History & Social Sciences

A laboratory of human experience.

When we study history, we are better able to grasp the forces that affect our own lives and better able to understand how the world really works. Incoming third formers must take two years of history: Modern World History and United States History (taken junior year). Seniors must pass all yearlong courses and all courses in the spring term of the senior year in order to be considered for graduation.

Humanities I: Global Studies

OFFERED: YEARLONG

Our guiding question this year will be “How do I become a change agent within my world?” In order to explore this question, the fall term focuses on the rise and fall of the authoritarian regimes, the winter focuses on the historical roots of modern issues, and the spring focuses on disasters, aid, and visibility. This course has a focus on skills, while paying particular attention to critical analysis, oral and written communication, collaborative work, understanding self and others, and maintaining integrity throughout. Students learn analytic tools and probing questions to ask when studying historical events. They examine different unsolvable conflicts relating to religion and other ideologies like capitalism and communism. Lastly, they consider how political and economic situations lead to serious consequences when catastrophe hits. We will study world history from the last 100 years through research, structured discussion, and reflection. Ultimately, our class will focus on the role of an individual historian, citizen, and activist navigating, observing, and affecting complex human dynamics, and tackling difficult global problems. Humanities I is required for all ninth graders and it part of a two-year Humanities sequence designed to prepare our students for rigorous upper-level electives.

Humanities II: American Studies

OFFERED: YEARLONG

In this course we will examine ‘we the people’ in United States History and how this group has expanded and contracted over time. The focus of the fall term will be exploring American identity. The focus of the winter term will be exploring marginalized groups within America. The focus of the spring term will be America's role in the world. This course focuses on a broad array of skills, while paying particular attention to critical analysis, oral and written communication, research and writing, collaborative work, and understanding self and others. Students examine different themes through the study of pivotal events in United States history. Through their consideration of power, citizenship, identity, and culture, students will investigate the evolution of the United States of America and what it means to be an informed and engaged citizen. Ultimately, students will gain a more nuanced understanding of the reality of the American identity. This is a required course for sophomores and satisfies the graduation requirement for United States History.

United States History

OFFERED: yearlong

This course will examine ‘we the people’ in United States history and how this group has expanded and contracted over time. In this course, students will develop a variety of skills, including critical thinking, communication (both oral and written), research, and collaboration. Students will examine different themes through the study of pivotal events in United States history. Through their consideration of power, citizenship, identity, and culture, students will investigate the evolution of the United States of America and what it means to be an informed and engaged citizen. Ultimately, students will gain a more nuanced understanding of the reality of the American identity. US History, Honors American Studies, or Advanced US History are required courses for juniors who have yet to satisfy the graduation requirement for United States History.


Advanced United States History

OFFERED: yearlong

This course examines U.S. political, social, economic, and cultural developments from the American Revolution to the modern era through a combination of both survey and thematic approaches. The course is designed to prepare students for college level rigor by requiring extensive nightly reading, analytical writing, seminar style discussion, and persuasive public speaking. All students enrolled in the course are required to engage in a scaffolded document based question model requiring in depth thematic research. Each of the six units explored will ask students to evaluate significance within chosen individual themes through research and within a persuasive public speaking opportunity. A sample of themes chosen by students includes "Diplomacy" "Media" "Partisanship" "Women" "Immigration", etc. As an advanced course, work is assigned during school breaks where students examine presidential speeches to gain contextual understanding and to evaluate political rhetoric over time. This course is open to juniors by departmental approval. US History, Honors American Studies, or Advanced US History are required courses for juniors who have yet to satisfy the graduation requirement for United States History.


America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

Offered: Spring Term

This elective will examine political, economic, and cultural developments in the United States from approximately 1873 to 1920. The Gilded Age (1873-1900) and Progressive Era (1890s-1920) witnessed the rise of the United States as an industrial and world power.  We will explore the reasons for and consequences of America’s rapid economic growth (paying particular attention to railroads, the factory system, mining, labor unions, and the evolution of the finance sector), increased immigration, and urbanization. We will read examples of primary and secondary literature, including case studies, newspaper articles, and essays, and we will study the roles of magnates including J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and J.D. Rockefeller in influencing American banking and heavy industry.

American Foreign Policy After the Cold War

Offered: Fall Term

This course will explore American foreign policy from 1991 to the present. To establish a historical and theoretical foundation, we will briefly learn about the U.S.’s role in the post-World War II order and the major themes in American foreign policy during the Cold War. We will spend the majority of our time focusing on the benefits and challenges of U.S. hegemony following the fall of the Soviet Union, as well as the contemporary threats posed by terrorism, nuclear proliferation, regional conflicts, and ongoing tensions with Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, among others. In our study, we will juxtapose the different foreign policy approaches taken by Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. We will also examine the role of politics, economics, security, the press, and public opinion in shaping American foreign policy.

Adv. Comparative Government & Politics

OFFERED: yearlong

Advanced Comparative Government and Politics is a yearlong course designed to help students understand some of the world’s diverse political systems and practices. We will begin by studying the purpose of government and important comparative government concepts and terms, such as democracy (both liberal and illiberal), globalization, political economy, political culture, and social cleavages. Students will juxtapose the structures and practices in developed democracies, developing democracies, and autocracies. The course focuses on detailed case studies of diverse countries, including: the United Kingdom, India, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, Iran, Russia, and China. The aim is to help students grasp the political complexities of our global environment, and gain some understanding of both commonalities and differences among modern political systems and their foreign and domestic policies. The focus of the fall term is developed democracies; the focus of the winter term is developing democracies; and the focus of the spring term is authoritarian regimes. This course is open to juniors and seniors by departmental approval.

Advanced Anthropology

OFFERED: yearlong

Students in Advanced Anthroplogy explore human diversity by focusing on cultural similarities and differences. This course explores the impact culture has on our lives and how anthropology is relevant in today’s world. Through engaging readings, films, projects, cooking, games and hands-on activities, students will explore how culture shapes who we are. Topics include differences in cultural core values, race, food, sports, attractiveness, gender, and sexuality. We will study subcultures as diverse as illegal immigrants, drug dealers, athletes, gang members, college culture and New England prep school students. We compare cultures ranging from Vietnam and India to Afghanistan and Africa’s Kalahari desert. The instructor’s own book, Perfectly Prep, will provide both examples of the themes of the course as well as a model for the students’ own primary research. This course is open to juniors and seniors by departmental approval.


Advanced Psychology

OFFERED: yearlong

The Advanced Psychology course introduces students to the scientific examination of the causes and intricacies of human behavior. Students will learn how psychological research is conducted and the ethical standards applied to such research. Human behavior will be examined through the biological, cognitive and social lenses. The evolution of psychological perspectives will lay the groundwork for in depth examinations of the psychology of development, learning and memory, personality, motivation, human relationships, health, and abnormal behaviors. Students will apply the principles of psychological research by designing and conducting their own experiments. Emphasis will be placed on the development of skills used to understand and execute psychological research, including reading psychological research and experiments, identifying and replicating research methodologies, and applying psychological patterns and phenomenon to data analysis. This course is open to juniors and seniors by departmental approval.

Black America: Advanced African American Studies

Offered: Yearlong

“Black” history is American history. In Black America, we will study the history of race relations in the United States. The idea of “race” is complex, ambiguous, and ever-changing. In this class, we will explore how America has historically defined and redefined “race”, focusing on how evolving ideas have effectively shaped American laws, institutions, belief systems, and defined the experiences of African-Americans and other ethnic groups. The materials considered are centered around accounts of African Americans, African diaspora, and African Americans’ experiences in the United States. The fall term will focus on race theory, ideology, and legal systems; the winter term will investigate civil rights case studies; and the spring term will concentrate on resistance, activism, and the social and legal progress of Black people in America. This class is a yearlong advanced history course which provides an introduction to African American history.

Caribbean Studies

Offered: Winter Term

In this elective course, we will explore the diverse histories, cultures, and forms of thinking of Caribbean societies. We will begin with a study of the geographical and sociocultural aspects of the Caribbean and an overview of its history. We will examine contact between European colonial powers and indigenous peoples, Africans, and Asians within the contexts of colonialism and slavery. We will then strive to understand the modern Caribbean through different topics, such as globalization and inequality; migration and diaspora; the legacies of slavery and colonialism; race and racism; and tourism. We’ll also explore various artistic, intellectual, and religious traditions, including the music styles of calypso, kadans, soca, reggae, and salsa, as well as literature, film, social movements, and contemporary politics.

Constitutional Law

OFFERED: winter term

Constitutional law is the interpretation and application of the Constitution by the United States Supreme Court. This body of law is concerned largely with defining the extent and limits of governmental power and the rights of individuals and groups. This course will survey major Supreme Court decisions and how they affect the lives of everyday Americans. Particular focus will be given to the area of how the Constitution is interpreted during times of peace and during times of war. This course is open to juniors and seniors or by departmental approval.

Culture and Conquest: Service Learning in Peru's Sacred Valley

Offered: March

This trip offers students the opportunity to visit the Peruvian Andes, including the UNESCO world heritage sites of Machu Picchu and the former Inca capital, Cusco.

Current Issues in International Relations

Offered: Spring Term

This course will examine current issues in international relations, focusing on the intersection of international politics, economics, security, human rights, and environmental issues around the world. To begin, we will study the fundamental concepts, themes, and theories in international relations, including realism, liberalism, and constructivism. We will also evaluate the different roles that states, intergovernmental organizations, supranational organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and multinational corporations play in international relations. Throughout the term, we will keep a close eye on the news and explore current issues as they emerge in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

Europe in the Interwar Years (1918-1938)

Offered: Fall Term

We will explore what are perhaps the two most tumultuous decades in European political and cultural history—the period after World War I and before World War II. We will examine how the first world war contributed to the second, focusing on the consequences of the Treaty of Versailles for Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. We will also learn about the economic collapse of Weimar, the so-called “Weimar Decadence”, the “Golden Era” of Gustav Stresemann, Hitler’s rise to and consolidation of power, the organization of the Nazi state. We will study the reasons for Mussolini’s rise to power in Italy, and the rapid political developments in Spain leading to the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Throughout the course, we will analyze political cartoons, paintings, literature, and music from the era that will help us to better understand the cultural climate of the interwar years in Europe.

European Politics After World War II

Offered: Winter Term

This course will explore the domestic and regional politics in Europe after World War II. To begin, we will study the different political and economic systems currently in place in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. We will also learn about the spread of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union. Then, we will turn our attention to the European Union, specifically its formation, functioning, and expansion, as well as the challenges it has faced in the 20th and 21st centuries. In doing so, we will examine the ongoing tensions surrounding political and economic integration in Europe. We will analyze the contemporary challenges posed by nationalism, economic stagnation, migration, regional security, far-right political parties, and increasing illiberalism in countries such as Hungary and Poland.

History of Dance and Music in American Culture

Offered: Fall, Winter, and Spring Terms

This Fine Arts/History elective explores the ways that dance and music performance are inextricably linked to and within the development of American pop culture. Through readings, movement, watching, listening and discussion, students trace the evolution of American popular dance and music, delving into its many multicultural influences, from post-Civil War Reconstruction to the present day. Through this work, students explore how creating and consuming performance art throughout our modern history has functioned as a holistic expression of the constantly-evolving American identity. Students are assessed on citizenship and engagement, creativity, analytical skills and positive contributions to the class environment.

History of Race and Gender in Sports

Offered: Spring Term

Due to political, economic, and cultural influences, sports have rarely, if ever, been pure athletic competition. The complex nature of sports becomes readily apparent when they are looked at through the lens of race and gender. Throughout American history, African American and female athletes have battled numerous stereotypes and forms of discrimination in order to participate, excel, and fail in games that were created, controlled, and viewed by white men. This course will investigate the trials and tribulations of African American and female athletes during the 20th and 21st centuries. The course will push students to contemplate how the successes and failures of these athletes correspond to the events and feelings that dominated specific historical eras. In the end, students will be asked to analyze how far African-American and female athletes have come while simultaneously assessing their current experiences in American society.

Honors Global & Sustainable Development

OFFERED: yearlong

This yearlong course provides an in-depth look at the interdisciplinary field of sustainable development, utilizing historical and recent developments in the social, political, and physical sciences. The course addresses the fundamental question: how can different countries, communities, and individuals develop in ways that are socially just and environmentally sustainable? The course looks at the complex relationships between governments, economies, societies, and the Earth's physical environment. The fall term examines the reasons societies succeed and fail, while comparing and contrasting different countries' approaches to development. This study carries over into Project: Pomfret and our class trip to Costa Rica, where we will study energy, conservation, agriculture, and urbanization in this developing Latin American country. The winter term focuses on consolidating and applying what we learned in Costa Rica to our lives at Pomfret, while actively comparing the strategies we saw "in action" with sustainable development goals being pursued in specific countries. The spring term shifts our focus to commodities, such as bananas, coffee, and wood, and what these goods and their supply chains teach us about the triumphs and challenges of sustainable development. By enrolling in this course students will gain an understanding of the challenges and solutions to achieving sustainable development now and in the future. This course is open to sophomores and juniors and by departmental approval only.

Islam in the Modern World

Offered: Fall and Winter Terms

Five times a day, every day, nearly 1.8 billion people around the world face Mecca and pray. Islam is the world’s second largest religion, yet it is often deeply misunderstood in the Western World, as much of the coverage of Islam and the Middle East focuses on terrorism, civil wars, and the repression of human rights. In this course, we will dive headlong into many of these controversial topics -- the rights of women, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iranian nuclear deal, the Syrian refugee crisis, Islamic Fundamentalism -- in an attempt to dispel misconceptions about the Islamic faith. Using a variety of resources, including the Quran, the speeches of Muhammad, and a variety of other primary and secondary sources, we will learn about the origins of Monotheism, as well as the founding and spread of Islam. The course will also emphasize current events, with students engaging in series of Country Studies using both Western and Muslim media sources to try and gain a more nuanced understanding of both the region and the modern-day practice of Islam. This is an advanced two term course, taught in the fall and winter terms, offered to juniors and seniors with permission from the History and Social Sciences department.

World History: Case Studies in Leadership

Offered: Fall Term

Throughout the history of the world, the ideas and choices made by leaders have shaped the political, economic, and social climate of civilizations and eras. Whether in moments of crisis or stability, leadership has been and continues to be vital to the success and failures of nations and societies. In order to develop a fuller understanding of the complex nature of leadership, students will first consider numerous theories on leadership and leadership styles. Students will then be asked to apply their understanding of leadership to a wide variety of case studies focused on historical leaders from around the world including Elizabeth I, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Mao Zedong, and many others. This course will challenge students to look at the myriad of choices and decisions that go into being an effective leader while also asking them to analyze how the actions and words of the past continue to shape our current global society. In the end, students will be tasked with applying what they learned in our historical case studies to the leaders who are creating and shaping our world in 2019.

World History: Nation Building and Development in Modern Africa

Offered: Winter Term

In 1884, a group of European leaders gathered at the Berlin Conference to divide up and take “ownership” over the peoples, societies, and cultures throughout the continent of Africa. European nations’ colonialism caused death, disease, and degradation of important African civilizations and cultures. It was not until after World War II that many African nations gained their independence and began establishing new governments, economies, and societies. Since that time, these nations have experienced triumphs and tragedies, and each individual nations’ journey has been unique. This course will analyze the journeys of numerous African nations including Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Liberia. Through these case studies, students will develop an understanding of the complex process of forming a nation while also considering the different economic and societal pressures nations face as they look to support their people and develop sustainably. In the end, students will come to know, understand, and value that the peoples, cultures, and nations of Africa will be instrumental in shaping the future of our world.

Meet the History Department Faculty

Patrick Boyd

Patrick Boyd

Form Dean
Patrick Burke

Patrick Burke

Director of Faculty Mentoring and Development, History Teacher
Sarah Chase

Sarah Chase

History Teacher
Hannah Cooke

Hannah Cooke

History Teacher
Katherine Duglin

Katherine Duglin

History Dept Chair/Teacher
Mary  Georgis

Mary Georgis

History Teacher
Doug Litowitz

Doug Litowitz

History Teacher
Douglas MacLeod

Douglas MacLeod

History Teacher
Tucker Prudden

Tucker Prudden

History Teacher, Learning Support Team
Quinn Rose

Quinn Rose

History Teacher, Form Dean
Robert Toste

Robert Toste

History Teacher