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 take Humans in the Natural World which integrates English, Social Science and Natural Science.

Humans in the Natural World (three credits)

Using the tools of these three disciplines, this three-trimester 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 the disciplines. Ultimately, our 9th 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 the 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 (full 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 including nature and the wilderness; democracy and American political thought; class identity and formation; slavery and its legacy, ethnicity and identity; consumerism and American economic growth. 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 (half 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

Photography has been used to document the world around us. From candid home photos to large format portraits, the cameras lens can tell us stories about its subject and audience. This course is an opportunity for students to study the history of social documentary photography as well as to do their own independent work. We will take a thematic approach to documentary photography looking at subjects including work, community, the body, war, nature, and the “other.” Students will focus on photography, but complementary materials including literature, historical texts, census data, video, as well as sound and music will be central to the class. Each student will complete their own project as a capstone piece to the course that combines photography with another discipline. In addition to exploring the world of social documentary photography, we will also have a chance to meet a number of local photographers and learn about their work. This course is available to juniors and seniors and can satisfy either a history or an art credit. Student assignments will be tailored to their credit requirement.

History 12 • African Studies (half 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 (half 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 (half 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, homes, political, and international institutions. We will consider the way in which economic actors (ourselves included) make decisions. The course begins with a brief survey of basic economic concepts and terminology. We then look at a series of subjects: the power of markets; incentives and economic behavior;  game theory; globalization; international economics; government and the economy; business cycles; environmental economics; and market forces. Articles from the newspaper and news magazines will serve as the backdrop for the class. The class concludes with a research assignment in which students design and produce an independent work.

History 12 • Latin American History (half credit)

This course introduces some of the major forces and events that have shaped Latin America: conquest and colonization, economic imperialism, racial and ethnic integration, the church, migration, trade, and the environment.   Sources include literature, art, film, historical essays, political documents, economic data, and current events to help us make sense of Latin America.  Students will write two country-specific papers, one of which can involve creating an alternative project that is a non-writing research-based assignment (for example, writing a Mexican folk ballad, knitting an Andean earflap hat, or creating a Brazilian cookbook).  Students should leave the class with a greater appreciation for the richness, complexity, and diversity of the region.

History 12 • Revolutions, a Comparative Study (half 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 (half 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 (half 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 (half credit)

“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.” (Brillat-Savarin) 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, an essential human need, becomes the basis for interdisciplinary study. The course is broken into several areas: Food and Meaning; Food and Ethics; Food and Justice; and, lastly, Food and Culture. As a humanities course, we will take on each unit through a variety of disciplines including anthropology, art, literature, psychology, religion, politics, ecology, economics, psychology and history. In addition, our class will involve experiential activities, many of which include cooking or preparing meals.


The Putney School | Elm Lea Farm, 418 Houghton Brook Road, Putney, Vermont 05346-8675
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