History Department

The study of history at Canterbury is a creative endeavor that asks students of all Forms to think like historians in order to make sense of the past. Students draw connections between Neolithic villages and modern cities to discover the foundations of civilization; they hold class debates to render judgment on turning points in modern European civilization; they even travel west on the Oregon Trail during the 1840s and invest in the stock market during the 1920s to experience the frame of reference of another time period through classroom simulations.

Teachers use databases, newspapers, field trips, and blogs to bring the present into the history classroom. They integrate content material with classroom activities centered on intellectual skills described below. It is these habits of mind which, when fueled by creative imagination, spark us to become active citizens prepared to participate in a democratic society. Course offerings include three AP courses, several Sixth Form electives, and core under-form courses including Foundations of Civilization, Modern European History, and U.S. History.


  • Ask relevant questions about past events through the SQ3R (survey, question, read, recite, review) reading method.
  • Interview Martin Luther, Patrick Henry, and other authors of important primary source documents to gain deeper insights into the informing events.
  • Critique your own writing by questioning the strength of your thesis, the structure of your paragraph, the support of your idea, or the conviction in your voice.


  • Access credible resources through the Copley Library to defend your argument that Columbus should not be viewed as a hero.
  • Conduct substantive historical research to find information to represent Galileo in his trial by the Church.
  • Find counter information and arguments to strengthen your persuasive essay about the South's position on slavery.


  • Assess the biases that could distort the account of a primary source journal by scrutinizing the word choice.
  • Consider the weight of the evidence presented by both sides in mock trials to determine the fate of Charles I or Louis XVI.
  • "Think 360" about a topic in order to arrive at an informed opinion necessary to interpret the past.

2017 - 18 Course Offerings


Chair: Jeffrey Johnson

The History Department endeavors to promote in students an appreciation for historical knowledge, the interpretive skills necessary to make sense of it, and the compassion to become active world citizens ready and willing to make a difference.


Foundations of Civilization is offered primarily to Third Formers with a purpose of establishing the foundations for historical study. The course is designed not only to cover the content of emerging civilizations, but also to introduce and develop organizational, analytical, research and writing skills. The course begins with an exploration of the history of ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia, China, Africa, and India, and the “classical” civilizations of Greece and Rome. Students then focus their studies on the formation of empires in Russia, East Asia, Africa, and the Middle East before discussing the European Middle Ages and the formation of early modern Europe. Students complete a number of writing assignments including a short research paper.


Modern European History is offered primarily to Fourth Formers. The course builds on the "Foundations of Civilization" studied during the Third Form year by exploring several important turning points in European history and assessing their impact on modern civilization. Topics include the Renaissance & Reformation, the Age of Exploration, the Scientific Revolution & Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, Imperialism, the two World Wars and the Cold War. Emphasis is given to the continued instruction, practice and development of essential skills needed for the study of history including reading comprehension, analyzing primary source documents, outlining historical arguments and applying an open mind to the study of historical issues. In addition to continuing their development of historical thinking and writing through independent assignments, students work collaboratively throughout the year on a series of “mini-projects” designed to develop specific research skills using a variety of library resources.


Honors Modern European History is offered primarily to Fourth Formers. The course uses a thematic approach to explore European history from the Renaissance to the fall of the Soviet Union and to assess the role of historical themes such as culture, religion, geography, technology, economics, war and ideology in shaping modern western civilization. Students broaden their understanding of critical events by reading and analyzing a variety of source materials, thinking interpretively and writing persuasively. Students are encouraged to "think 360" by exploring topics from a variety of perspectives and engaging in experiential learning through extended debates and simulations before casting judgment on a variety of historical issues. In addition to continuing their development of historical thinking and writing through independent assignments, students work collaboratively throughout the year on a series of “mini-projects” designed to develop specific research skills leading to a small research project in the spring semester.


AP World History is primarily for Fourth Formers. The course builds on an understanding of cultural, institutional, and technological precedents that, along with geography, set the human stage. This understanding is advanced through a combination of selective factual knowledge, appropriate analytical skills, and the integration of small research tasks. The course highlights the nature of changes in international frameworks and their causes and consequences, as well as comparisons among major societies. Students enrolled in this course are required to take the AP World History exam in May and complete a short research paper.


United States History is offered primarily to Fifth Formers. The course is presented chronologically from European arrival to the post World War II era with an emphasis on acquiring the core knowledge and interpreting the significant meaning of essential events and issues which make up the American heritage. Students continue to develop the essential skills needed to think and write like an historian by applying active reading strategies and engaging in student centered enrichment activities designed to promote student analysis and open mindedness of controversial issues. Each chapter is supplemented with primary source documents from the Stanford Reader series designed to develop skills of critical reading, source analysis and interpretive thinking. Along the way, students continue to develop skills of persuasive writing and techniques for research, which culminate with an independent research project during the second semester.

Required for graduation.


Honors United States History is offered primarily to Fifth Formers. This course is structured around a central question. What does it mean to be an American? By this we mean to search our history from the colonial period to the post-World War II era to discover the beliefs, character traits and institutions, which make America unique. Content is presented thematically by focusing on such themes as the role of citizenship or the role of the west and connecting past to present in an effort to understand the consistencies and the contradictions in the American Dream. Students engage in experimental learning in the classroom though extended simulations, trials and debates to promote historical thinking by analyzing controversial issues through a variety of perspectives before casting judgment as an historian. Students learn strategies for critical thinking and persuasive writing as well as techniques for research, which culminate in an interpretive research project during the spring semester.


AP United States History provides students with the analytical skills and understanding necessary to deal critically with the problems and information in United States history. The course prepares students for intermediate and advanced college courses by making demands upon them equivalent to those made by full-year introductory college courses. Students learn to assess historical materials and to weigh the evidence and interpretations presented in historical scholarship. Students develop the skills necessary to arrive at conclusions on the basis of an informed judgment and to present reasons and evidence clearly and persuasively in an essay format. Students enrolled in this course are required to take the AP United States History exam in May and to write a research paper.


AP European History introduces students to cultural, economic, political, and social developments that played a fundamental role in shaping the world. The course provides a context for understanding the development of contemporary institutions, the role of continuity and change in present-day society and politics, and the evolution of current forms of artistic expression and intellectual discourse. In addition to providing a basic narrative of events and movements, the goals of the AP program in European History are to develop an understanding of some of the principal themes in modern European History, an ability to analyze historical evidence and historical interpretation, and an ability to express historical understanding in writing. Students enrolled in this course are required to take the AP European History exam in May.


The AP course in macroeconomics gives students a thorough understanding of the principles of economics that apply to an economic system as a whole. The course places particular emphasis on the study of national income and price-level determination, and also develops students’ familiarity with economic performance measures, the financial sector, stabilization policies economic growth and international economics. Students enrolled in this course are required to take the AP Macroeconomics exam in May.


In the United States of America, the government is you. This course is designed to guide students to discover “government of the people, by the people for the people” as they learn about and engage in the election process of 2016. Presented during the climactic months of the current election cycle, the course provides an opportunity for students to experience the interaction between historical foundations of American democracy and the current issues that play out in the presidential campaigns. The course is organized by units each focusing on a specific theme pertinent to the election process and each designed to weave historical knowledge related to the theme with current issues of debate in the election process. Students will experience the election process as campaign teams by working in groups to design political advertisements, write stump speeches and debate the issues, and also as citizens by following the media coverage of the campaigns, assessing media bias, researching the issues and finally casting judgement on the party platforms and the candidates themselves. Eligible students will be registered to vote and encouraged to cast their vote on election day. In the weeks following the election, students will assess the implications of the election results on the federal, state and local levels of government. Students gain the core knowledge, the historical background and the skills of interpretation needed to make sense of and participate effectively in the election process. The goal of the course is to instill an appreciation for living history, to promote a sense of civic responsibility and to encourage lifelong political engagement.


This course introduces students to the historical origins of anti-Semitism and surveys twentieth-century German history to World War II. Emphasis is placed on political and social developments, which elevated the persecution of Jews to official government policy and almost succeeded in the total extermination of Jews from Europe. Through independent reading and research, students will further hone their ability to read and write analytically. A short research paper is required.


This course will compare and contrast a variety of political, social and intellectual revolutions that have profoundly shaped the modern world. Besides examining the dramatic events surrounding the respective French, Russian, Chinese, and Iranian Revolutions, an analysis of other transformational episodes in history will be studied, including the Industrial and Digital Revolutions. Among the human agents of major change that we will look at include Lenin, Mao, Ayatollah Khomeini, Martin Luther King, Malala, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jackie Robinson. A focus of the continued fallout of both the Orange Revolution and the recent “Arab Spring” will be a part of a current events component to this class.


This course covers fundamental economic concepts in microeconomics and macroeconomics and examines how the global economy operates. The course allows the students to study, analyze, and dissect trends in American business as well as the growing issues in the current economy. Other concepts covered are the issues of allocating resources in markets where goods and services are bought and sold, and how this process affects supply and demand curves. All students are required to research, examine, and present a current events topic of their choice.


This course is designed to help students understand the history and structure of the American government. The class begins with a study of the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, and the three branches of government. The course then moves on to such topics as state and local government, the responsibility of the government in domestic affairs, and U.S. foreign policy throughout the years. Through the examination of American government, students will be better equipped to make informed decisions as citizens. A short research paper is required.

Prerequisite: United States History.


Students in this course will study contemporary world events involving political, social, cultural, and economic issues. Emphasis is placed on defining world events and the prevailing trends and leaders who are influencing current affairs. Students regularly examine periodicals and evaluate the opinions of reputable commentators reflecting on present day developments. The course asks students to further refine their ability to read analytically and write a persuasive historical argument. A short research paper is required.


This is an honors level sixth form elective course designed to explore the decades of change in the United States of America since World War II. Students examine the political, diplomatic, economic, social and cultural forces that have defined America in the post-World War II era. The course promotes experiential learning through a variety of student centered activities including mock trials, congressional debates, “situation room” simulations and re-run elections designed to foster engagement in the issues and an appreciation for the significance of past events. Students continue to develop skills of interpretation, research and writing need to draw relevant meaning from past events. The goal of the course is to instill an appreciation for the study of history, to promote open mindedness and to encourage a sense of civic responsibility.

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