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Berwick Academy History Departmental Overview
Grades 5-12
Berwick Academy’s history curriculum engages students through the investigation of a diverse range of relevant content, skill acquisition, and the development of essential habits of mind.  Across all grade levels students are asked to develop an understanding of and empathy for the people and cultures of our diverse world. Simultaneously students develop the fundamental skills of assertive written and oral expression, effective and objective research, and both independent and collaborative problem solving.  Berwick history students also develop the essential habits of curiosity, critical thinking, and creativity. This combination of content, skills, and habits enables Berwick History students to engage in an exploration of our fascinating world in an empathetic and responsible manner.

Upper School Philosophy
Berwick’s Upper School History curriculum offers students the opportunity to explore a diverse range of content in their 9th grade year through our World Civilizations course, which engages students in an investigation of the origins of civilization in a wide range of geographies.  In 10th and 11th grade students are exposed to surveys of European and United States history respectively. In 12th grade the department offers a wide range of electives covering a variety of themes, geographies, and cultures. Throughout this curriculum the key skills and essential habits outlined about are emphasized through independent research projects, group presentations, and regular class discussions about the nuances of history and human interaction.

World Civilization
This freshman course provides students with an orientation to the ancient and medieval world across a diverse range of geographies. A series of electives offered over the course of the year engage students in content both thematically and chronologically. All courses will begin by broadly studying the roots of a particular civilization. Thematic connections will be drawn so that students gain an understanding of the interconnectedness of global civilizations. These courses emphasize the acquisition and development of analytical reading and writing, as well as general study skills, which are developed through the use of the secondary and primary sources, and the preparation of essays and short papers. In the third trimester students will also be introduced to the research process and begin the development of crucial research and argumentative skills. Specific course offerings vary yearly depending on student and faculty interest but may include the following content areas: The Big Leap, Ancient Egypt, Asia and the Spread of Eastern Religions, Medieval Global Travelers, The One God: Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Rise of Monotheism, Rome from Republic to Empire, Sub-Saharan Africa to 1500, China and the Mongols, Islam & Empire, Native Americans and the Environment, Oceania.
Ancient Greece, Byzantine Empire

European History
This sophomore course begins with an examination of early modern Europe. The course concentrates on the development of European society and its subsequent transformation, after 1914, into the contemporary world.  The continuing social, political, economic, and intellectual development of European society is stressed in readings from primary and secondary sources. Included are the topics of New World Exploration, the Renaissance, the Reformation, Absolutism, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Age of Napoleon, Romanticism, the Industrial Revolution, Nationalism, Imperialism, and Totalitarianism. Critical skills are further developed through the preparation of essays and analytical papers. Research and library skills are improved through the preparation of a research paper.

European History Honors
This course will cover the same material as the regular section but in more detail. Students selected for European History Honors will do additional reading and writing to deepen their understanding of European History.
Requires Department Chair Approval

American Studies
American Studies offers an integrated approach to American history, literature, and culture. Instead of the narrative and chronological approach of the history survey course, this class will intensively examine a series of topics and themes in greater depth and breadth, exploring connections across the fields of history, literature, and the arts. As examples of this approach, we may consider Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence as we study the architecture and landscaping of his hilltop home, Monticello, and the inherent contradictions of slavery in his thinking, writing, and life. We will read extensively across the field of historical writing; including personal narrative, journals, essays, speeches, and other primary sources.

United States History
Through readings both from primary and secondary sources, lectures, and discussions, this course introduces juniors to key developments, themes, and historical questions across three centuriesof United States History.  We will study various economic, social, political, and intellectual developments in order to define and understand the evolution of the American Identity. The further development of critical analytical and interpretive skills begun in the freshman and sophomore years is continued with the preparation of short analytical papers and a major research paper.
Prerequisites: World Civilization and European History.

“We the People”
This year-long pinnacle course offers an exploration of topics in our history. The first trimester will focus on the Founding and Federalist eras, in particular the political and ideological debates around the framing and functioning of the government. In the second, students will examine how sociocultural issues such as gender, race, geography, and ethnicity impacted the formation of an American identity. The third trimester explores models of leadership in the politics and popular movements of the 20th century. Within these thematic parameters, students will read and pursue research into areas of particular interest and demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of projects and assessments, while working together to complete a detailed understanding of these historical periods and issues, and their application for today. As a pinnacle course expecting the highest levels of motivation and capability, this class is open to highly qualified juniors and seniors based upon their standing in previous history classes. We the People fulfills the third year requirement in History

Upper School History Electives

List of 10 items.

  • American Politics: Campaigns & Elections

    This discussion-based seminar will aim to give students a nuts and bolts understanding of how our government and political systems function, and the tools to effectively participate in public life and the political realm. The course will be organized around answering the following series of questions:  What are the fundamental principles of American government, and how are they represented in current events? Who represents my interests at the local, state, and federal levels of government?  What do these representatives do?  How are they chosen?  What power do they have?  Does it matter who they are?  Analysis of current, past, and future elections will provide the context for studying campaign politics, current events, our party system, and the influence of money, media bias, and political spin on the electoral process.  
  • Hamilton: Musical and History

    The tremendous popularity of the musical “Hamilton” underscores the relevance and importance of the historical figure and his remarkable era.  With the musical as our primary (but not sole) guide, we will explore the characters and issues of the period, from the end of the Revolution through the Federal and Republican eras, to the fatal encounter at Weehawken.  We will test the historical accuracy of Miranda’s production, explore the relevancy of the events for today, and examine the ways the musical medium, especially hip hop, reshape our understanding of events.  What was Alexander Hamilton’s real influence in shaping the new nation?  What do the personalities and politics of Hamilton reveal about our democratic system and politics today?  How does the musical mythologize its characters and issues?  And why did Burr shoot him?
  • Humanities I; The Ancients

    Humanities electives explore topics in philosophy, religion, and the arts through great thinkers and writers across the eras.  This trimester course is centered on these essential questions: What is happiness?  What is knowledge?  What is truth?  What is art?  What is good?  These questions will drive our discussions and the writings of the ancient Greek philosophers will guide them.
  • Humanities III; The Moderns

    Humanities electives explore topics in philosophy, religion, and the arts through great thinkers and writers across the eras.  This trimester course is centered on these essential questions: What does it mean to be human?  What is consciousness?  Am I free?  Will robots take over?  Guided by Descartes, Nietzsche, and Sartre we will discuss the opportunities and challenges of individualism in the modern world.
  • Leaders and Leadership

    Leadership theory provides a context for discussion and reflection through which to critically examine significant historical leaders and gain a greater understanding of how these leaders came to power. This course covers topics that are foundational in the process of analyzing leadership by examining not only the theories, but also the societal construct and historically significant events surrounding a leader’s power and legacy. Students will be asked to examine leadership theory both in a historical and personal context. This course utilizes personal inventories, readings, and discussion to provide structured reflection and critical analysis.
  • Sixties Honors II; LBJ and the Vietnam War

    This elective explores Johnson’s presidency and the war from the Gulf of Tonkin Incident to the Tet Offensive.  From the beginning of protest and the rise of the counter-culture, from the Summer of Love to Chicago, we will examine the events and issues which divided the nation.
    Open to seniors only
  • Sixties Honors III; Nixon and the War at Home

    This elective continues the examination of the war’s impact upon American life and politics in the Nixon years from Woodstock to Kent State, Watergate to the fall of Saigon.  
  • Social Change in America; Identity and Social Change Movements in America

    This course will explore how different identity markers such as race, religion, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc. divide and have divided American society, shaping the course of American history.  Students will also examine the corresponding social change movements that have attempted to diminish these divides and empower oppressed groups.  The course will be divided into three main units: In unit one, students will explore their own identity markers and how these identities have impacted their own paths through lives.  In unit two, students will study how social change movements during the twentieth and twenty-first century have successfully worked to empower oppressed groups.  Movements studied may include the civil rights movement, the gay liberation movement, the women's movement, the anti-xenophobia/sanctuary movement, among others.  In unit three, students will focus on contemporary issues and movements related to identity, making connections between past progress and ongoing struggles for different identity based groups. Students will learn and practice the skills needed to launch successful advocacy campaigns, empowering them to become advocates for social change.
  • The Holocaust

    In this seminar students will examine and analyze the events of the Holocaust. We will look at the historical developments that led to the Holocaust and the universal themes that come out of this period in history. Discussions will be aimed at exploring the issues of identity, responsibility, representation, and interpretation of the Holocaust. The course will examine many controversies including the roles of bystanders, collaborators, and government reactions to the Nazis before, during and after the war. We will read memoirs and primary sources and view a variety of documentaries and films on this topic.  There will be a special emphasis on Poland, the Soviet Union and Hungary in the east and France in the west. 
  • World War II: Pacific Theater

    In this class students will get a chance to take an in-depth look at the events in the Pacific Theater of the Second World War.  Using a variety of sources, we will discuss the key turning points of the conflict and debate some of the decisions made by the participants.  Topics will include the expansion of the Japanese Empire in the 1920s and 30s and the effects of politics, economics, race and culture on the Japanese mindset. We will look at the Japanese invasions of Korea, Manchuria and China before the war, the taking of the Philippines and the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the use of the atomic bombs in 1945, and the post-war reconstruction among other topics.  We will also view and discuss some films and documentaries including Empire of the Sun, The Pacific, and Letters from Iwo Jima. Readings will include essays from the book The Moral Dimensions of World War II and some primary sources.  Students will also have the chance to work on independent projects on a related topic of their choosing which they will share with their classmates at about the mid-point in the trimester.  The projects will be based on their own research and can take a variety of forms including a portfolio, a PowerPoint presentation, a website, a lesson plan, or leading a debate to name a few options. 

Serving Maine, The Seacoast of New Hampshire, and the North Shore of Massachusetts

Berwick Academy, situated on an 80-acre campus just over one hour north of Boston, serves 600 students, Pre-Kindergarten through grade 12, from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Deeply committed to its mission of promoting virtue and useful knowledge, Berwick Academy empowers students to be creative and bold. Berwick strives to graduate alumni who shape their own learning, take risks, ask thoughtful questions, and come to understand and celebrate their authentic selves.  Founded in 1791 and rooted in a tradition of college preparation, our culture of innovation prepares students for a complex and dynamic world.