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.


PVCC HIS 121-122 (3 credit hours per semester)

Students will study a survey of American history in two segments. Semester 1 will cover Pre-columbian America to 1877, and Semester 2 will cover 1877 to 9/11. The course will be structured similarly to college history courses; a majority of homework assignments will be readings from primary source documents, a college-level textbook, and literature from the periods studied. Students need to be capable of independent work and move at a faster pace than in a regular history class. The course aims to both impart a knowledge of the broad contours of American history and give students practice with the historical skills of analysis, comparison, assessing causes and effects, and synthesis. Major assessments will consist of unit tests and persuasive essays. DE American History students will also complete an 11th grade research paper similar to those assigned in the AP US History class and in US History and Government. Students who complete the year’s coursework will receive 6 credits from Piedmont Virginia Community College.


This government seminar emphasizes ethical reflection, critical thinking, and advocacy in a collaborative environment. Political philosophy requires students to read the ancient and modern texts that inform cultural values of democracy, liberalism, and the United States Constitution. Students work together to build the character and communication skills of responsible citizens, which include critical reflection and presenting ideas clearly.


(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.


(11th & 12th graders and Instructor Approval) Macroeconomics is the study of behavior, decision-making, and efficiency of the entire economy. The scope of macroeconomics can be regional, national, or international. Given our recent economic history, this is an incredibly relevant topic. During the recent economic crisis, the president, congress, and Federal Reserve all used macroeconomics to inform their decisions. Our in-depth study of this field will allow us to evaluate our leaders’ decisions. A big emphasis of this class is the use and creation of models and graphs to understand the various economic concepts from supply-demand analysis to exchange rate calculation. *This course will be offered contingent upon adequate enrollment.



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.

Comparative Politics

The aim of the Senior Seminar in Comparative Politics is to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the political structure and organization of the world’s varied governments, and to understand the cultural and historical forces that shaped them. The course will be structured into units and sub-units, each one built around a particular nation-state and/or confederation. Beginning with the world’s preeminent democracies, the course will then move to an examination of mixed-regimes around the world, followed by the few remaining theocracies and conclude with modern autocracies, as well as examples of failed-states. Students will choose an area of special interest and spend the duration of the course engaged in research and writing on that topic. The final project for the class will be to produce a senior capstone paper on the 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.



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