History Department

The study of history at Canterbury is a creative endeavor that tasks students of all Forms to think like historians in order to make sense of the past. Students experience the frame of reference of another time period through classroom simulations. Examples include, but are not limited to: drawing connections between Neolithic villages and modern cities to discover the foundations of civilization; holding class debates to render judgment on turning points in modern European civilization; traveling west on the Oregon Trail during the 1840s; and investing in the stock market during the 1920s. Teachers integrate content material with classroom activities centered on intellectual skills to connect the past to the present.

History courses are listed below; please download the Academic Guide for a complete list of our course offerings.



Foundations of Civilization is offered primarily to Third Formers with the purpose of establishing the basis 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 as well as 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. Honors section available.


World 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 and the 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 World 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 an understanding of cultural, institutional, and technological precedents that, along with geography, set the human stage. This understanding is advanced through the acquisition of selective factual knowledge, the application of appropriate analytical skills, and the integration of small research tasks into the class curriculum. The course highlights the nature of changes in international frameworks, their causes and consequences, and 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 core knowledge and interpreting the meaning of the essential events and issues that make up the American heritage. Students continue to develop the essential skills needed to think and write like a historian by applying active reading strategies and engaging in student-centered enrichment activities designed to promote analysis of controversial issues. Each chapter is supplemented with primary source documents from the Stanford Reader series designed to develop skills in critical reading, source analysis, and interpretive thinking. Along the way, students continue to develop their persuasive writing and research skills by completing 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 this 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 the role of citizenship, the role of the west, and connecting the past to the present in an effort to understand the consistencies and contradictions in the American Dream. Students engage in experiential learning in the classroom through 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, persuasive writing, and research which culminate in an interpretive project during the spring semester.


AP United States History prepares students for intermediate and advanced college courses. Students learn to assess historical materials, weigh evidence and interpretations presented in historical scholarship, arrive at conclusions based on 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. The course prepares students to take the AP European History exam in May.



This course introduces students to the historical origins of anti-Semitism and surveys German history from the twentieth century to World War II. Emphasis is placed on the 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. The human agents of major change that we will look at include Lenin, Mao, Ayatollah Khomeini, Martin Luther King, Malala Yousafzai, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jackie Robinson. The continued fallout of both the Orange Revolution and the recent “Arab Spring” will be the focus of a current events component of this class.


This course will provide students with an in-depth study of the Middle East Region in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Beginning with the downfall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, this course examines the European influence on the Middle East, the formation of nation states, and the modernization of the area. It also covers the major events in the region, including the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Iranian Revolution, Islamic radical movements, the Gulf War and US intervention in the region, culminating with the Arab Spring and current events in the region. Students will analyze the causes and effects of the tensions in the region and their global impact. A short research paper is required.


Students in this course will study contemporary world events involving political, social, cultural, and economic issues. Emphasis is placed on 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 challenges students to further refine their ability to read analytically and write a persuasive historical argument. A short research paper is required.


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.


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 will analyze the philosophical foundations of government. We will study enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke, as well as twentieth century philosophers such as Robert Nozick. Students will gain from this course a better understanding of the complexities of government, and will be challenged to build a model government of their own. Prerequisite: United States History.


This course will explore the historical events of the twentieth century to better understand the world as Russians see it in the present. Topics will include the decline of the Romanovs and the czarist regime, the Russian Revolution and the rise of Lenin, modernization and World Power under Stalin, the Cold War from Khrushchev to Gorbachev, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of modern Russia. The course will conclude with a study of the issues and challenges facing Russia’s international relations today. Students continue to develop the skills of interpretation, research, and writing needed to draw relevant meaning from past events. The goals of the course are to promote a better understanding of the Russian world view and an open mind toward international diplomacy. Prerequisite: United States History.