guide the research and writing processes, but it is excepted that each student (depending on the topic) will conduct significant research in off-campus repositories, including the Special Collections rooms at Durham County Library, Duke Library, and UNC’s Wilson library. By the end of the course, each student will produce a scholarly work of original research. 

AP Macro Economics

After a quick review of economic basics including opportunity cost, the production possibilities frontier, comparative advantage, decreasing marginal utility, demand and supply curve shifts, restraints on the market, and economies and diseconomies of scale, this course will use a college-level text and selected online video lessons to help students learn how the U.S. economy operates. Using class discussion, problem sets, policy papers, projects, in- class activities, and debates, students will learn about unemployment, inflation, GDP, aggregate supply and aggregate demand shifts in the short and long run, taxation, debt and deficit, fiscal policy, theory of money, fractional reserve banking, the Federal Reserve System, monetary policy, exchange rate determination, the balance of payments, trade policy, and the costs and benefits of international trade. Throughout the course, students will consider competing ideas about what generates economic growth and employment. Students will discuss and debate Keynesian and Neo-Keynesian policies, classical free market theories, and aggregate production functions. 

Cotton, Coffee, and Cocaine: Commodities in History

What is globalization? How and why did the people of the earth become so connected? How important is trade in shaping historical outcomes? In this course, we will explore the histories of certain traded goods—not only those listed in the title, but also others such as oil, slaves, tobacco, rubber, and sugar—to better understand the emergence of the modern global capitalist system. We so often tend to see (and teach) history in terms of major political events and ideas, even though we know that there are always also economic, social, and cultural forces at work. Commodity histories tend to focus on the ways that those forces converge, with wide-ranging and often surprising consequences. In this way, the course aims to provide students with a more nuanced appreciation of historical causation and change. Course readings will mine the recent flourishing of popular commodity histories as well as more classical selections. Students should expect to take turns leading discussion, to complete several essays, and to undertake one research assignment. 

Crimes and Punishments

How do different societies regard and treat those who commit illegal acts? To what degree have punishments changed over time? Why do rates of incarceration vary so much between countries? Does more incarceration result in greater safety? This course is designed to address these and other questions so that students can begin to understand incarceration in the modern world and its implications for the future. After beginning with an introduction to the philosophical underpinnings and historical roots of punishment in the Western world, we will study how various states in the twentieth century dealt with individuals who broke the law. We will then analyze the modern system of incarceration in the United States, the birth of the prison-industrial complex, and the effects of mass incarceration on American society. A comparison with countries that reflect distinct and different attitudes towards punishment and rehabilitation will also be included. 

The Cold War and the New World Order

What was the Cold War? How did the ideas promoted by the US and USSR shape the attitudes and beliefs of ordinary citizens throughout the world in the second half of the twentieth century? Why did the end of the Cold War come so rapidly and unexpectedly? Is the world a better place because this great superpower rivalry no longer exists—or have old enemies simply been replaced by new ones? What should we think about the development of globalization which has followed in its wake, and how has this new economic order affected people from Zimbabwe to Vietnam to Syria? These are some of the many questions that we will explore in this seminar on the end of the Cold War and the new world order which has emerged from its demise. Students in this course will read numerous articles and commentaries from a wide variety of contemporary sources and view films that provide insight into contemporary issues like terrorism and modern-day slavery that have been fueled by the changing world situation. Readings will address not only political developments since the end of the bi-polar world but also social and cultural ones that reveal the continuing impact of this change on the lives of ordinary people. 

The People's Century

This course examines America in the 20th century not from the point of view of governments, but of the people. From anti-war activists during WWI, to struggles for civil, women’s, Indian, and workers’ rights in the 60 and 70’s, this course looks at the people who made the movements that have challenged America to live up to its ideals. The main texts for the course will be Mary Crow Dog's Lakota Woman, Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun and Michael Eric Dyson's Come Hell or High Water. We will also explore excerpts from Howard Zinn's The People's Century. In addition, students will have an opportunity to conduct interviews with local activists. 

< back to page list
An independent, coeducational day school, pre-kindergarten through grade 12.
email page print page small type large type
powered by finalsite