The History Department is committed to teaching students effective analytical and communication skills to prepare them for future academic endeavors and good citizenship. Beyond inquiry into past events, the study of history is about collaborative learning through research. Students will learn research methods, and also how to think critically about these methods. Classes in the History Department ought to challenge students’ pre-reflective commitments, preparing them to be conscientious citizens capable of advocacy through a wide range of media.


At Miller, the history faculty teach students to search for lessons, virtues, and warnings from our past. This search leads to knowledge of the world’s problems and possibilities, and, more significantly, to greater self-knowledge. The focus of the history classroom becomes instruction in the critical tools of self-discovery: research, analysis, and synthesis. This education equips MSA students to be fully engaged and articulate citizens with a deep sense of cultures, traditions, and ideas from around the globe. The questions that arise afterwards from these endeavors are not strictly historical but eternal: “What is the good society?”, “What do human beings owe each other?”, “Where did we come from and where are we going?” Four core history courses are taken in sequence as a student progresses through MSA. Ancient and Medieval History introduces 9th grade students to the timeless questions bequeathed by the Chinese and Islamic civilizations, the Ancient Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, and Medieval Europeans. Modern European History asks 10th grade students what it means to be “modern” in the wake of cultural changes since the Renaissance. United States History presents 11th grade students with rival narratives of the American past and the struggles of the American people to honor the ideals of their revolution. 12th graders have the option of selecting from several Senior Capstone Courses, all of which culminate with a large seminar paper which is defended in front of a committee before being presented to peers. Advanced Placement (AP) options are also available for each course beyond the 9th grade.


History classes reinforce the school’s cross-curricular model of writing instruction – based on the Little Red Schoolhouse system – that teaches a systematic process of essay-writing. Analytical writing is a crucial skill for building insightful thinkers. Research papers are standard parts of each history class, and there is a strong emphasis on using primary sources to craft a historical argument. By teaching students to “go to the source,” MSA history courses teach students to apply their writing and critical thinking skills to pieces of historical evidence so that they might formulate their own interpretation of the past. It has been said history is an argument without end. At MSA, students learn to add their voice to that enduring debate.



Ancient and Medieval Civilizations is the first half of a two-year course of study. In this course students examine the events, cultures, ideas, and personalities that shaped the foundation for our contemporary world. The course emphasizes the “roots” and development of Western Civilization: the Jews, the Greeks, the Romans, and medieval Christianity. However, because the western world did not develop in isolation, we spend a good deal of time exploring non-western cultures and traditions. As a class, we develop an awareness of world history in our lives through the study of the lives of “regular” people and by continually linking these lives and events of the past with our world today.


This course traces the development of the modern global economy from Europe’s early modern period, the age of exploration. Students will learn how to understand patterns of interaction with Europe and global cultures, from the global trade in the sixteenth century to the cultural interactions with Islamic civilization that led to the Renaissance, to colonization in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. A special emphasis will be placed on writing with a critical vocabulary. The course will show how interactions between Europe and the world shaped the global present.


(Prerequisite: 90+ in Humanities 9--Ancient & Medieval Civilizations or Instructor Approval) Advanced Placement European History course is an intensive survey of European history from 1450 to the present day, designed to prepare students for the AP examination in May. What is modernity, and why is it often assumed that modern history begins in Europe? The class investigates the political, social, economic and cultural developments in Europe that would powerfully influence the modern history of the world. Students will develop skills of clear analytical writing in a timed environment, persuasive argument, and interpreting primary source documents.


This course will survey American history from the pre-Colombian period to the present with a special focus on the development of the United States government. The student will analyze political, social, economic and cultural themes within the context of broad, chronologically divided units. Special emphasis is placed on the development of American government at the federal, state, and local levels, and the mechanisms of government in America. In addition to a textbook, this course draws upon a wide range of both primary and secondary source material, and students are expected to do significant note-taking, reading, and writing. The goals of the course are threefold: to impart to students a working knowledge of the narratives of American history and the American government; to foster critical thinking and analysis; to engage and improve specific scholarly skills, including note-taking, organization, original research, test preparation, and academic writing.


(Prerequisite: 90+ in Europe & the World or 88+ in AP European History or Instructor Approval)

The Advanced Placement United States History course is designed to provide a rigorous college level experience with an emphasis on interpreting primary documents, mastering a significant amount of informational content, and writing critical essays. All historical writing will be based upon the rubrics used for the grading of the APUSH national exam by the College Board in preparation for the AP examination.

Students in this course will develop key historical thinking skills. The essay writing will stress causation, comparison, contextualization, and continuity & change over time. Students will be required to craft written arguments using historical evidence, a complex thesis, and a connection to events from other historical eras. There will be a focus on the seven main themes of American history as outlined by the College Board:

  • identity;
  • work,
  • exchange, and technology;
  • peopling;
  • politics and power;
  • America in the world;
  • environment and geography;
  • and ideas, beliefs and culture.


(Prerequisite: 90+ in US History & Government or 88+ in AP United States History or Instructor Approval)

The course in AP United States Government and Politics is a topical study which begins with various modern economic and political systems, and proceeds through those subjects which are emphasized by the College Board's United States Government and Politics Advanced Placement exam. The goal is to produce future members of the "informed public" and, thus, in our own small way, help contribute to the future viability of our American democracy. The theme of the course is the following: there are both privileges and responsibilities involved with holding American citizenship. There is a direct relationship between the knowledge and understanding one has of the American political and economic system, and the contributions one makes to society.


This course consists of an overview of general economic reasoning skills. Students will be introduced to the principles of microeconomics, like supply and demand, trade, taxes, elasticity, and game theory. The course will also include an exploration of applied economics in the realms of personal finance, financial markets, and entrepreneurship. The ultimate goal of this class is to get students thinking like an economist. Economic decision making should be present in our everyday lives. Using the economic thinking gained in this course, students will become better decision makers and global citizens.


In the study of global perspectives, students will utilize physical and cultural outlooks to examine people, places, and environments across the globe. Students will come to understand the influence of geography on the events of the past and present with a focus on contemporary issues. Special emphasis will be placed on geographic skills and literacy. In conjunction with our study of geography, a significant portion of the year will be spent studying the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development. This study will culminate in a project addressing a sustainable development goal of the student's choosing.


AP Human Geography is a year long college­- level survey course designed to introduce students to the effects humans have on the Earth’s surface. The content is presented thematically rather than regionally and is organized around the discipline’s main subfields, economic geography, cultural geography, political geography and urban geography. The scope of the course is broad, encompassing a profound array of human activities, their interactions, and their social, political, economic, and environmental consequences. Students who successfully complete the course will gain a deeper sense of how human systems have evolved, the present state of human life on earth, and the forces that are shaping the future of humanity. Units of study have been outlined in the AP Human Geography Course & Exam Description booklet published by the College Board. Topics include: the nature of human geography, population, movement/migration, culture, language, religion, ethnicity, gender, political geography, economic development, agriculture, industry and urban geography.

The goal for the course is for students to become more geoliterate, more engaged in contemporary global issues, and more informed about multicultural viewpoints.



The aim of the Senior Seminar: The American Civil War is to give students a deeper understanding of American history through a combination of focused topical study and higher-level independent research. In the course students will study a variety of subjects related to the Civil War, including:

  • U.S. Constitutional theory,
  • racial history and relations,
  • gender roles and the 19th Century Cult of Domesticity,
  • the cultures of the Antebellum South and North,
  • military strategy and tactics,
  • the economics systems of the newly industrialized North,
  • the agricultural West and the cash-crop economy of the South.

The class will read and discuss the historical interpretations of various academic and popular historians: i.e. Gary Gallagher, James McPherson, James Robertson, Bruce Catton, and Shelby Foote.

Students will choose an area of special interest and spend the duration of the course engaged in research and writing on that topic. Special emphasis will be given to primary document and Civil War archive research skills including trips to the John Nau Civil War Center at the University of Virginia. The final project for each student in the class will be to produce a senior capstone paper on student-chosen topic, choose a committee to review the paper, and defend the project in front of a panel. The capstone project will follow the history department’s senior capstone project scaffolding, which is the same for all senior capstone classes.


Meet Chair of Department

David Riddick   US History, AP US History, DE History of American Civil War  ✉︎ driddick@millerschool.org ☏ 434-823-4805, ext. 258

David Riddick
US History, AP US History, DE History of American Civil War
✉︎ driddick@millerschool.org
☏ 434-823-4805, ext. 258