Departmental Offerings

The following course descriptions detail the likely offerings during any school year, though specifics will vary from term to term and course lineups are always changing. Click on the course titles below for full descriptions.

  • “Af-Pak”: A History of Afghanistan and Pakistan

    Sophomores take a series of trimester-long non-western history courses

    This course closely examines the region comprising modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. You will study the role the British Empire had in shaping the state of Afghanistan and tipping the balance toward the creation of the modern state of Pakistan. You will also learn how the two countries have functioned as autonomous entities and players on the world stage. Additionally, themes such as governance, education, religion, economics, geography, gender equality, and U.S. foreign policy with both countries will receive significant attention. Importantly, the course puts a strong focus on contemporary happenings through daily current events and research presentations and papers highlighting the challenges facing the region of South Asia today.
  • Advanced Study in Economic Theory

    This course will introduce students to both basic and advanced concepts in the study of economics, paying particular attention to the interdisciplinary aspects of the field of economics. During the first half of the year, we will focus on microeconomics, which analyzes the relationship between supply and demand and how these market forces both determine and are shaped by the behavior of consumers and firms. Since this portion of the course will require students to use advanced arithmetic and basic algebra to solve problems, students should have a strong background in mathematics. During the second half of the year, we will turn our focus to macroeconomics, which analyzes patterns and forces within the larger economy. For example, we will look at how unemployment, interest rates, government policies, and environmental catastrophes can affect the broader economy. This course will not be a “traditional” survey in economics. The course will also investigate issues that lie at the intersection of economics and history, sustainability, and international relations
  • Chicanx Studies

    This course will introduce students to Chicanx Studies and Afro-Latinx Studies as an intellectual, political, and cultural project steeped in transhistorical and transnational traditions of resistance and radicalism. It broadly surveys the ongoing process of Chicanx cultural production and identity formation as structured through race and its intersection with gender, sexualities, and class. Key to this survey will be an understanding of: 
    1) the importance of race and resistance in structuring notions of identity and its representations; 
    2) the presence of structural racism and white privilege;
    3) the relationship between cultural production and power.  
    This course exists to create an opportunity for students to know what it means to act, and what the meaning of direct action is, in a time of peril for so many. This means that one of the many shared agreements we will establish is the importance of social justice work as part of the tradition of Ethnic Studies as a political project writ large. We engage with social issues by directing ourselves toward collaborations that uplift and produce results for people who need them. This is a class in which we value community knowledge, and as such students will be expected to engage with, respect, and learn from communities, their situated knowledge, and their visions of democracy and the future.
  • History of Modern China

    This course begins with a look at 'traditional' China in terms of culture, religion/philosophy and political structures. The bulk of the class is then spent looking at the degree to which China is able to deal with the challenges posed by its involuntary interactions with the West and the subsequent “Century of Humiliation.” This thread is followed from the Opium wars, through the fall of the Qing dynasty and into the foundation of the People's Republic. The latter portion of the class looks at the rise of the Chinese Communist Party, its successes and failures, and the challenges it faces as it seeks to achieve the “Chinese Dream” under the current leadership of Xi Jinping. Students will continue to develop their analytical writing skills as well as engage in a lengthy research paper and formal presentation.
  • History of the Modern Middle East

    Students will examine the history of the modern Middle East (late 19th century to the present day) with a focus on the political, cultural, and intellectual changes that have occurred over the past 150 years. The overarching goal of this course is to study the history of the region through the eyes of its people, rather than solely as the subject of Western imperialism or for its position within post 9/11 geopolitics. The following are the themes of the course:
    • Imperialism: How did European and Ottoman imperialism shape Middle Eastern institutions, outlooks, and intellectual currents from the nineteenth century until today?
    • Nationalism: How was the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries interpreted by individuals in the Middle East? How, specifically, did Middle Eastern forms of nationalism, such as Arabism, Ba’thism, Nasserism, and Zionism, arise and flourish?
    • Contested Modernities: What are the major intellectual, social, and political currents of the modern Middle East? How did identities change (or not) as states and borders, majorities and minorities, shifted over time?
  • Honors Contemporary Ethical Issues

    Students will closely examine global, social, and political issues with the goal of enhancing their interest in, understanding of, and responsibility to the world we live in today. Given that students will receive a cursory exposure to the study of ethics, this course is associated with the Marvin Shagam Program in Ethics and Global Responsibility. The following represent the three fall-term units we will cover:
    • Ethics in America: An Endangered Species?
    • November 3rd: A Thorough Examination of Trump V. Biden and California’s Ballot Propositions
    • Surviving a Pandemic: The Ethical Ramifications of Covid-19
  • Honors U.S. History

    What is America? This course begins with the proposition that an answer to this question is best approached through a joint study of American literature and language and history. Therefore, we will seek to coordinate the disciplines of English and history so that students can gain a deeper understanding of not only American culture, history, politics, art, and literature, but also their relationship to the idea of America. In addition to using traditional textbooks, we’ll investigate a myriad of sources including fiction, non-fiction (speeches, essays, memoirs, and editorials), art, advertisements, film, music, and artifacts of popular culture in our quest to contemplate the American past and present in innovative and creative ways. While you will still have distinct history and English class periods, the courses’ syllabi will be coordinated, and assignments will sometimes overlap.
  • Sovereignty, Surrogates, and Statehood: Decolonization and the Cold War in Africa

    The decolonization of Africa from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s resulted in several proxy Cold War confrontations between the United States and the Soviet Union over the dozens of newly independent, non-aligned nations. The human, social and economic wounds inflicted on Africa during the Cold War are still very raw. In this course, we will examine changes in Africa following World War II. We will discover what factors led to decolonization, and we will highlight the central themes surrounding anti-colonial resistance movements. We will look at anti-colonial revolutions in Egypt, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Algeria; we will study the collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa, several proxy wars financed by the US and Soviet Union, and some major political issues facing contemporary African states today. To tackle this Herculean task, we will have to stand back and try to apply the discursive tools of history, literature, political science and economics to make sense of such a diverse, complex continent. We will draw on various sources including film and music (from the continent and the diaspora), writings from political scientists, novelists, and economists and, of course, historians. 
  • The West and the World

    Religious difference, technological innovation, a belief in individual freedom, the growth of representative government, and industrialization have been, and continue to be, major forces throughout the world. In this course, we will explore the emergence and spread of these forces in the West over the last five hundred years. In addition, we will seek to understand how these forces are present in our twenty-first-century world by investigating a wide range of current topics, such as conflict in the Middle East and the emergence of Nationalism in Europe. While much of our focus will be on how the West has spread liberalism, capitalism, and industrialization, we will pay special attention to how other parts of the world have responded to these changes. Students will also learn to think like historians through critical reading of the textbook and primary documents, dynamic student-centered class discussions, and a diverse range of written assignments, debates, and presentations.


  • Photo of Sarah DelVecchio
    Sarah DelVecchio
    History Teacher
    Colby College - BA
    University of Pennsylvania - MA
    Brandeis University - PhD
  • Photo of Jason Carney
    Jason Carney
    Afternoon Program Coordinator, History Teacher
    Villanova University - BA
    University of Hawaii - MEd
  • Photo of Jake Conway
    Jake Conway
  • Photo of Gina Greene
    Gina Greene
    History Teacher
    Harvard University - BA
    California College of Arts and Crafts - BFA
    University of California, Riverside - MA
    Princeton University - PhD
  • Photo of Jeffrey Hooper
    Jeffrey Hooper
    Acting Head of School, Spanish and Economics Teacher
    Trinity University - BA
    University of Texas - MA
  • Rachel Kesler
  • Photo of Russell Spinney
    Russell Spinney
    Chair of the History Department, History Teacher
    Pennsylvania State University - PhD
    Middlebury College - MA
    Colgate University - BA
Notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students: The Thacher School admits students of any race, color, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other School-administered programs.