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History

Roxbury Latin boys study history in order to know themselves as moral persons, as participants in the human story, and as members of the human family. Human nature is revealed and defined by humanity’s past deeds, and knowledge of these deeds is indispensable to a person’s understanding of his own nature and potential. Students see the greatness and fragility of human nature, and familiarity with humanity’s high and low moments is essential to a realistic understanding of oneself and a balanced perspective on the world.

Studying history prepares students for full citizenship in the human community. A deliberate and committed participation is possible today only with a broad and deep awareness of the variety and complexity of cultures and institutions past and present.

History courses employ a variety of materials in addition to traditional textbooks: primary source documents, historical fiction, works of art, and monographs. Students generally study a limited amount of material thoroughly rather than view a large amount superficially, although we are guided by College Entrance Examination Board prescriptions in U.S. Government & Politics, Modern European History, Economics, and Art History, which prepare students for advanced placement tests, and our Class VI course offers a broad exposure to human history to lay a foundation for future learning, both in the classroom and beyond. Boys in Classes I and II may also choose among several history and social science electives that vary annually.
Familiarity with humanity’s high and low moments is essential to a realistic understanding of oneself and a balanced perspective on the world.

History Courses

List of 9 items.

  • Boston's Place in Human History

    Boston’s Place in Human History, informally called “Roots & Shoots,” is required of all boys in Class VI. Students develop a global perspective on Boston’s historical roots by examining how events of world history have shaped who we are and how we live. Students also explore the shoots that have sprouted from Boston’s history to have an impact beyond the city limits—sometimes even globally. By emphasizing the interactions of geography, technology, and religion in influencing various human systems (political, economic, and social), students have an opportunity to examine the movement of people and their ways through time toward better understanding Boston’s place in human history. Emphasis is placed on developing the skills of the historian, an understanding of the evolution of governance in historic Boston, and an appreciation for Boston as a cosmopolitan city in a land of immigrants.
  • Civics Unit

    During the month of May, a unit on Civics for Class V expands upon the foundation in governance laid in the Class VI history curriculum. This unit is designed to strengthen students’ understanding of how government works and to explore ways in which individuals can, and do, make a difference through participating in, and interacting with, government. Emphasis is placed on the electoral process, jury duty, military service, being informed, and paying one’s taxes. This course is team-taught and benefits from presentations by guest experts. 
  • Western Civilization

    Western Civilization, required of all boys in Class IV, focuses on individuals and societies that have contributed significantly to the development of the world in which we live. The course seeks to provide students with an awareness of humanity’s recurring problems, a perspective on their own time, and an appreciation of the seminal individuals of our Western heritage whose ideals influence us today. There is considerable emphasis on great historical figures: the complex dilemmas they faced, the decisions they made, and the consequences of those decisions. The course also seeks to contextualize the visual arts, architecture, and music with the history of particular units to which they are attached, raising the sights of boys in terms of arts appreciation, and to complementing, reinforcing, and supplementing the arts curriculum in other areas of the overall Roxbury Latin experience. Units of study include Ancient Israel, Classical Greece, the rise and fall of Rome, the life and influence of Jesus, the transition from the Middle Ages to the Age of Kings in the context of the Renaissance and the Reformation, the French Revolution, ideologies of the 19th century, the Great War and the Russian Revolution, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and heroes of the twentieth century. Books are selected to introduce students to a variety of primary and secondary historical sources. Among those read are Jarvis, Prophets, Poets, Priests, and Kings; Thucydides, selections from The History of the Peloponnesian War; Plato, The Last Days of Socrates; Holland, Rubicon; Stevens, Ferdinand and Isabella; Becker, Modern History; Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra; Goldston, The Life and Death of Nazi Germany; Wiesel, Night; and Patterson, Martin Luther King, Jr. and The Freedom Movement. Monographs are used to study Martin Luther, Louis XIV, Robespierre, and Napoleon. In addition to skills development in précis, essay, and documented paper writing, students research, produce, and orally defend a model or reproduction of a building (or group of buildings), historical scene, work of art, or artifact that is linked to Western Civilization.  
  • AP Modern European History

    AP Modern European History is an elective for members of Class III. Through the study of European history from 1450 (the High Renaissance) to the present, this course traces major developments in political and diplomatic history against a backdrop of social and economic change, creating the context for better understanding of contemporary institutions and modern intellectual and cultural forces that fundamentally shape our world today. Emphasis will be placed on analysis of both historical evidence and historical interpretation through class discussion and expression of historical understanding in writing. Because the narrative of modern European history necessarily involves engagement with the global economic force of imperialism and global conflicts (WWI & WWII), this course seeks to lay a sure foundation for the study of U.S. History and other history department electives. Students will have the option of AP or non-AP enrollment in this course.
  • US History

    US History, required of all boys in either Class I or Class II, is designed to develop historically literate citizens with an empathetic understanding of the complexity of the American experience as well as a love for the critical study of our nation’s past. Emphasis will be placed on three core themes: 1) constancy and change in economic and social realities; 2) watershed changes in American political life and interpretations of government’s role in protecting life, liberty, and property; and 3) America’s place in the world. Students will conduct research on a topic of their choosing that is within the unit selected by the instructor specifically for the research paper. In the final unit of the course, there will be an oral history project that is connected to recent American history. Core readings will be supplemented with numerous primary source documents.
  • AP Economics

    AP Economics, offered to members of Class I, is the study of choices that individuals, firms, and societies must make as they use scarce resources to provide for material well-being. This course presents the tools of micro- and macroeconomic analysis. Macro topics include the market system of economic organization, economic growth, productivity, the role of government, the financial system, inflation, unemployment, short-term economic fluctuations, exchange rate determination, and theoretical controversies. Micro topics include applications of supply and demand analysis, elasticity, production theory, the organization of industry (including monopoly and oligopoly), labor markets, income inequality, externalities, poverty, and trade. Whenever possible, we will consider international dimensions and comparisons. Students are asked to master introductory economic theory, take part in debates, and analyze the issues with some degree of sophistication. Students are also expected to be familiar with current economic events as presented in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, or The Economist. A major objective of the course is to introduce basic economic principles and the kinds of questions and techniques used by economists in their analysis. Finally, students will also become familiar with a variety of data sources available on the Internet. Students are required to take the Advanced Placement Microeconomics Exam and the Advanced Placement Macroeconomics Exam in May
  • AP Art History

    AP Art History is a full-year elective open to Classes II and I, offered jointly by the Art and History Departments. In it students study great works of art and architecture across civilizations and through time. It is not a course in “art appreciation,” though students encounter works of great beauty and come to appreciate the extraordinary creativity behind their making. Instead, AP Art History exposes students to the many forces that can and do shape works of art: politics, religion, trade, war, mathematics, philosophy, poetry, technology, engineering, wealth, gender dynamics, even death. Above all, students learn to analyze artworks both visually and historically, articulating how they look, why they look the way they do, how they were used, what they mean, and  why they are worth studying. To prepare for the AP Art History Exam, students learn to identify and contextualize works of art and write effectively about them. At the end of the year, they are asked to present, both orally and in writing, original research about a work of art, artist, or tradition of their own choosing. The course uses primary sources whenever relevant and includes visits to museums whenever possible in order to study art works first-hand. Students are required to take the AP Art History Exam in May.
  • Post Cold War American Foreign Policy

    Post-Cold War American Foreign Policy (Class I elective, 1st semester). The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union signaled the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. How did the United States manage the freedom and the responsibility that came with its status as the sole remaining superpower? What guidance did analysts at the time offer about the U.S. role in the changed world, and what events occupied our attention? To what extent did our view of the world and our policy change after September 11, 2001? We study the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the causes and consequences of “preemptive war,” the impact of the 2007-2008 financial crisis on American leadership, and the U.S. response to the rise of China. Finally, we reflect on the foreign policies of the Obama administration and the current issues facing the U.S. today.
  • Current Events

    Current Events (Class I elective, 2nd semester). We live in an increasingly dynamic and complex world, one in which the rapid sharing of information brings global events into our lives in real time. An understanding of the political, historical, economic, and cultural contexts surrounding such events is critical to understanding not just the events themselves, but also their origins. This course seeks to broaden students’ awareness of current events on the local, national, and international stage while deepening their understanding of four acute topics. For each topic, students will research the historical roots of the issue, analyze literature (including poetry and prose) that conveys the experiences of those involved, write evaluations of current policies, and give speeches advocating for a next-step approach. For a culminating project, each student will create a portfolio of work (reflecting this interdisciplinary approach) on a current event of his choosing. In addition to this in-depth, issue-based work, students will be quizzed regularly on a broad array of current events as chronicled in daily national newspapers of varying political perspectives. An interest in reading the news, a willingness to proactively pursue information, and an openness to multiple points of view are essential qualities that students must bring to the course.