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.
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
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 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