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THINK Critically

Students of history at Miss Hall’s School think critically.

By debating historical positions, discussing controversial issues and defending opinions in a supportive, respectful atmosphere, students develop an appreciation for diverse social, political, economic, and cultural perspectives.

History Courses

List of 13 items.

  • World History

    This foundational course, traditionally taken in the ninth grade,
    spans more than 8,000 years of history and examines
    civilizations around the world. Students will learn how to take
    notes efficiently, read critically, research successfully, study
    effectively, and write eloquently. Over the year, they will have
    opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of history
    through individual and collaborative activities, which
    include seminars, debates, projects, presentations, simulations,
    and essays. History will come alive during a day of
    experiential learning on Ancient Greece first semester and
    Europe second semester. In sum, this class intellectually and
    academically prepares young students to handle the
    increasingly challenging courses at Miss Hall's and in the
    world beyond.
    Grade Level: 9-10
    (1 credit; full year) required course
  • U.S. History

    Traditionally taken during the sophomore year, US History
    offers students an opportunity to further develop their
    foundational understanding of the field of history by exploring
    some of the experiences and ideas that have most clearly
    shaped this country. Our theme-driven survey examines the
    American past through important lenses, such as that of human
    rights, and with an emphasis on intellectual development and
    skills building. Students step away from traditional textbooks
    to examine our nation’s history with challenging materials
    produced by strong university programs including the Harvard
    Business School and the Choices program at Brown
    University. Diverse methodologies, including case-based and
    place-based learning, serve to provide a meaningful look at the
    American experience and to develop historical thinkers. One
    unit provides a challenging independent research and writing
    project in which young scholars develop college-level skills.
    This course is the bridge to upper level history electives.
    Prerequisite: World History or an equivalent foundation course
    Grade Level: 10-12
    (1 credit; full year) required course
  • Cultural Anthropology

    Cultural Anthropology seeks to make sense of the way people
    live in different cultures around the world by taking a
    comparative and global approach. This one-semester elective
    involves investigating how cultural practices differ through the
    lens of various perspectives and authors within the discipline.
    The course will explore key aspects of societies including
    gender roles and relations, identity, language, religion,
    marriage practices, and the diverse types of economic
    exchanges that exist all over the world from Papua New
    Guinea to Indonesia, the Middle East, Brazil, and even New
    York City. This course will help you to not only understand the
    customs of the most distant tribes of the world but also to make
    sense of your own cultural values and practices.
    Prerequisites: Completion of World History and US History
    Grade Level: 11-12
    (1/2 credit; first semester)
  • Historical Bioarchaeology

    This one-semester course is a unique combination of history,
    science, and technology that will examine the human remains
    of past civilizations. The course will explore the prehistory of
    early human ancestors through the fossil record, and will span
    the major time periods in history including Egypt, China, Inca,
    Vikings, and North American colonization, to name a few—all
    through the lens of the bones they left behind. One component
    of this course will therefore be a strong focus on human
    anatomy. What can the bones tell us about the burial practices
    and religion in that time period? The diet? The lifestyle? The
    diseases? All of these aspects of human life manifest
    themselves on the bones—the key is learning to read the bones
    like one reads a book. Research methods in archaeology will
    also be considered by examining the role of technology in
    deciphering this history of bones. Students will evaluate the
    use of different imaging techniques and chemical testing that
    allow historians to arrive at their knowledge of the past using
    the greatest primary source of all—the human remains.
    Prerequisite: Completion of World History and US History
    Grade Level: 11-12
    (1/2 credit; first semester)

  • Introduction to Gender Studies

    This semester elective will give students the tools to think
    critically about how gender operates as a social construct: how
    it affects our lives, our societies, and our cultures. We will
    explore such topics as the distinction between gender
    assignment and gender identity; the history of feminism;
    masculinity and femininity; heteronormativity; and the
    intersection of gender with other social identifiers including
    race and class. We will rely on a wide range of texts, including
    works of feminist theory, queer theory, and women’s history as
    well as documentary, popular culture, and analysis of current
    events. Students will engage with challenging concepts
    through class discussions, group presentations, papers, and
    self-directed projects.
    Prerequisite: Completion of World History and US History
    Grade Level: 11-12
    (1/2 credit; first semester)
  • Introduction to Law

    This one-semester elective offers students an exciting and
    meaningful survey of the field of law. The course focuses on
    many aspects of the subject, beginning with its roots in
    philosophy, the Constitution, and governmental principles.
    The course provides an overview of many facets of law,
    including individual rights, litigation, property law, contracts,
    tort law, and civil and criminal procedures. The course will
    also examine important court cases, look at law enforcement
    and the criminal justice system, and offer opportunities to
    exercise legal principles and understanding in simulations and
    writings. Documentaries and numerous interactions with local
    figures in the world of law round out the course. This
    remarkable look at the law that shapes our lives in such
    powerful ways serves as a tool by which students become
    stronger and more capable citizens and advocates. The class
    also provides a baseline understanding of the field for those
    who might be interested in a law-related career.
    Prerequisites: Completion of World History and US History
    Grade Level: 11-12
    (1/2 credit; first semester)
  • Digital History

    This dynamic, one-semester, student-centered elective offers
    the chance to work as documentary historians in a creative
    context. This project-oriented course begins with an
    exploration of our personal and family pasts and expands to
    encompass subjects of local, regional, national, and/or global
    interest. Working in an online environment using personal and
    school technology, students explore the past by collecting,
    digitizing, and organizing photographs, video, interviews,
    music, voice, and other elements in the creation of
    documentaries of different lengths and focus. Students develop
    traditional research skills and learn how to work with moviemaking
    hardware and software as they construct personal
    historical interpretations and build their social awareness in a
    thoroughly modern context.
    Prerequisite: Completion of World History and US History
    Grade Level: 11-12
    (1/2 credit; second semester)
  • Egyptian Art & Archaeology

    This one-semester elective will take an in-depth look at the
    civilization of ancient Egypt from its foundation in 3100 B.C.
    E. through the fall of Cleopatra, in 30 B.C.E. Students will
    explore the distinct culture and development of Egyptian
    civilization through physical remains in the art and
    architectural marvels of temples, pyramids, and tombs as well
    as the mummies of Egypt’s most famous pharaohs and
    forgotten laborers. This course will examine why a dominant
    civilization developed along the Nile River and how that
    civilization became one of history’s most memorable legacies.
    Prerequisites: Completion of World History and US History
    Grade Level: 11-12
    (1/2 credit; second semester)
  • History of Race in the US

    In this one-semester course, we will examine the various ways
    race has been constructed in this nation through legal, political,
    and cultural processes. We will consider how citizenship laws,
    immigration policies, cultural representations, and more have
    been used to racialize groups of people in different ways.
    Students will also learn about the varied strategies adopted by
    people of color to challenge systemic racism, in both the past
    and present, and consider what the failures and successes of
    these strategies teach us about how to work for racial justice
    today. Our sources will include history texts, works of critical
    theory, autobiography, documentary film, and popular culture.
    Class will be discussion based and students will explore the
    complicated issues that pertain to racial identity through
    written work, projects, and presentations.
    Prerequisite: Completion of World History and US History
    Grade Level: 11-12
    (1/2 credit; second semester)
  • Introduction to Philosophy

    This one-semester course seeks to inspire students to question,
    debate, and wonder about what they think they know about our
    world. This class explores the historical foundations of
    philosophical thought among the ancient Greeks, such as Plato
    and Socrates, then progresses to European thought, including
    the ideas of Locke and Descartes, among others. This study
    primarily encompasses the branch of philosophy known as
    epistemology, the study of knowledge, which studies how we
    “know” our so-called reality within various disciplines. Topics
    and debates in the class will include questioning the way we
    know the world—using reasoning, emotions, or senses. It also
    includes the areas in which we question knowledge, such as in
    history, ethics, science, and the arts. Each class session is
    primarily discussion-based and founded on daily written
    responses to a rich variety of advanced readings. Projects may
    involve a combination of presentations and essays, which will
    help to develop strong research and writing skills as well as
    emphasize student voice and gumption during presentations
    and debates.
    Prerequisite: Completion of World History and US History
    Grade Level: 11-12
    (1/2 credit; second semester)
  • AP US History

    This is a year-long course that will tackle the complexities and
    contradictions of the United States of America. A nation,
    “conceived in liberty,” where millions were enslaved. The
    world’s oldest democracy that, in the 20th century, supported
    many of the most vicious dictators in foreign lands. Some of
    the stories will be familiar, but we’ll delve beneath the
    mythology to get at the dark reality. If there is a single,
    unifying theme for this course, it is this: cisgender, hetero,
    white, men oppressing everyone who doesn’t look or think like
    they do. In the early republic, it was the Southern slave owner.
    After the Civil War, it was the Northern industrialist and his
    masses of woefully underpaid child and immigrant laborers. In
    the last century, it was the segregationists, intent on propping
    up Jim Crow, as well as the so-called “War on Drugs” and the
    concomitant mass incarceration of people of color. In our own
    century, it is the rise of the “alt-right,” police brutality,
    bathroom bills, gerrymandered congressional districts, as well
    as attacks on voting and reproductive rights. All of this is the
    American story, not the lofty rhetoric of the preamble to the
    Declaration of Independence.
    Recommendation required.
    Grade Level: 11-12
  • Hallmark Humanities Seminar

    The Hallmark Humanities Seminar is a full-year course for
    juniors and seniors that deepens understanding of the crosssections
    among history, literature, and other humanities
    subjects, and allows for individual project-based research on a
    chosen topic. Students interested in the course must submit a
    topic proposal to the co-teachers during course registration
    Seminar projects must include reading of literary texts;
    historical research that includes both primary and secondary
    sources; consultation of experts; a series of process reflections;
    a final written component; and a final product for
    Students begin with a collaborative research process to teach
    advanced research skills and mimic the individual work
    students will do later in the year. In class, students report on
    progress, problems, and successes, engage with core
    theoretical texts, learn successful research techniques, and
    pursue site-based enrichment experiences that may relate to
    independent projects (e.g. archives, libraries, experts, historical
    sites). Students will also use class time to meet in smaller
    research cohorts to discuss their individual projects and share
    with peers. Students with share their Hallmark end-of-year
    project with the Miss Hall’s community and write a thesis that
    will be archived by the School.
    Grade Level 11-12
    (1 credit; full year)
  • Hallmark Rethinking the Mediterranean: Late Antiquity to the Renaissance

    This year-long class asks the question: how do we know what
    we know? What if those suppositions are wrong? Who
    decides what is “right” and what is “wrong” when it comes to
    historical research? This is the fertile field of Revisionist
    History, in which scholars re-examine past historiography to
    challenge it with new evidence and/or interpretations. In order
    to “rethink” the Mediterranean, students will begin in the
    imperial city of Constantinople (later Istanbul) by reading the
    very recent scholarship of Dr. Anthony Kaldellis, whose book
    The Byzantine Republic: People and Power in New Rome
    (2015) challenges theocratic interpretations of the so-called
    Byzantine Empire by recasting it as a republic in the traditional
    Roman sense. Building on that, students will then read his
    forthcoming second book, Romanland: Ethnicity and Empire
    in Byzantium (2019), in which he explores the deeper reasons
    behind the “othering” of this Eastern Mediterranean state over
    the past few centuries, and to make his case that this was still
    very much a “Roman” empire. In order to honor student voice
    and choice, students can then either stay in Constantinople
    after its conquest by the Ottoman Turks, or decamp to the
    Italian peninsula to study the culture of the Renaissance. In
    both cases, the shadow of Constantinople loomed large, though
    in both the Ottoman East and Italian West the importance of
    that role has often been downplayed. In this phase of the class,
    students will embark on either solo or collaborative
    interdisciplinary research on scholarship that is challenging the
    accepted historiography of the Ottoman Empire or the Italian
    Renaissance. Throughout the second semester, the class will
    collaborate to develop a final public product to unveil to the
    school in May 2020.
    This course will challenge students’ understanding of history.
    Students will go beyond textbook synopses by reading essays
    and monographs from a variety of leading historians. In the
    process, students will be introduced to the complexities of
    advanced historiography and the nuance of interpretation and
    debate in the profession. This will serve to foster intellectual
    curiosity by allowing students to engage with the past on a
    more critical level via equitable and collaborative classroom
    Prerequisite: Completion of World History and US History

Meet the Faculty

List of 4 members.

  • Photo of Matthew Rutledge

    Matthew Rutledge 

    History Department Chair
    Wesleyan University - M.A.
    University of Massachusetts - B.A.
    Read Bio
  • Photo of Michael Alexander

    Michael Alexander 

    History Teacher
    University of Virginia - Ph.D.
    University of Virginia - M.A.
    Vanderbilt University - B.A.
    Fulbright Fellow (Padua, Italy)
    Read Bio
  • Photo of Liza Burbank

    Liza Burbank 

    History Teacher
    Brown University - Ph.D.
    University of Massachusetts, Boston - M.A.
    University of Massachusetts, Amherst - B.A.
    Read Bio
  • Photo of Charlotte Green

    Charlotte Green 

    History Teacher, Experiential Coordinator
    Yale University - M.A.
    Muhlenberg College - B.A.
    Read Bio
492 Holmes Road Pittsfield, MA 01201
Phone: (413) 443-6401

About us

Located in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, Miss Hall's School is a private, college preparatory, boarding and day high school for girls grades 9-12.
Copyright © 2020 Miss Hall’s School