Departments

History Department Mission

The History Department guides students through a deliberate and varied progression of discovery, analysis, and historical inquiry so that they will both have the skills and the understanding to pursue advanced studies and become involved citizens in a complex world.
"When you look at the electives offered in the History Department, you see a small, intimate school with serious ambition." Video by Alexa Green '09.

History Courses

List of 13 items.

  • World History

    This core class, 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)
  • U.S. History

    Traditionally taken during the sophomore year, US History exposes students to many themes, ideas, and experiences that have shaped the country. Chronological in format, this course surveys many topics, including the country's beginnings and early character, the Constitution, sectionalism, the Civil War, and the Gilded Age. Twentieth century subjects include Progressivism, the Depression, World Wars I and II, the Cold War, and the Sixties. Diverse methodologies, many different text sources, writing development, and new technologies serve to provide a meaningful look at the American experience and to develop historical thinking skills. Completion of a term-long research paper is part of the course’s many challenges.
    Grade Level: 10-11
    (1 credit; full year)
  • European History - Advanced Placement

    This year-long course is designed to offer committed students the opportunity to study history at a level commensurate with a college survey, examining the European past from the Renaissance to the present. A rigorous pace and increased study expectations make this a demanding but intellectually rewarding course as students prepare for the annual Advanced Placement examination. In addition to a sophisticated text, the course relies on primary and interpretive readings, document-based-question essays, presentations, videos, and computing to build a solid understanding of the political, social, cultural, and intellectual dimensions of European history. This is the only AP history course available to sophomores.
    Grade Level: 10-12
    (1 credit; full year)
  • U.S. History - Advanced Placement

    This intensive, year-long, college-level course has two primary and equal purposes: first, to provide students with comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the key events, ideas, and issues of United States History from pre-colonial times to the present; and second, to thoroughly prepare students to do well on the annual Advanced Placement examination in May. The course encompasses political, social, economic, diplomatic, and cultural history. Through frequent essay writing, practice tests, document analysis, and content quizzes, students will develop both their content mastery and their historical skills in critical reading, writing, analysis, and synthesis. Students should be prepared for a rigorous pace, challenging readings, a substantial workload, and higher expectations. Students will be expected to read multiple textbook chapters and a 300-page monograph over the summer to prepare for this course in addition to significant writing.
    Grade Level: 11-12
    (1 credit; full year)
  • Human Geography - Advanced Placement

    This full-year course introduces students to the systematic study of patterns and processes that have shaped human understanding, use, and alteration of the Earth’s surface. Geographic concepts emphasized throughout the course are location, space, place, scale, pattern, regionalization, and globalization. These concepts are basic to students’ understanding of spatial interaction and spatial behavior, the dynamics of human population growth and movement, patterns of culture, economic activities, political organization of space, and human settlement patterns, particularly urbanization. A significant outcome of the course is students’ awareness of the relevance of academic geography to everyday life and decision making. This combination of the academic and the applied gives students a sophisticated view of the world in the context of domestic/foreign policy and international relations. All students earning course credit take the national Advanced Placement Examination in May. Recommendation required.
    Grade Level: 11-12
    (1 credit; full year)
  • Nazis and the Holocaust

    This one-semester course is not about World War II but rather focuses exclusively on National Socialism in Germany, from its origins in the aftermath of the Great War and ending with the destruction of the Third Reich in 1945. This will be an extremely dark class as we examine in minute detail the tenets of Hitler’s Nazi ideology and the way in which that racial world-view led to murdered millions upon millions of innocents in occupied Europe. We will be reading selections from Richard J. Evans' monumental and groundbreaking study of National Socialism and the Nazi regime, in addition to Primo Levi's heart-wrenching account of his time in Auschwitz. Prerequisites: World History and US History
    Grade Level: 11-12
    (1/2 credit; first semester)
  • Modern Middle East

    This is a one-semester course that will help you to understand, with nuance and depth, what is happening right now in the Middle East, from Syria to ISIS to Iraq. We begin with the Ottoman Empire's disastrous decision to enter World War One, and end with the fight against ISIS. Along the way, we will spend a great deal of time looking at Israel and its bloody conflicts with its Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians. In addition, we will come face-to-face with American intervention in the region, first in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, and then in Iraq two years later. This is often a dark class, but studying the history of the last century in this region is critical to understanding the challenges that the world faces today.
    Prerequisites: World History and US History
    Grade Level: 11-12
    (1/2 credit; second semester)
  • Renaissance in Italy

    This is a one-semester course about the rebirth of republican government in the 13th century, the explosion of trade, wealth, and art in the 14th and 15th centuries, and the family that has come to define the period: the Medici. Along the way, we will spend time in Florence, Venice, and a place near and dear to me, Padua. We will visit the elite in their palaces but also see what it meant for average people to get married (and to see those marriages fall apart) by reading a classic microhistory by one of the giants in the field (Gene Brucker) and by taking a look at my dissertation research from the Paduan archives. In addition to in-class tests, students will write an extended historiographical essay and complete a culminating group project in May.
    Prerequisites: World History and US History
    Grade Level: 11-12
    (1/2 credit; first semester)
  • Tudor and Stuart England

    In some ways, this one-semester course is the story of two families: the Tudors and the Stuarts. During the Tudor dynasty, the religious world of England was blown apart by Henry VIII in the name of finding a male heir. In 1603, Henry's last daughter Elizabeth died childless, and the throne passed to the Stuart family. The Stuarts were not as successful as their Tudor predecessors: one would be decapitated in front of his palace (Charles I), another would endure eleven years of exile in Antwerp (Charles II), and the last (James II) would lose his throne because his Parliament invited his son-in-law, William of Orange, to invade and remove the Catholic “tyrant.” And therein lies the other great issue of this course: religion. The Tudors would rule over a century of religious upheaval between Protestants and Catholics, while the Stuart kingdom was torn apart by fighting between rival interpretations of Protestantism. We will approach this dramatic story by reading a variety of historians, by writing an extended historiographical essay, and through a culminating group project presentation in May.
    Prerequisites: World History and US History
    Grade Level: 11-12 (1/2 credit; second semester)
  • Introduction to Law

    This one-semester elective is a 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. A mock trial is often used as the final project in this remarkably interesting look at the law that shapes all of our lives in such powerful ways.
    Prerequisites: World History and US History
    Grade Level: 11-12
    (1/2 credit; first semester)
  • Current Events

    This one-semester course takes many of the present day’s issues and challenges as fodder for both understanding the present day and for becoming stronger consumers of media information. Current hot topics to be examined include the environment, the economy, problems in the Middle East and Asia, the growth of Asia, America’s political scene, and current hot topics such as globalization and climate change. Newspaper and magazine subscriptions will supplement other texts and news sources. Discussion, research, debate, and presentations are among the vehicles by which we’ll make sense of the present in order to become better students of the future.
    Prerequisites: World History and US History
    Grade Level: 11-12 (1/2 credit; second semester)
  • Cultural Anthropology

    Cultural anthropology attempts 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 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 reading-intensive 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: 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.
    Prerequisites: World History and US History
    Grade Level: 11-12 (1/2 credit; second semester)

History in Action

History Department Core Values

News from the History Department

Video by Alexa Green '09.

Meet the Faculty

List of 4 members.

  • Matthew Rutledge 

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

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

    History Teacher, Academic Support Specialist and Academic Coordinator
    Brown University - Ph.D.
    University of Massachusetts, Boston - M.A.
    University of Massachusetts, Amherst - B.A.
    Read Bio
  • Charlotte Green 

    History Teacher, Experiential Coordinator
    Read Bio
492 Holmes Road • Pittsfield, MA 01201  (413) 443-6401

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