Offices & Resources

History and Social Sciences


About

R.G. Collingwood, a British philosopher, suggested that history is an inquiry that helps humans understand who we are by instructing us about what we have done. At St. Mark’s, the History and Social Sciences Department exposes students not only to important historical facts, but also to the imaginative process of understanding and evaluating the significance of those facts in the light of the present day. This process is a catalyst for intellectual growth, for it broadens and enriches one’s perception of human activity as it sharpens one’s powers of analysis and communication. It also prepares our students to be more effective global citizens.

Students become acquainted with the past in varying ways: through texts, primary sources, autobiographies, narratives, passages from literature, and works of art. While most classroom time is organized around discussion of assigned readings and lectures, teachers pay specific attention to the skills students must develop. Those include various proficiencies in reading and writing and the organizing of material with techniques such as outlining and note taking. In addition, the Department works with students to extend their abilities to work diligently, think critically, solve problems creatively, work collaboratively, and self-advocate with confidence and integrity.

Faculty

Department Chair
email

[Full Profile]

Katharine W. Millet

Laura Appell-Warren


Robert Calagione '04


Adam Jewell

Shelly Killeen


Elise London


David Lyons


Lynette Sumpter

Courses

Suggested Pathway for Historical Studies at St. Mark’s School

Form III

Global Seminar
(This is a required course in the Third Form year.)

Form IV
Mediterranean Civilization to 1450
Middle Eastern Civilization to 1450 CE
East Asian Civilization to 1600
The Atlantic World, 1300–1800

Form V
United States History
Advanced United States History

Form VI
Advanced Art History
African-American Leadership in the Twentieth Century
Cultural Anthropology
Micro- and Macroeconomics
History of the Modern Middle East
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
Sites of Spirituality

The Global Seminar

The Global Seminar sets the foundational stage for students’ understanding of global citizenship. Through an examination of ongoing aspects of globalization, students will gain an understanding of the larger forces at play in the 21st Century’s interconnected and interdependent world. Topics covered will include: the history of globalization, trade and economics, infectious disease, peacekeeping, human rights, technology, the environment and sustainability, and gender politics. Significant world events will be addressed as they occur, and students will be encouraged to hone their understanding of interconnected systems as they strive to understand current events within local and global contexts. Perspective taking, a sense of common humanity, a sense of individual and collective responsibility, and a commitment to social justice and equity—all core values of global citizenship—will be explicitly addressed throughout the course.

Over the course of the year, students will learn and use essential skills that will help them be successful at St. Mark’s and beyond. Students will acquire good habits of organization and daily preparation and develop proficiency in communication of their ideas in spoken, written, and electronic forms. Students will learn the skills of researching and writing an analytic paper and the class will encourage students to take an active and collaborative role in their learning through individual and group projects.(Required for all III Formers)

Mediterranean Civilization to 1450
Fall

This course is an introduction to the history and civilization of Europe and the Mediterranean area during the Classical Era and Middle Ages. The course focuses on the creation of the classical Greco-Roman world and its dissolution into three successor civilizations: Byzantium, the Islamic Empires, and Latin Christendom. The course will also look at how this process led to the formation of a new civilization in the West during the Medieval period. In addition to the content mentioned above, students will be provided with an introduction to and practice in reading, interpreting, and critically analyzing both primary and secondary sources; conducting research and writing a persuasive essay; and employing historical evidence in effective oral presentations and discussions. (Open to IV Formers and others with departmental permission)

Middle Eastern Civilization to 1450 CE
Fall

This course will trace the development of the political and social history of the countries and empires that formed the Middle East from the Persian Empire to the fall of Constantinople. Essential to this study will be the rise of Islam and the resultant interactions with their neighbors in Europe, Asia, and Africa. In order to provide a basis for understanding the dynamics of the region since World War One, religious and political “isms” will be studied in detail. Themes explored in the course include: economics, international and regional politics, globalization, violence, and gender role transformations. Students will be provided with an introduction to and practice in reading, interpreting, and critically analyzing both primary and secondary sources; conducting research and writing a persuasive essay; and employing historical evidence in effective oral presentations and discussions. (Open to IV Formers and others with departmental permission)

East Asian Civilization to 1600 Fall

This course is designed to introduce students to the intertwined histories of China, Japan, and Korea from their early civilizations through the turn of the 17th century. From the early Yellow River civilizations and the introduction of central Chinese philosophies, through the expansion of the Silk Road and the spread of Chinese culture in all directions, the course will address China’s earliest dynasties, the Heian period in Japan, and the Silla period in Korea.

Students will explore the social, cultural, environmental, political, and economic history of East Asia through primary and secondary texts and research. This course will also examine the interactions of East Asia with the rest of the world in this period and the relationships of each of the East Asian countries with each other. The primary focus of the course will be on China and Japan, with a secondary focus on Korea and Vietnam. Students will be provided with an introduction to and practice in reading, interpreting, and critically analyzing both primary and secondary sources; conducting research and writing a persuasive essay; and employing historical evidence in effective oral presentations and discussions. (Open to IV Formers and others with departmental permission)

The Atlantic World, 1300–1800
Spring

This course will look at the histories of the four continents that border the Atlantic Ocean. We will focus on the centuries that bracket the moment of contact that established ongoing networks of exchange and communication across the Atlantic—exchanges that would dramatically alter each continent’s (and the world’s) culture, society, demographics, economy, environment, and politics. The course will begin with an in-depth exploration and comparison of Sub-Saharan African kingdoms, empires, and stateless societies; Incan, Aztec, and North American civilizations; and post-plague Western European nations. We will then look at the Portuguese and Spanish exploration ventures and perceptions of “the Other” evident in documents and art from each region. Finally, we will analyze the myriad consequences of extended contact between the continents of the Atlantic: forced and willing migration, the slave-based “Atlantic system”, ecological exchange, and political revolutions, among others. Students will practice reading, interpreting, and critically analyzing both primary and secondary sources; conducting research and writing a persuasive essay; and employing historical evidence in effective oral presentations and discussions. (Open to IV Formers and others with departmental permission)United States History YearThis course, which fulfills the school’s graduation requirement in history, takes a research-based approach to the traditional survey course of American History from the colonial period to the 1970s. Students will engage with research projects of ever-greater challenge as the class progresses. Assessments will emphasize the skills of library research and citation, written and oral historical argumentation, analysis of primary sources, and evaluation of historiography, culminating in a final independent research paper of substantial length. (Open to Forms V and VI, and Form IV with Departmental permission)Advanced

United States History

This course is designed for the student with a particular interest in history, offering a more intense and faster-paced investigation of U.S. History—from the colonial period through the 1980s. Students will work with complex primary source material, practice their presentation, debate, and writing skills, and will complete the year with an independent research paper. (Open to Forms V and VI with Departmental permission, which will be based upon the student’s performance in previous history courses, overall academic performance at St. Mark’s, and interest in historical studies)

Advanced United States Government and Politics

This course examines the U.S. political system. It provides an analytical perspective on U.S. government (the structure and function of institutions in this political system) and politics (how Americans select their representatives and how the representatives operate). The course will explore the historical roots and constitutional underpinnings of U.S. government, how individuals behave and participate in government, how political parties, interest groups and the media interact with government, how the institutions of national government (Congress, the Presidency, the Bureaucracy, and the Courts) operate, how government formulates and implements public policy, and the historical development of civil rights and civil liberties. As we look at these subjects, we will also develop students’ skills and abilities, including their: (1) writing and speaking skills; (2) note-taking skills; (3) abilities to read, comprehend, analyze, and critique both primary and secondary materials; (4) collaborative capabilities; and (5) abilities to present and defend cogent arguments. Students will do this through a variety of assignments, including debates and research projects. Finally, the course will spend significant time studying current events as they touch upon the U.S. political system (and students will be required to regularly read The New York Times). (Prerequisite: U.S. History and Departmental permission, which will be based upon the student’s performance in prior history courses and overall academic performance at St. Mark’s)

Advanced Art History

This course offers a rigorous chronological survey of the world’s major art and architectural achievements from antiquity to the present, placing them within their historical, religious, and social contexts. Students learn to think and write as art historians by developing observational skills and by researching patronage, contractual agreements, religious ritual, engineering, and cultural history. They synthesize these elements into persuasive written and oral arguments. The course follows the European tradition as well as explores global cultures and new media. Art History involves extensive reading and writing, a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and a trip to other museums during the year to see original work (Open to Forms V and VI with Department permission).

Sacred Places: Sites of Spirituality
Fall

In this course the students would explore a variety of sacred sites of the world and learn what makes places sacred. These sacred sites would include both natural areas, such as Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and Uluru in Australia, as well as manmade sites such Borobudur in Java and the Vatican in Rome. The overarching framework for looking at the sites is set by the anthropologist Arjun Appadurai who argues that places are created rather than born, and that it is how we as humans interact with a place that creates meaning for a place. Appadurai identifies three aspects in this process that are essential: agency—i.e. what people do at a place and who’s allowed to be there; sociality—i.e. what kinds of interactions take place at the place; and reproducibility—i.e. what one has to do to pass the locality on to a new generation. In addition the students will learn about the religions associated with each sacred site studied. This course also fulfills one semester of the Religion Department requirement. (Open to Forms IV, V and VI)

Microeconomics Fall

Often referred to as the bottom-up view of the economy, microeconomics focuses on the decisions made by individual households and firms. The objective of this course is to introduce the models and theories of the discipline, thus equipping students with the analytical tools needed to comprehend economic trends. The course will begin with an overview of basic economic concepts such as scarcity, opportunity cost and the supply and demand model. From there, the course will shift to a focus on microeconomic topics, including consumer choice theory, firm costs and various market structures. Frequent attention will be paid to applying the concepts discussed in class to current events. Finally, the course also will include a historical survey of important developments in economic thought as well as a stock market simulation. (Open to Forms V and VI)

Macroeconomics
Spring

From the frequent debates on Capitol Hill concerning tax policy to the recent financial meltdown on Wall Street, the study of macroeconomics has much to contribute to our understanding of modern day America. The objective of this class is to introduce the models and theories of the discipline, thus equipping students with the analytical tools needed to comprehend economic policy. To this end, the course will begin with an overview of basic economic concepts such as scarcity, opportunity cost and the supply and demand model. From there, the course will shift to a focus on macroeconomics topics, including inflation, unemployment, fiscal policy and monetary policy. Frequent attention will be paid to applying the concepts discussed in class to current events. Finally, the course also will include a historical survey of important developments in economic thought as well as a stock market simulation. (Open to Forms V and VI)

History of the Modern Middle East

Fall

This course will provide an examination of the history of the modern Middle East from Ottomans’ entrance into European affairs through the present day. Essential to this study will be an analysis of the region’s interactions with the globe, especially Europe, and an in-depth analysis of the modern Arab-Israeli conflict. Included within the course will be an examination of the region’s political, cultural and religious foundations. This course also uses the Arab-Israeli conflict to address broader issues of international conflict and conflict resolution. (Open to V and VI Formers and others with departmental permission)

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

Spring

This semester course will focus on the history of Nazi Germany from 1919–1945. Class themes will explore: origins and appeal of National Socialism, collapse of the Weimar Republic, Nazi voting patterns, anti-Semitism in Germany, dissent in the Third Reich, racial ideology, Hitler’s War, and the implementation of the Final Solution. Students will analyze critical historical readings, primary documents and artworks, films, and class discussions to enhance their knowledge of the Third Reich. (Open to V and VI Formers and others with departmental permission)

African-American Leadership in the

Spring

Twentieth Century This course will examine the lives, philosophies, and leadership styles of a group of significant African-American leaders during the Twentieth Century. That group will likely include: Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, Ida B. Wells, Mary McLeod Bethune, Marcus Garvey, A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Thurgood Marshall, Malcolm X, John Lewis, and Jesse Jackson. Not only will this course look at the historical narratives and contexts relevant to these leaders, it will also examine the nature and challenges of leadership through the lenses of their lives. In addition to the content mentioned above, students will learn the skills needed to discover, interpret, and explain history, including the ability to read and analyze primary and secondary sources, develop analytical writing skills, participate actively and effectively in class discussions, engage in research, and think like historians. Course requirements will include a major research paper. (Open to V and VI Formers and others with departmental permission)

Cultural Anthropology

Spring

Cultural anthropologists investigate the range of human experiences in a non-ethnocentric manner, seeking to understand human universals on the one hand, and the uniqueness of human cultures on the other. In this introductory college level course students will focus on topics that are relevant to the study of cultural anthropology, such as religion and spirituality, race and ethnicity, adaptation to different environments, social change, gender roles, cross-cultural psychology, child rearing practices, and residence and marriage patterns.

In addition students will learn about the process of conducting anthropological field-work through participation in an ongoing local research project. Case studies, ethnographic texts, documentaries featuring cultures from around the world, and a textbook are used. (Open to Forms V and VI)

St. Mark’s History Research Fellowship: An Advanced Topics Course in History

Students wishing to pursue independent research and college-level engagement with the work of historians are invited to apply for the History Department Fellowship program. Fellows will begin the year engaging in guided discussions about the historian’s craft and will practice their research skills on smaller-scale local history research projects. Throughout the year they will have the opportunity to engage with the wealth of archives, universities, libraries, and museums in the greater Boston area, exposing them to authentic history in action. Possible examples of what Fellows could expect in this class include experiencing lectures from university history professors, perusing the artifacts of the Salem Witch Trials at the Peabody Essex Museum, and conducting oral history interviews with local participants in the Civil Rights Movement. By the end of the year, each student will design and carry out an independent research project on a topic of their choice, which will result in a substantial academic paper and an oral presentation. (This course is open to VI formers who have completed a United States History course and a program application. Research fellows will be selected through an application process that will take place in the spring of 2015. Interested students should contact the History Department Chair.)