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History Courses

The goals of the History Department are to engage your curiosity in history and give you the skills necessary to research, organize, and interpret historical information.

In your first year, you will take the interdisciplinary course in Humanities which will introduce you to Cate’s culture of inquiry and to explore essential questions of human nature and human experience. Based on key moments in time and place, you will engage with authentic, anchoring artifacts of literature, history, art, architecture, and religion drawn from the classical to early modern eras.

The department offers a variety of electives in more specific areas of interest and many courses integrate technology as part of advanced research projects and presentation.

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Inquiry in History

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Year course. Freshman Humanities serves as a gateway course to learning at Cate and to Cate’s culture of inquiry. Multidisciplinary in nature and closely coordinated in execution, it follows the practices of the humanities by developing and exploring essential questions of human nature and the diversity of human experience in the historical eras of the past and in contemporary society. Specifically, students engage with authentic, anchoring artifacts of literature, history, art, architecture, and religion drawn from the classical to early modern eras of Western civilization.

With an emphasis on disciplined student inquiry, meaningful discussion, oral presentations, creative and analytical writing, and research, this course builds the skills and knowledge that are needed for success in the freshman year and beyond.

This year-long course will explore modern history with a focus on imperialism, identity, and nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries. The fall trimester will begin with an exploration of Ancient Empires: Mali, Ghana, Aztec, Inca, and the Song Dynasty. We will then move to our focus on China. Units of study include the pillars of traditional Chinese society, conflicts with the European Powers from the Celestial Empire to the Unequal Treaties, the Fall of the Qing and the KMT Years, China under Mao, and China today. We will end the trimester with a global inquiry project on a topic of student choice. In the winter trimester, our focus will be on Europe, with units on Imperialism, World War I, Communism, Hitler, and World War II. We will then transition to examine the Cold War and Europe today from a broader global perspective. In the spring trimester, we will continue to explore themes of imperialism, identity, and nationalism but with a focus on Africa with mini-units on Latin American History to enhance our global understanding. Imperialism, independence and the development of nation-states, and Africa today will be specific areas of study. Each student will be responsible for an in-depth oral presentation on a specific African country or topic of research. Another important part of this course is developing and enhancing academic skills, including analytical writing, deliberations, and oral presentations.

This course teaches skills in reading and interpreting history, through primary and secondary sources, in writing on historical topics and in preparing a research paper. Students will study the origins of the American political system, the development of the American economy and American culture, and the various crises that have beset the country in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

An important goal of this course is to develop interest in America’s past by showing its contemporary relevance.

Year course. The Advanced section provides a survey of American History with particular emphasis on the use of primary sources, in depth exploration of topics, and historical scholarship.

History Electives

In addition to our core offerings in Humanities, World History, and US History, students have the option to choose from a range of Advanced Senior Electives.

This course will focus primarily on the role the Court has played in expanding civil liberties, civil rights, and social justice from the middle of the twentieth century until the most recent rulings. The Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954) initiated a shift in the Constitutional interpretation of individual rights and privileges as outlined in the Fourteenth Amendment and later expanded notions of privacy. The reach of the Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren (1953-1969) and Warren Burger(1969-1986) moved the judicial branch into areas of influence previously considered the domain of the legislative branch and initiated a revolution in legal thinking in areas of race, family, gender, and privacy as well as issues related to the First Amendment. Beginning in the 1970’s an area of legal thinking to counter the revolution took hold in law schools and became the ideological foundation of a conservative movement that helped Republican presidents remake that Supreme Court beginning with Ronald Reagan. Revolution and Counter-Revolution is the lens through which we will examine the Supreme Court in this trimester elective. The tension between these two forces remains a central political drama and understanding the roots of the conflict will allow us to better participate in the current discussions of the Supreme Court and the debates at the
heart of our political system today.

This trimester elective aims to deepen students’ curiosity about the cultural complexity of the world as well as equip students with the anthropological perspectives and skills to better understand and navigate these complexities in their own lives, both locally and globally. Students will begin by deconstructing key anthropological concepts such as ethnocentrism, cultural relativism, culture, and structural violence. In addition to interpreting ethnographic case studies in light of these concepts, students will be challenged to assess themselves using these cultural terms.

Students also will devote specific attention to exploring anthropological perspectives on race and ethnicity, class and socio-economics, gender and sexuality, politics and religion, language and communication, as well as perspectives on violence and social repair. Finally, throughout the course, students will be introduced to two research methods drawn from the field of anthropology: participant-observation and ethnography. Skills include critical reading skills, scholarly discourse, student-led deliberations, and ethnographic projects, all of which are evaluated at an advanced level.

This course provides an analytical framework for the understanding of the economy from a broad perspective. Students will analyze the function and purpose of the components of Gross Domestic Product, the causes and cost of inflation and unemployment, and the differences between long-term trends and short-term fluctuations within the economy. A strong emphasis will be placed on using an interactive learning approach through active listening, guest speakers, and team building projects and discussions.