Learn about our History department program with our new video.
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.
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
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 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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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
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 period. 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 publication/presentation 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)
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 discussions. Prerequisite: Completion of World History and US History
Meet the Faculty
List of 4 members.
History Department Chair
Wesleyan University - M.A. University of Massachusetts - B.A.
Matthew Sootsman Rutledge joined the faculty at Miss Hall’s in 1991 after earning his B.A. in History at the University of Massachusetts and certifying as a high school teacher. He earned an M.A.L.S. in Social Studies at Wesleyan University in 1999. He has served as the History Department Chair for more than a dozen years, promoting the development of dozens of department electives for a globally diverse MHS student population. Matt holds the Leonhardt Family Teaching Chair. He also serves as the school’s summer Residential Director for the Tanglewood Music Center.
University of Virginia - Ph.D. University of Virginia - M.A. Vanderbilt University - B.A. Fulbright Fellow (Padua, Italy)
Michael Alexander, Ph.D. joined MHS in Fall 2013 as a History Teacher, after six years as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Virginia. Michael previously taught at Gannon University, in Erie, Pennsylvania, and the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, Virginia. In 2003-04, he held a Fulbright Fellowship in Padua, Italy, where he conducted archival research for his dissertation. Michael holds a Ph.D. in Medieval & Early Modern European History from the University of Virginia, where he also earned an M.A. in Late Medieval Italian History. He holds a B.A. in European History from Vanderbilt University.
Brown University - Ph.D. University of Massachusetts, Boston - M.A. University of Massachusetts, Amherst - B.A.
History Teacher Liza Burbank-Gilb, Ph.D. joined MHS in 2013 and the History Department faculty in 2015, teaching U.S. History and numerous electives. As the Sophomore Class Advisor, Liza also serves on the Student Life Team, and she is the advisor to students taking courses through One Schoolhouse, the online learning platform. Liza holds a Ph.D. in American Studies and an M.A. in American Studies from Brown University, an M.A. in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and a B.A. in Social Thought and Political Economy from UMass Amherst. Liza also has experience tutoring students in writing, English, and History, and helping them prepare for the Secondary School Admission Test.
Charlotte Green, known as Char, joined Miss Hall’s in Fall 2016 as a History Teacher and also coordinates experiential learning experiences in collaboration with Horizons. Char comes to MHS from Island Academy International School in Antigua, where she had taught history and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses since 2013. She also previously served as a Teaching Assistant in the Elwin Sykes Teaching Assistant Program at Phillips Andover Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and as a Teaching Fellow at Yale University. Char has a B.A. in Anthropology from Muhlenberg College and holds an M.A. in Archaeological Studies from Yale.