Academic Departments

History Department

The History department at VES is dedicated to developing critical, independent thought and expression among its students through a progressive and developmental sequence of courses. Faculty focus on preparing students for the challenges of a university education: reading texts, implementing strategies for note taking, and writing critical essays and research papers. The skills required for each course in our curriculum build on those learned in prior courses.
Teachers and students form strong relationships in the History department as a result of optimal student-to-teacher ratios and small class sizes. The Hopkins Writing Center provides a meeting place for students and teachers to work with one another.

Students are required to complete three years of history for graduation. Most students take Global Civilization in ninth grade followed by Modern World History, United States History and senior electives, including European Humanities and Economics. Advanced Placement courses are offered in World History and American History.

After completing the sequence of courses in the history curriculum, students should be able to understand the motives and ideas of historical figures and events, which will help them think critically and create logical and coherent arguments in their work in college and in later life.
  • Global Cultures

    Prerequisites and/or Grade Levels to Which Course Is Open
    Prerequisites: None
    Open to 9th grade students; a limited number of 10th grade students have taken this course by student request with permission of the department chair.
    In this course students learn about the history of the world from the beginning of civilization to the Renaissance through different global spheres: Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, East Asia and the Americas. Content is taught through themes, including:
    • What does it mean to be civilized?
    • How do themes such as law, military, freedom, wealth and piety influence cultures?
    • Why do cultures in different areas differ? Why are they similar?
    The course further develops the academic skills and critical and independent thinking necessary for success in a college-preparatory environment. In addition to a common text, students read primary and secondary sources, conduct their own research on smaller and larger research projects and write persuasive essays. Course activities are designed to facilitate discussion among classmates and an understanding of the issues across the world in the past and present.
    Texts/Materials Used
    This course uses a common online text, from which students read 1-2 pages per assignment. In addition, students are expected to research areas of their own interest or as dictated by the teacher, using online tools such as Wikipedia, Google, reliable news sites, and scholarly resources such as EBSCO and other databases.

  • Modern World History

    Prerequisites: none, although students must be in the 10th grade to take the course

    This course will continue to study topics found in the 9th grade Global Cultures course, and will aim to offer a survey course on the Modern World. After a study  of the Enlightenment, students will study the Age of Napoleon and the implementation (and failed implementation) of many of these ideas. Afterwards, students will study changes brought about by industrialization, the changes of relationships between European and non-European nations, and how resulting nationalist pride begins a cause and effect that results in World War, economic and political instability, another World War and a resulting Cold War. Yet the truly modern aspect of the course would still be to come, examining how changes from war and suffering result in greater rights for individuals, the desire and need for stability in life, and how some populations succeed in a post-war capitalist society. At the center of this course would be a guiding question: what makes a modern nation, and how does this impact the relationship between people and the government? A key aspect of this course will be greater connections across English and History. This course will continue efforts to build common skills across both department.

    Modern World History: Patterns of Interacts (2012) , Holt McDougal
  • AP World History

    10th graders must have:
    1. Average grade of 88 or better in their previous English and history classes
    2. Support of the department and recommendation of their current history teacher

    12th graders must have:
    1. Average grade of 88 or better in their previous English and history classes
    2. An Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score of 530 or better on the PSAT (or an equivalent score on the SAT, Pre-ACT, or ACT)
    3. Support of the department and the recommendation of their current history teacher
    4. Score of > 3 on any previous AP exams
    AP World History is offered to both sophomores and seniors (in separate sections) in the 2017-18 academic school year. This course will generally follow the prescribed AP World History College Board curriculum guideline with a curriculum spanning from 8000 BCE to the present day through an investigation of significant events, individuals, developments, and processes through analyzing historical sources and evidence, making historical connections, inducing chronological reasoning, and creating and supporting a historical argument. As this is an Advanced Placement course there will be considerable depth and breath in covered content, and thus the pace of the course will move quickly. Students will be prepared to take the AP exam in World History at year's end, although the course will not be specifically taught to this exam.

    Traditions & Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past, 6th Edition
    (2017), McGraw and Hill.
  • United States History

    Prerequisites and/or Grade Levels to Which Course Is Open
    Required of all 11th grade students not taking AP United States History
    United States History is a thorough course, ranging from the late prehistoric period through the beginning of the 21st century. The course covers traditional political and diplomatic history, as well as social, economic and cultural history. Major themes covered include, but are not limited to, exploration and colonialism, the early Republic, the causes and history of the Civil War, Reconstruction, industrialization and immigration, Populism and Progressivism, Imperialism, World War I, the Great Depression and the New Deal, World War II, the Cold War, civil rights and Vietnam, Liberalism and the New Conservatism,and the Clinton-Bush period. United States History is required for graduation.
    Texts/Materials Used
    • American Passages; A History of the United States, Fourth Edition, Edward L. Ayers, Lewis L. Gould, David M. Oshinsky, Jean R. Soderlund 
  • AP United States History

    Prerequisites and/or Grade Levels to Which Course Is Open
    1. Average grade of 88 in previous English and history classes
    2. An Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score of 530 or better on the PSAT (or an equivalent score on the SAT, Pre-ACT, or ACT)
    3. Support of the department and the recommendation of their current history teacher
    4. AP score of > 3 on any previous AP exams
      • Meet all criteria—Approved
      • Meet 3 of 4 criteria—Approval Likely
      • Meet 2 of 4 criteria—Approval Unlikely
      • Meet < 2 of 4 criteria—Not Approved
    AP US History is a college-paced survey of American History from 1607 to the present. While preparing for the AP exam is one of the goals for the students, we also hope to create an experience that brings relevance of American history to the lives of students. Students will learn solid communication skills through appropriate and effective analytical writing, public speaking and discussion opportunities, blogging and the basics of media literacy. Students will also gain a firm understanding of Americas past, place in the world and how this relates to their lives regardless of where they were born.
    Texts/Materials Used
    • America: A Narrative History, Tindall and Shi
    • The Fifties, David Halberstram
    • Only Yesterday, Frederick Alan
    • Rise to Globalism, Stephen Ambrose and Brinkley
    • Primary Sources
  • Economics

    Prerequisites and/or Grade Levels to Which Course Is Open
    Open to 12th grade students and selected 11th graders who need a fifth full-year course or have a desire to pursue an economics degree in college
    This course is designed to provide students with an introduction to microeconomics, macroeconomics, and business-related fields associated with an economics degree. The class emphasizes skill development such as note taking, reading a college level text, the application of charts and graphs, and writing essays. In addition, the class incorporates numerous project-based learning assignments that require students to use technology in and outside the classroom as a means for providing materials necessary for completing the project. The underlying purpose of the course is to give the students an emphasis on the application of theory and principle to contemporary business and consumer practices.  
    Texts/Materials Used
    • Economics, Holt, Rinehart and Winston
    • CNBC
    • US Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • European Humanities

    Prerequisites and/or Grade Levels to Which Course Is Open
    Open to 12th grade students

    The course is a survey of European cultural history from the early Renaissance through the end of the 20th century. While set in a traditional chronological framework, the course emphasizes major themes in the art, architecture, literature, and to a lesser extent, music of modern European History. Major themes covered are the late Gothic, Renaissance, Reformation, Elizabethan England, Baroque, Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, and Modernism.

    Text, Materials Used
    • Arts and Culture: An Introduction to the Humanities, 4th edition, Janetta Benton and Robert DiYanni (Prentice Hall: New York, 2012.)
    • A Man for All Seasons, Robert Bolt (First International Vintage: New York, 1990)
    • Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad (Global Classics: New York, 1914)
    • Bread and Wine, Ignazio Silone (Signet Classics: New York, 2005)
    • A Man for All Seasons (1966)
    • Apocalypse Now (1979)
    • The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1970)
  • Government

    To be offered again in 2019-20
    Students are given an introduction to the functions, powers and properties of the American
    governmental system. Particular emphasis is placed on how the government has functioned from its founding to the present. Topics covered throughout the year include the inner workings of federalism, checks and balances, civil rights and national security. Through assigned readings, campaign ads and Supreme Court cases, students explore and analyze foundational elements of the American government, giving them the knowledge and skills necessary to become engaged citizens of America and the world in the 21st century.
    Texts/Materials Used
    Government in America: People, Politics, and Policy, 16th Edition, George C. Edwards III and Martin P. Wattenberg (Boston: Pearson Publishing, 2016)
  • AP Government

    To be offered again in 2019-20
    AP US Government abides by the rubrics set forth by the College Board. This course begins with a focus on the theories of government and the creation of the United States Constitution, separation of powers, and the system of federalism. Additional areas of focus include linkage institutions such as political parties, campaigns and elections, interest groups, and the media, the three branches of American federal government and its bureaucracy, an understanding of civil liberties and civil rights, and how these structures and institutions affect public policy.
    Texts/Materials Used
    • Government in America (16th edition, AP), George C. Edwards III and Martin P. Wattenberg (primary text).
    • Perspectives on American Politics (Sixth Edition), William Lasser (secondary text, portions distributed as needed).

Department Staff

  • John Baker

    Anne McKimmon Winston Chair of History/Gov't & World History Teacher/Head Coach, Deacon Basketball
    Kenyon College - B.A.
    Columbia University - M.A.
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  • George Battle

    Headmaster/ Economics Teacher
    University of Virginia - B.A.
    College of William and Mary - M.B.A.
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  • Martha Burruss

    Government & US History Teacher/Director of Leaves/ Advisor, Model UN
    Hollins University - B.A.
    University of Virginia - M.A.
  • Christopher Button

    Associate Head of School/U.S. History Teacher/Head Coach, Mountain Biking
    Franklin and Marshall College - B.A.
    Pepperdine University - M.S.
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  • Robert Leake

    Director of Athletics & Afternoon Activities/Economics Teacher/ Coach, Baseball
    Washington and Jefferson College - B.A.
  • Meghan Nealis

    History Teacher / Coach, Field Hockey & Lacrosse
    University of Cambridge - PhD
    London School of Economics & Political Science - MSc
    Georgetown University - B.S.
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  • Zachary Wakefield

    Global Cultures & Government Teacher/Head Coach, Wrestling
    Juniata College - B.A.
    Auburn University - M.A.
    Auburn University - Ph.D.
  • Mao-Tong Wang

    Assistant Dean of Students/Director of Residence Life/History Teacher
    University of Maryland at College Park - B.S.
    Kansas State University - M.S.
A College Preparatory, Independent Boarding and Day School for Students in Grades 9-12
400 VES Road, Lynchburg, VA 24503 • 434.385.3600