Section: History   |   School: School of Rhetoric

Don’t just study US history. Learn how to be the historian! In this series, we take a “closer look” at three of the great events of American history: the War for Independence, the War Between the States, and the First World War. A fourth course in the series examines the foundations of the US government in more detail.  While most history courses present students with an already written and interpreted historical narrative, this series gives students the opportunity to learn the tools of a historian and produce their own historical accounts. In each course we will read and discuss primary sources such as speeches, letters, newspaper articles, and official declarations. We will also study the art of doing history, or historiography. What makes for a strong or compelling account? Does the Bible give us any clues as to how history ought to be done? What assumptions should we have when we try to explain the actions of individuals and societies in the past? Join us as we endeavor to answer these and many other questions.

These classes do not have formal prerequisites, but are intended for students in grades 10-12 who have had some exposure to the kinds of material covered in The Great Conversation 1-3.

US History:  War for American Independence

Rarely does the history student have the opportunity to slow down and pay close attention to a major historical event by reading the primary texts themselves. In this course, students have the opportunity to study the War for Independence (often called the “Revolutionary War”) by studying the writings from the war itself. We will read from Paul Revere’s own narrative of his famous ride in 1775, John Adams’ letter to his wife, Abigail, on the appointment of George Washington as Commander, Benedict Arnold’s justification of his actions to the American people, and Anthony Allaire’s reflection as a Loyalist prisoner. Throughout our work, we will be considering what it means to “do history” (or historiography). What is the significance of calling the event a “Revolution” versus a “War for Independence”? How do the historian’s assumptions play a role in the interpretation of events?

Texts:  The American Revolution: Writings from the War of Independence, John Rhodehamel, ed.; The Birth of the Republic, Edmund Morgan; Major Battles and Campaigns: Battles of the Revolutionary War 1775-1781, W.J. Wood, as well as numerous free documents available on the internet.
Note that the teacher may make minor adjustments in the above from year to year. A final book list will be available April 1.

US Government:  Foundations

We often look at the events of 1776-1789 as being a shocking departure from the past, introducing the great “Experiment in Liberty” and building a nation unlike any other on this new foundation. But where did that foundation come from? And how does the “building” look today? Those questions are the focus of this course. We will begin with the Biblical basis for liberty, and examine the precursors of American constitutionalism to set the stage. We will then read and discuss a selection of foundational documents – both of the Separate and United States in an attempt to understand the nature of that “foundation”. We will periodically “fast forward” to modern issues and topics of interest to see how a better understanding of the foundation might help us better understand the significance of those modern issues. We will also discuss the concept of “American Exceptionalism” from both an historical and Biblical perspective.

Prerequisites:  Intended for students in the 10th grade or above who have some exposure to material taught in The Great Conversation levels 1-3.

Texts:  15 Documents and Speeches that Built America (Amazon Unique Classics series, Kindle Edition e-book); The Federalist vs. Anti-Federalist Dispute: The Original Arguments for Each, (Kindle Edition e-book); The Importance of the Electoral College (George Grant). We will also use the Magna Carta, The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, The US Constitution and other relevant source documents available on the internet.
Note that the teacher may make minor adjustments in the above from year to year. A final book list will be available April 1.

US History:  War Between the States

As with the previous course on the War for American Independence, this course will focus both on the sources of conflict and the experiences of the combatants and the various civilian demographic groups. How did these groups see the war at the time? How were people in different geographical areas affected? And how did the geography itself affect the conduct of the war? And with reference to the issue of naming raised in the previous course, notice that we are not calling this conflict the American Civil War.

World History:  The First World War

This course will probably not be offered for the first time until the 2018-19 school year as the 100th anniversary of The Great War (as it was known at the time) comes to a close.  Once again, we will focus on the issues and perspectives of the various great powers leading up to the outbreak of hostility, as well as shockingly brutal conditions attendant large scale military conflicts in an industrialized age. Students will also develop some insights into the way the final peace laid the groundwork for a renewed outbreak of war some 20 years later. The emphasis will be on the US perspective and involvement in the war both before and after officially intervening on the allied side.

2019-20 Book Lists

Note that The War Between the States and The First World War will not be taught this year.