History students are asked to create meaning from our past and present, developing an ability to understand a historical framework for the world evolving around them. Classes emphasize discussion and oral skills, writing with an emphasis on analytical essays, and critical thinking. Students are asked to write history—to formulate, support, and document their own views of the past. The use of primary texts is critical in all courses and student research builds from primary document analysis. History is an interdisciplinary study and our courses bring a historical approach to a range of subjects. All students who enter 11th or 12th grade having been given credit for U.S. History at another school must take the Writing and Research course.
Ninth Grade Integrated Course
Ninth grade students are required to take Humans in the Natural World for three credits which integrates English, Social Science and Natural Science. This three-credit course will include the history requirement for the ninth-grade year.
Humans in the Natural World (three credits)
Using the tools of these three disciplines, this year-long course begins by asking “How Do We Know What We Know?” Starting with things we can observe locally, we will expand to connect to the global community. Students will be expected to collaborate with each other, make connections and synthesize information about their world from historical, scientific, artistic and literary sources. Each student will undertake several long-term projects, including detailed studies of a plot of land, a country, and a commodity. Students will read novels, poetry, and both primary and secondary sources in all three disciplines. Ultimately, our Ninth graders will hone their skills in analytical and creative writing, oral presentation, collaboration, research and analysis. They will also learn the habits of reflection, self-evaluation, perseverance, and practice. Throughout they will demonstrate their skills and understanding through presentations, experiments, Wiki creation, writing and teaching. After completion of this integrated course, Putney students will be expected to accurately sketch the world around them, critically observe and analyze their environment, collect and use GIS (Geographic Information Systems) data, write in both analytical and imaginative forms, synthesize scientific and historical facts into meaning and be fearless enough to embrace uncertainty, ambiguity, and the benefits of failure. Students will earn credits in science (.5 biology .5 earth science), history/social science (1.0), English (1.0). In addition they will learn some basic tools and vocabulary of economics, GIS, data analysis, and political science, as well as the rudiments of epistemology. Mathematical thinking will be an integral part of our study.
Tenth Grade Course
Tenth grade students take History of the Modern World which focuses on western society and culture.
History 10 • History of the Modern World (1 credit)
This course focuses on the major themes in the development and “modernization” of western society and culture, and its relationship to the world at large. Students analyze primary source material to study the spiritual base of medieval society, the individuality of the Renaissance and Reformation, the growth of constitutionalism from the Anglo-Saxon Witan through the twentieth century, the process of industrialization and its early critics, the development of nationalism and the impact of World War I and II for humanity. The readings range from textbooks and documents to historical novels. Student assignments include tests, papers, library research projects, oral presentations and formal debates. Texts: Sherman and Salisbury, West in the World; Machiavelli, The Prince; More, Utopia; Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front; Wiesel, Night; and other selected other readings.
Eleventh Grade American Studies
These courses are required for juniors in lieu of 11th grade English and U.S. History to provide richer exploration of American society, culture, and history.
American Studies Grade 11 (1.5 credits)
This course is a year long interdisciplinary course that asks the fundamental question: “What does it mean to be an American?” The course is arranged around a series of thematic explorations: Nature; American Political Thought; Slavery and its Legacy; Conflict; and Work, Labor and Industry. Courses are taught by teachers in both the English and History departments, and readings from both disciplines provide the essential backdrop for dynamic class discussion and exploration. Fundamental skills of independent thought, reading for meaning, oral expression, and creative and analytical writing are central to the class.
Writing and Research: Humanities Thesis (0.5 credit)
This course meets for one trimester and is taught by members of the English and History departments. The primary goal of this course is to facilitate the writing of a substantial research paper. Students learn the essential skills of thesis development, interpretation, and analysis. A significant amount of time is devoted to the study of rhetoric and research methodology.
Twelfth Grade History Electives
Twelfth grade students are permitted to take any of the following electives.
History 12 • Social Documentary Studies (0.5 credit)
This course is an opportunity to study the way in which art reflects the world around us. Students will study documentary photographers with a focus on specific bodies of work which are central to our understanding of history and have changed our perception of truth. We begin by using documentary photography to look at the self, move on to an exploration of the "other," and end with social issues. We will focus on photography, but complementary materials will include literature, historical texts, census data, video, as well as sound and music. Project based work forms the centerpiece of this course and students should be prepared to create their own documentary work. Each student will complete a major self-designed capstone piece that combines photography with research. In addition to exploring the world of social documentary photography, we will also have a chance to meet a number of local photographers as well use local historical resources. This course is intended for juniors and seniors. Students can take this course for humanities credit.
History 12 • African Studies (0.5 credit)
African Studies aims to better understand the challenges of building African economic and social structures in the wake of European control and exploitation, with emphasis on how the West has projected European Enlightenment assumptions onto a continent with dramatically different social and political attitudes and traditions. The course will be divided between this topical overview (including the historical heritage contained in the continent, and traditional social attitudes) and independent student projects developing an area of special interest.
History 12 • The Middle East Cauldron (0.5 credit)
Today, the Middle East remains a focal point of cultural misunderstanding and conflict. This course seeks a greater understanding of this complex and volatile region. The course begins with a look at the political, economic, cultural and religious influences in the region, from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire to the present, using both primary and secondary sources. Later the course will consider some selected topics from the history of the region, the Sunni Shiite split, and the growth of Islam. The course continues with the complexity of women’s roles with emphasis on Iran, and concludes with an independent project.
History 12 • Introduction to Economics (0.5 credit)
The term economics is derived from the Greek “rules of the household.” In this course we look at the way in which economics governs our lives and homes, as well as our political institutions. We will consider the way in which economic actors (ourselves included) make decisions. The course includes a survey of basic economic concepts and terminology. We will take a thematic approach to economics. Articles from the newspaper and news magazines will serve as the backdrop for the class. Students will gain a greater ability to use economic terms and concepts to understand the world around us. The class concludes with a research assignment in which students design and produce an independent work centered around primary research.
History 12 • Latin American History (0.5 credit)
offered in academic year 2015-2016
This course introduces some of the major forces and events that have shaped Latin America: conquest and colonization, economic imperialism, racial and ethnic integration, religion, and political upheaval. Our course will take an interdisciplinary approach to understanding this exciting region of the world. Students will leave the course with a solid background in the defining features of this region as well as a stronger basis for understanding current events.
History 12 • Revolutions, a Comparative Study (0.5 credit)
What conditions and catalysts incite people, or a people, to break into violent rebellion against their ruling powers and elites? What courses do such rebellions take, for better or worse, once under way? This course will seek to better understand these questions by exploring and categorizing a number of large-scale revolutions in the context of selected theoretic models (The English Civil War, The American Revolution, The French Revolution, The Russian and Bolshevik Revolutions, and The Chinese Maoist Revolution). Students will also select, study, and classify a less familiar revolution of their own choosing (Toussaint L’Overture’s Black Revolution in Haiti, for example) which they will write on, and present to the class.
History 12 • Topics in Ancient and Modern Chinese History (0.5 credit)
This course examines the ebb and flow of unity and disunity throughout ancient Chinese history and the modern age. What forces caused China to band together in empire? What forces forced it apart? Students will examine political theory, human movement, and cultural and social norms, and learn how they have influenced Chinese dynasties and states from ancient to modern times. Students will learn the essentials of ancient Chinese history, and topics in modern history including the Opium Wars, the Chinese Civil War, Communist China, and current events.
History 12 • Comparative Religions (0.5 credit)
This course seeks to understand the traditions of religious belief and the nature of the divine in history and across cultures. The course will emphasize religious texts in their historical and cultural context. Writing will include both analytic and personal response. Readings include Huston Smith, The World’s Religions; The Gilgamesh Epic; Herman Hess, Siddhartha; selections from the Bagavad-gita, the Old- and New Testaments, Dostoevsky, the Koran, Rumi, and the Tao Te Ching.
History 12 • Sociological Impacts of Food (0.5 credit)
Food is an ever-present part of our daily experience and a medium through which we can examine our individual and collective heritage. In this course, food becomes the basis for interdisciplinary study. The course is broken into several units: Food and Meaning; Food and Ethics; Food and Justice; and, lastly, Food and Culture. Readings will come from variety of disciplines including anthropology, art, literature, psychology, religion, politics, ecology, economics, psychology and history. In addition to written research-based assignments, our class will involve experiential activities, many of which include a focus on culinary skills.