Our history department emphasizes the development of critical thinking skills through primary and secondary source analysis. We offer a well-rounded curriculum that highlights the varied experiences of our faculty. A diverse list of course offerings includes ancient and modern history, geography, economics, and political science. Each course focuses on sociology by fostering an awareness of current events, practiced oratory skills, persuasive writing, and opportunities for a variety of independent inquiry projects. During their time at GMVS, students in history are challenged to understand, create, and defend arguments by engaging with classmates, identifying counterarguments, and honing critical thinking skills. Historical patterns are recognized through identifying points of view and biases, active listening, and placing events in context.


American Identity

In this course history is approached thematically combining literature, culture, religion, and geography with historical specifics. Through exploration of the United States and its diverse heritage, students learn and practice: intelligent questioning, critical reading, gathering data, interpreting data, analyzing concepts, recognizing significance, understanding cause and effect. Our goal is to clarify and understand the complexity and ambiguity of social issues past and present. Using primary documents and secondary sources, as well as discussion and video, allows students to understand how everyday life and significant events shape American society. Students are taught to take useful notes, from lectures, discussions and readings. They learn to recognize bias, debate viewpoints, support and communicate ideas and synthesize data and information in writing and speech. The goal is for each student to express his or her ideas with clarity and vigor. Students are assessed based on nightly homework assignments, quizzes, class participation, presentations, tests, and projects.

World History

This course focuses on an interdisciplinary exploration of world history through textbooks, modern literature, and geospatial analysis. We will explore different periods of World history with an emphasis on three major regions: Latin America, Asia, and the greater Middle East. To study these regions, we integrate local literature and geography as part of our cultural survey. A final research project will offer students an opportunity to research an area we have already studied in more depth. In terms of student work, this course emphasizes reading, writing, research, geospatial analysis, and presentation skills. Students will write on a regular basis and periodically present information to our class both individually and in groups. Further, there will be a research-based term paper project utilizing the GMVS online academic library.

European History

European History traces the emergence of Western civilization from the Middle Ages through the French Revolution. Students analyze the political, social, economic, cultural and religious development of Europe in order to gain an understanding of the foundations of the modern world. The first semester examines critical changes that swept across Europe during the six centuries that encompass the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Age of Religious Reformation. The second semester examines the Age of European Exploration and Colonization, and changes in thought and beliefs during the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, culminating in the upheaval of the French Revolution.

United States History

This course focuses on understanding aspects of US history through critical analysis, research, writing, and presentations. We will explore different periods of U.S. history with an emphasis on primary sources, geospatial analysis, and critical comparisons with current issues. Our general theme is “War makes the State, and the State Makes War.” We use major wars in U.S. history to organize our periods of focus throughout the year, and analyze how warfare has shaped the United States as a state from early European settlements in North America through the 20th century. In terms of student work, this course emphasizes reading, writing, research with primary and secondary source materials, and presentation skills. Students will read and write on a regular basis, and will also periodically present information to our class both individually and as a group. Further, there will be a research-based term paper assignment utilizing the GMVS online academic library.

Suggested topics include:

  • The Middle East in Transition – The Arab Spring & Questions for US Policy
  • China on the World Stage – How should the United States relate to an emerging China?
  • North Korea and the Nuclear Threat
  • Russia’s Transformation – Challenges for U.S. Policy
  • The U.S. Role in a Changing World – How should the United States balance its priorities at home with its involvement abroad?
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American Presidency

This senior seminar will study the origin and evolution, along with the modern political realities, of the American presidency. It will include a survey of historical elections as well as the 2020 primary horserace and issues facing the current and next Commander in Chief. We will examine different perspectives giving us a better understanding of presidential power and leadership. With these perspectives, we will be able to pursue the questions of what makes good presidents and how we define successful presidencies. We will explore presidential governance in relation to the public, mass media, Congress and the Judiciary. We will analyze how presidents, successfully or not, engage and exert power in making domestic, economic and foreign policies.

In addition, we will focus on four contemporary conflicts: the Khmer Rouge’s reign in Cambodia, the Hutu-Tutsi conflict and genocide in Rwanda, civil war and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and the current events in Darfur, Sudan. In the case of Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia we will attempt to determine the specific causes of conflict, the ‘truth” of the events in each case, and the lasting effects of the conflict in each region. We will also study UN structure, policy and reaction and examine the idea of international law and genocide as a punishable crime (and the history of international and genocide law) and the role played by the international community in each case. Students will complete an analytical paper for the conflicts in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia, and a group presentation and individual papers on Darfur; these assignments, along with tests on Cambodia and Rwanda, will make up the majority of the student’s term grade.

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The Vietnam War

In this senior seminar on the Vietnam War we will focus on the origins and history of the complicated conflict to further understand many components of the time period. From the end of WWII to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and through the final stages of the conflict, we will learn about military strategy, tactics and key battles, while improving our understanding of the Cold War. The class will use films, television newscasts, literature, media and music to understand the change in public opinion and the anti-war movement in America. We will also consider the long-term ramifications of the war.


A Seminar on American economic and business principles, Economics includes an overview of both microeconomic and macroeconomic principles. It includes analysis of individual and public sector behavior in product and resource markets (business and service) and applied areas. Economic theories are discussed and their applications are considered in the American economy, including an analysis of the nature and interrelationships of groups like consumers, businesses, governments, labor, and financial institutions. Attention is paid to profiles of successful, and not so successful, corporations and business leaders and students examine corporate cultures and trends. Students analyze periods of American economic crisis in history and make connections to today’s world. Learning and understanding are assessed via homework assignments, quizzes, class participation, presentations, tests, and projects.

Eugenics & the Holocaust

Eugenics and the Holocaust will examine the growth of the eugenics movement in the late 19th century and into the first half of the 20th century culminating in the European Holocaust, 1936 to 1945. The course will analyze the roots to the Holocaust from a world history perspective, examining the growth of the eugenics movement in Europe, the United States, and Japan beginning as far back as the 1860s and will culminate in a careful study of the Holocaust and its impact on world history. This course will make use of primary documents and film as a key component of the study and will read the book, Night, by Elie Wiesel. A key feature of the study will be an end of the semester student driven project that will serve to both summarize this difficult period in world history and provide a platform for personal reflection.

Meet Our History and Social Sciences Faculty

Grif Edwards

G7 Program Director, History Teacher

Andrea Harris

Dean of College Counseling, History/Math Teacher