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The study of history at Deerfield encourages students to be informed, perceptive, and engaged citizens of the world both during their time at the Academy as well as after they have graduated. Through a variety of courses, the History Department introduces students to the challenges and rewards of studying the past.
In all courses, teachers urge students to become more knowledgeable about the many peoples, cultures, events, controversies, and ideas that have shaped human history. Students gain practical experience as historians by reading a range of sources, participating in discussion-oriented seminar classes, and preparing a variety of analytical and interpretive essays. The Academy’s location in the Town of Deerfield, described by one historian as the “best-documented village in America,” presents a unique opportunity for research.
The History Department seeks to show students that thinking historically about the world is a source of fascination, wisdom, and joy. In exposing students to the moral and ethical issues that have faced other people in other times, in studying the struggles and triumphs that have marked human history and, in understanding the purposes that have divided people as well as those that have united them, the History Department believes that the study of history is a crucial part of a fulfilling liberal arts education.
Freshmen and sophomores may choose among four courses: Africa and Latin America: Voices of Conquest and Change; Asia in World History; The West, Ancient/Medieval; and The West in the Modern World. Students may also elect to study history both years before they become juniors. All freshmen and sophomore courses stress careful reading and writing and develop the ability to select, evaluate, and organize primary and secondary historical sources. Each of these courses provides a similar foundation in historical skills for further study in the discipline.
In the junior year all students choose among United States History, Honors United States History, or American Studies, an interdisciplinary combination of American history and literature. Each course incorporates research projects and papers into its curriculum.