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A member of Pingry's Entrepreneurship Club, Madeline tells about pitching her business idea at the LaunchX Mid-Atlantic Regional Event in New York City.

A new vending machine on the Basking Ridge Campus, offering healthy snacks and small meals on-the-go, gives busy students another after-school snack option.


History is much more than a recitation of the facts; it is a way of seeing and making sense of the world around us. The mission of the History Department is to create curious, empathetic, and responsible citizens who have an analytical mind, a solid grounding in historical thinking skills, and a nuanced understanding of the history of the modern world and the United States. To achieve this goal, faculty have designed courses in which students will gain experience analyzing sources from a range of perspectives, reading the work of historians, formulating historical questions, conducting scholarly research, and constructing complex arguments in oral and written form. The discipline of history provides students with the skills and ways of thinking necessary to understand the past, which is necessary to understand the present. In today’s world, students need guidance and practice in navigating multiple sources of information, weighing arguments from multiple perspectives, understanding complex situations in a nuanced manner, and drawing conclusions informed by logic and an ethical perspective. Studying the past not only provides vital context for understanding the world today, but historical thinking also fosters habits of mind that permit students to empathetically engage with all people and responsibly participate in a democratic society. Ultimately, the expectation of the History Department is that students graduating from Pingry will be informed citizens who think more critically not only about the immediate environment in which they live but also about the global community of which they are a part.

History & Psychology Courses

World History 9: Prehistory–1750 (#11306)

Major year course. 3 credits. Form III.

This survey course introduces students to the ideas, practices, values, and achievements of the pre-modern world. Beginning with an examination of the Agricultural Revolution and the emergence of the first river valley civilizations, the course focuses on developments in the Middle East, the ancient Mediterranean, Asia, Africa, pre-Columbian America, and medieval Europe, culminating with the European Renaissance and Reformation and the beginnings of the modern world. Students learn that civilizations are entities that can be analyzed and evaluated, that they share certain characteristics, and that differences between them can be explained historically. They also learn that all civilizations undergo change and that they do so for specific reasons. The course emphasizes critical thinking and encourages the development of reading comprehension, note-taking, and writing skills. Students are introduced to the analysis of primary sources, including literary texts, artifacts, and visual art. Assessments include a research project and a final exam.

World History 10: 1750–Present (#11405)

Major year course. 3 credits. Form IV.

This survey course focuses on the development, between the 18th century and the present day, of a single, continually evolving world civilization. We explore European society’s remarkable self-transformation, a process that involves the development of absolutism and constitutional monarchy, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and the emergence of the modern nation-state. We also examine how the world’s oceans ceased functioning as barriers between the separate civilizations and began operating as the means of uniting these civilizations, initially under European domination.

We focus not only on how Europe imposed itself and its rapidly changing values on the rest of the world, but also on the achievements of the peoples of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and on the creative ways in which the non-Western world has responded to European expansion and the forces of modernization. The course culminates with Europe’s self-destruction in the first half of the 20th century and the emergence of a post-colonial world order in the second half-century. Class discussion centers on the analysis of primary sources and a wide range of historical scholarship.

American Society & Culture (#11509)

Major year course. 3 credits. Form V.

Americans have often described their nation as a “melting pot.” In recent years, many have questioned the accuracy and desirability of this metaphor. However, it is undeniable that both American society and culture have been shaped by the experiences of Americans from diverse backgrounds. This course will examine American social history and the development of American culture, particularly issues relating to political and civil rights and equality, through the perspectives of different groups based on socio-economic status, religion, ethnicity, race, and gender. We will also examine how these forces ultimately affected politics and the exercise of political power. Primary documents, including literature and art, will play a key role in our study, as will experiential learning through field trips. Assessments include various research projects and a final exam.

Note: This course satisfies the U.S. History graduation requirement.

U.S. Environmental History HONORS (#11007)

Major year course. 3 credits. Form V. Prerequisite: Departmental permission (past performance in history and other disciplines is taken into account).

This course surveys the history of the United States from the colonial period to the present using the lens of environmental history as its organizing principle. Environmental history can be generally defined as a branch of historical analysis that focuses on the relationship between humans and their non-human environment. It is an approach that lends itself well to interdisciplinary work and thinking, particularly bringing in concepts and assumptions from the sciences and literature. This course is, however, a survey of U.S. history and as such moves in a chronological fashion, with major essential and historical questions that look at the human/non-human relationship within the context of American political, intellectual, and social history. Students read a range of materials, from primary sources to excerpts of historical monographs. As this is an honors course, students write a number of essays, including a historiographical paper and a major research paper.

Note: This course satisfies the U.S. History graduation requirement.

A.P. United States History (#11508)

Major year course. 3 credits. 4 class meetings, one of which will be 90 minutes, per cycle. Form V. Prerequisite: Departmental permission (past performance in history and other disciplines is taken into account).

This is a rigorous survey course designed to explore United States history from the fifteenth century through the twentieth century. It is intended not only to give students the background required for the Advanced Placement exam, but also to provide perspectives and skills needed to be an informed citizen. It covers many of the major events and developments of United States history. In the process, students learn to evaluate causes, analyze the interrelationships among events, and recognize the roots of present-day problems and issues. The analysis of primary and secondary source materials will serve as the basis of reasoned discussion.

Note: This course satisfies the U.S. History graduation requirement.

A.P. Government & Politics (United States, Comparative) (#11920)

Major year course. 3 credits. Form VI. Prerequisites: Departmental permission (past performance in history and other disciplines is taken into account) and any of the three Form V U.S. History courses.

This course is divided into two sections: American Government and Politics, and Topics in Comparative Government.

The first part of the course is designed to provide students with a college-level introduction to American government. Building upon skills and information gained in the U.S. History course, the course centers upon the governmental institutions and recent (post-1960) political developments of the United States. Among the topics covered are the constitutional underpinnings of U.S. government; the political beliefs and behaviors of individuals, political parties, and interest groups; the roles of the formal and informal institutions of government; civil liberties; and current affairs. The emphasis is upon the analysis of the processes involved in the making of public policy. Readings will include American Government (Wilson and DiIulio), source documents, and the current press. Students must sit for the A.P. exam in United States Government and Politics.

The second part of the course is a college-level study of various topics in comparative government. It acquaints students with the governmental institutions and political life of other nations and examines some of the problems in contemporary world affairs. Among the nations that may be studied are Great Britain, France, China, Russia, and Mexico. Readings include Comparative Politics at the Crossroads (Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph), source readings, and the current press.

A.P. European History (#11510)

Major year course (3 credits). Forms V-VI.

This challenging AP curriculum surveys the course of modern European history from the late Middle Ages to the fall of the Soviet Union. Students will explore the major political, social, intellectual, cultural, and economic trends of this history and emerge with knowledge equivalent to that gained in a college-level introduction to Western Civilization. Some classes will be lecture-based, covering content required by the AP Exam, but many will rely on discussion informed by readings in primary sources, historiography, and literature. Students will read major works of the modern European literary canon, including Machiavelli’s The Prince (1513), Voltaire’s Candide (1759), Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1902), and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). This course also uses visual resources in film and art history to provide cultural context for the significant themes and events of modern Europe. Writing assignments will focus on developing skills of critical thinking, synthesis, interpretation, and primary source analysis. Students will emerge with a thorough understanding of European history and the development of Western civilization, as well as with concrete skills in written and oral communication.

A.P. Psychology (#11905)

Major year course. 3 credits. Forms V-VI.

This course introduces students to the study of psychology as a social science by focusing on the behavioral and mental development of humans and other animals. To that end, students learn the basic skills of psychological research, including elementary statistics; each semester they design and conduct research projects and report their results, following the guidelines of the American Psychological Association. Through lectures, group projects, films, class exercises, and assigned readings in the text and professional journals, the course covers the following topics in the depth: the history of the discipline of psychology; the biological and physiological bases of behavior, including a detailed study of the brain, sensation, perception, and memory; states of consciousness; learning theory; motivation and emotion; developmental theory; language, thought, and intelligence; personality development; psychological disorders and psychotherapy; and social psychology. Assessments include a research project and a final test.

China and Modern East Asia - Honors (#11511)

Fall semester course (1.5 credits). Forms V-VI. Honors.

After the upheavals of revolution and war in the twentieth century, China and Japan continue to play crucial roles in shaping the modern world. In this course we will examine the development of East Asian history and culture from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, with a particular emphasis on China and Japan.

Some of the questions we will consider include: How did China and Japan evolve in the face of Western power in the nineteenth century? What was the social impact of modernization? Why did World War II begin as a war between Japan and China, and what were the long-term consequences of that terrible conflict on the region? What was the impact of Mao Zedong’s leadership on China, and how is his legacy still felt today? Why and how have East Asian nations become economic powerhouses in recent decades? Ultimately we will ask: will the twenty-first century indeed be “the Pacific century”?

In addition to historical sources, we will make significant use of modern fiction and film in this course, including authors such as Lu Xun and Yu Hua of China, and Natsume Soseki of Japan. The class will also engage in frequent discussions of current events over the course of the year.

Revolutions and Rebellions - Honors (#11531)

Fall semester course (1.5 credits) Forms V-VI. Honors.

Is a civil war really just a failed revolution? The success and classification of a revolution or independence movement is largely dependent on perspective. Students will take the role of historians and evaluate the relative success of Mexico’s 19th century independence movement, Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising, Russia’s 1917 communist revolution, and Cuba’s 1950’s communist revolution. We will examine cornerstone documents for each movement, as well as first-hand accounts from a range of perspectives, including representations in popular culture. We’ll revisit the cornerstone texts at the end of the unit to see if the movement achieved its stated goals and purpose, if those achievements constitute a revolution, and to what degree the movement failed. We will also discuss public memory and analyze national narratives, determining if our studies confirm or complicate this narrative. The final unit will enable students to conduct independence research about a contemporary independence movement/rebellion/revolution, culminating in project of their own design.

Postwar American Culture, 1945-1965 - Honors (#11520F)

Fall semester course (1.5 credits). Forms V-VI. Honors.

The contours of contemporary American life first took shape in the two decades immediately after the end of World War II (1945-65). This period, sometimes known as the “Long Fifties,” is typically seen as a time of complacency and consensus, an oasis of stability and prosperity separating the strife and upheaval of the Depression and World War II from the tumult of the “Sixties.” In nostalgic television shows and films such as Happy Days and Grease, the Fifties are presented as a golden age of innocence, a time that is recognizably “modern” but somehow bereft of the complications and ambiguities of modern life. The primary objective of this course is to dispel these myths and to provide a more nuanced picture of this fascinating, critical period.

Rather than follow the usual chronological divisions of the traditional postwar survey course, we will focus intensively on a series of key topics: the atomic bomb and its cultural and ethical implications; the cultural impact of McCarthyism; suburbia and its discontents; changing conceptions of sexuality and the role of women; avant-garde movements in the visual arts and music; the Beat Generation’s challenge to “conformity”; and the civil rights revolution. The course will make extensive use of fiction, film, music, and contemporary social criticism, as well as more conventional historical sources.

Public History (#11530)

Spring semester course (1.5 credits). Forms V-VI.

Most people get their history from movies, novels, as well as the the "public landscape." This landscape, comprised of historical markers, monuments, and museums, can be found around the globe. When viewing these objects, we must be able to analyze and judge them; we must be active creators and consumers of our shared history. This semester course looks at the ways we commemorate the past and what we choose to remember, discard, and forget. We will focus on several essential questions: Why do communities erect public sites? How are people and events memorialized? Who owns history? Do museums have an obligation to raise controversial issues? How can public historians change people’s minds about what they think they already know? Students will be engaged in the practical “doing” of history. Course expectations include nightly readings, occasional field trips to local heritage sites, and creative, project-based assignments.

New York City in the 1970s - Honors (#11521)

Spring semester course (1.5 credits). Forms V-VI.

Suddenly, and unexpectedly, the Seventies have become “cool.” The gaze of contemporary American popular culture has rediscovered a decade that, until recently, most New Yorkers—and many other Americans—were all too ready to consign to oblivion. To most observers at the time, the city of New York in the 1970s appeared to be in a state of economic free-fall, and much the same could be said for the nation-at-large. Social critics claimed that Americans seemed to be in the grip of unprecedented narcissism and personal excess—a characteristic famously captured in novelist Tom Wolfe’s memorable phrase, the “Me-Decade.” Indeed, the recent fascination with the 1970s has a lot to do with the decade’s reputation for chaos, violence, self-absorption, superficial glamour, and economic hardship.

In fact, the 1970s were a lot more complicated and multifaceted than this negative image would have us believe. Our working hypothesis is that both in New York and in the nation-at-large, the Seventies were a period of creative ferment and cultural transformation, and that our world today is very much a product of these developments. This course will focus on what some historians have termed the “Long Seventies,” starting with the tumultuous events of 1968 and ending with Ronald Reagan’s re-election in 1984. Although our analysis will be framed by key national political events, our primary focus will be on important social, cultural, and intellectual developments—particularly on developments that occurred in New York City—rather than on national politics or foreign policy. The course will make extensive use of literature, film, television, and the visual arts, as well as more conventional historical sources, including speeches, manifestos, and works of social criticism. Using New York City as our laboratory, we will incorporate elements of place-based education and experiential learning, with the goal of providing students with a truly authentic learning experience.

The Vietnam Wars: An International History - Honors (#11512)

Spring semester course (1.5 credits). Forms V-VI. Honors.

Even though more than four decades have passed since the fall of Saigon in 1975, the Vietnam War remains with us. The recent PBS series The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick has sparked a renewed interest in the war and its impact on America. But it is also essential to remember the Indochina Wars as a catastrophic decades-long conflict for the Vietnamese people, which in some ways has never ended. The wars resulted in the deaths of about 57,000 Americans – and several million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. The purpose of this course is to examine the war from multiple perspectives, and to help students get a deeper understanding of the war’s causes and consequences for both the United States and Vietnam. A key theme of the course is the war’s global dimension; students will consider not only the United States and Vietnam, but also Vietnam’s relationships with France, the Soviet Union, and China over the years of the conflict. Readings will include primary documents and fiction that illustrate the experiences of American and Vietnamese participants.