History Department Course Offerings
History Course Flowchart (PDF)
* indicates that a course is cross-listed with another department
- GS570: Honors Model UN for Upper Schoolers*
- GS720: AP Human Geography*
- GO730: AP American Government
- GO740: AP Comparative Government
- HI140: World History I: Foundations
- HI220: World History II: Revolutions
- HI320: United States History
- HI503: History at the Movies
- HI511: Remember the Ladies: Women in US History
- HI513: History of New York City
- HI514: The Politics of Race, Gender, and Sexuality
- HI522 History of Sports
- HI526: History of the Civil War and Reconstruction
- HI611: Senior Research and Composition
- HI830: AP U.S. History
- HI840: AP European History
This year-long Honors Model United Nations (MUN) course is designed to examine the primary functions of the United Nations and its diplomatic role with respect to political, economic and cultural concerns of the global community. Through research, discussion, negotiation and debate, students will develop plausible solutions to contemporary global problems. These issues include, but are not limited to, human rights, protection of the environment, economic development, disarmament, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the complexities surrounding war and peace. Moreover, students in this course spend a great deal of time researching and discussing current events on a weekly basis, while also seeking possible solutions to these problems. Research skills, particularly online literacy and learning to define bias in various resources is at the heart of this course.
Most of the work that will be carried out in this course is in preparation for participation in the Princeton Model UN Conference, held in November; the Yale Model UN Conference, held in January; the Hopkins Model UN Conference, held in April. Students enrolled in the course are required to attend these conferences.
Human Geography is an interdisciplinary field that combines geography with the subject matters of social science. It refers to the sub-fields of geography that deal with how human action changes or is influenced by the earth's surface. In AP Human Geography, we will study the world, its populace, various communities, cultures, and religions. This course combines the study of cultural and economic geography as it explores the multi-faceted relationship between people and their environment. For instance, we will study the earth’s physical features, such as topography, soil, and vegetation and examine in detail the ways in which they are affected by human activity. There are seven major fields of study in AP Human Geography that we will cover over the course of the year: geography, population, cultural patterns and processes, political organization of space, agricultural and rural land use, industrialization and economic development, and cities and urban land use. In this course we will learn the methods and tools that geographers use in their science and practice. Open to UMs, Seniors, and Mids (department approval required)
This full-year course prepares students to take the Advanced Placement Examination in American Government and is concerned with the nature of the American political system, its development over the past 200 years, and how it works today. The goal of the course is to increase understanding of the mechanisms of American politics and to enhance the students' ability to study political behavior. Controversial issues in contemporary politics and public policy are also addressed. Classes follow a discussion format, and evaluation is based on class participation, debates, quizzes, period tests, and short papers. Students are expected to take the Advanced Placement Examination. Open to students who have completed U.S. History or AP U.S. History, with department approval.
The AP course in Comparative Government introduces students to the ways in which political scientists evaluate political life in all its variety. Beginning with a basic introduction to political theory, the course will then examine and compare the political history and governments of China, Great Britain, Mexico, Russia, Iran, and Nigeria. After studying political theory, students can then see how these theories manifest themselves in practice. Whether it be elections, policy making, or power structures, students will take abstract ideas and see them in action. They will also see how increased global connectedness has affected the traditional nation-state and ideas of sovereignty. In addition to preparing for the AP exam, students will learn about political history and current events in the six nations they study and will be asked to perform deeper research into the countries we study. Open to students who have completed U.S. History or AP U.S. History, with department approval. Students are expected to take the AP Comparative Government exam.
The Foundations course considers the relationship between the individual and society, in many parts of the world, from ancient times to the early modern era. As the title suggests, the course encourages students to view history through different lenses that formulate the foundations of our world, whether ideological, social, political, or economic. In addition to the development of historians' skills, critical reading, evidence-based essay writing, and primary source analysis are emphasized. As the year progresses, evidence from research is included in the writing process, and students engage in Harkness discussions and formal debates. Students finish the year with an appreciation for the relevance and excitement of historical study as well as the skills and historical perspective needed to succeed in higher-level Taft history courses.
Why have so many revolutions in so many parts of the world occurred over the past few hundred years? What causes them? Do they evolve in predictable ways? Can we even define what constitutes a revolution? Starting with the French Revolution of the late 18th-early 19th century, students in this course will examine historical conditions that often lead to revolutions and explore more than a dozen actual revolutions that may include the Industrial, Bolshevik, Chinese, and Iranian and Cuban. In addition, they will consider developments - such as 20th century totalitarianism, decolonization movements, and “second wave” feminism - that may not be commonly called "revolutions" but have had revolutionary effects. The course culminates with each student applying his or her understanding of revolutions; examining a current revolution and then presenting those findings to classmates. This course emphasizes evidence-based and current pedagogical tactics and strategies such as retrieval practice, formative assessment, and student-constructed multimedia presentations in addition to traditional written assessments.
This course examines the history of the United States from the colonial era through the Vietnam War, with a particular emphasis on the evolving definition of liberty. The curriculum relies on primary source materials, encouraging students to explore the nation’s history through the voices of its people. To support this document-based focus, the course utilizes a thematic approach that calls for meaningful critical analysis, interpretative thinking and inclusive class discussion. United States History is a writing-intensive course. Students develop their skills through a variety of assignments including in-class essays, document based questions, a research project, and a cumulative semester exam. There are also debates, oral presentations and group projects. This course fulfills the U.S. History requirement and is normally taken during the Upper-middler year.
Term: Semester 1
Students often view history through film, and this elective seeks to explore those viewings and analyze more fully what students are watching. The course will sample popular movies from the last few years, and may include the Post, Dunkirk, or Selma. Students will engage in critical analysis of these films; specifically, they will examine the historical context and accuracy of these films, and they will also consider historiography: how the films’ producers and directors utilize artistic means to propagate a specific viewpoint and how those viewpoint change over time. Thus, the course seeks to give students the means to critically assess movies through a careful examination of history, and a means to learn about history through the critical viewing of film.
Term: Semester 1
In 1776: Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams, wrote to her husband and the then assembled Continental Congress imploring them to "remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice or Representation." One cannot understand the United States' history without understanding the significant role all women have played in the past and the nation's politics. This course will survey how individual women and women's movements have impacted American culture, society, and politics. To that end, we will read narrative texts and primary sources to understand women's stories and voices. We will also look at a wide range of media from film to advertising to understand the way women have been represented throughout history. Students will choose to research individual women, movements, and events of particular interest to them. We will examine all women's experiences, including race, age, socio-economic status, immigrant status, sexuality, and other identifiers.
Term: Semester 1
This course examines the history of New York City from its Lenape origins to the twenty-first century. While the founding and early years of the United States was guided by men who imparted the notion that agrarian society was the future for the young nation through an ethos of plantation and southern life, cities assumed a more important part in setting national priorities following the Civil War. Before long urban life came to define American progress; and driving that narrative was New York City. Herald of twentieth-century modernity, New York made itself into the center of world capitalism and American culture. Topics Covered will be, Pre European Arrival/Lenape, Dutch New York, Colonial New York, Revolutionary New York, Erie Canal, Immigration, Social Mobility, Ghetto/Slums, Civil War, Tammany Hall, Labor; Manufacturing/Unions/unrest, Impact of New Deal, Industrialization, Decline of the City, Music: Birth of Hip-Hop/Punk Rock, Re-birth of NYC, 9/11, Gentrification, The Present.
Term: Semester 2
The political scientist Harold Lasswell defined politics as, “Who gets, what, when and how.” This definition will guide us in our study of race, gender, and sexuality in modern American society. We will begin by looking at a brief history of race, gender, and sexuality politics in the US. We will then turn to the modern political culture and climate, and we will examine how race, gender, and sexuality have affected the lives of everyday Americans. We will begin with the premise that racism and sexism continue to permeate through American politics and culture, but we will also examine ways to move towards a more equal, just, and free society.
Term: Semester 2
This elective examines the history of sports in America, specifically focusing on its development over the last century and half. Students will explore how unorganized and impromptu athletic activities were transformed into spectator sports at the collegiate and professional level, and the ways in which sports reflected and informed issues of race, class, gender, ethnicity and international politics. Specific topics may include: amateurism and the rise of athletic clubs; baseball’s popularity during the first half of the twentieth century; women’s sports; racial segregation in sports. This course will also investigate significant events in sports history, potentially such as the 1919 Black Sox scandal, the racial integration of major sports leagues, the establishment of Title IX, and the American-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. The course will consist of films, readings, lectures, and discussions.
Term: Semester 2
It is impossible to fully understand the history of the United States without understanding the Civil War and Reconstruction. Instead of trying to cover every event in the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction this course will highlight the social, political, economic, and cultural forces that shaped and changed the nation. Some of the issues we will investigate include: the causes and effects of the American Civil War, slavery, emancipation and freedom, race, racism and racial violence, gender and the role of women in the war and its aftermath, shifts in American labor, and historical memory.
This survey of U.S. history resembles an introductory undergraduate course. The readings are drawn from many sources, including a basic text and documentary and interpretive materials. The course is chronological and covers the major currents of political, social, intellectual, economic, and diplomatic history. A major goal is to develop analytical and interpretive skills, both orally and in writing, with further emphasis on critical reading and writing. Evaluation is based upon quizzes, announced period assessments, short papers, specialized writing assignments and projects, two research papers, and cumulative semester examinations. The course prepares students for the Advanced Placement Examination in American History. Students who sign up for this course will complete a lengthy reading assignment on colonial American history over the summer. The first assessment, a four-page paper, is based on this reading, and will be due upon students’ arrival in the fall. Open to Upper-middlers and Seniors with approval of the Department.
The course prepares students to take the Advanced Placement Examination in European History. Students will study the development of government, culture, and society from approximately 1500 to the present. Evaluation is based on period assessments, a research paper on a topic of the student’s choice focusing on the period before the French Revolution, class participation, and a final examination in the first semester. Students are expected to take the AP European History exam. Open to Middlers, Upper-middlers and Seniors with the approval of the Department.