A laboratory of human experience.
The History and Social Sciences Department offers a relevant, diverse, and challenging curriculum. 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. In doing so, our students gain a richer understanding of the stories and perspectives that have shaped, and continue to shape, our world.
- Honors Global & Sustainable Development
- America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
- World History: Case Studies in Leadership
- Islam in the Modern World
- Advanced Anthropology
- History of Race and Gender in Sports
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 historical case studies where sustainable development was compromised. The winter term focuses on analyzing and understanding different sustainable development goals and the actions being currently pursued in specific countries around the world. 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. After applying what we learned in Costa Rica to our lives at Pomfret, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Students in Advanced Anthropology 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.
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.
In addition to a full spectrum of traditional histories, students at Pomfret can also explore fields such as anthropology, psychology, and political science; in-depth studies of Indian, African, and US history; and contemporary courses that focus on current events and important global issues. Members of the faculty pride themselves on building students critical thinking, research, and writing skills; and creating courses that fuse their historical passions with student interest.