History and Social Sciences

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Understanding Our World—Then and Now

In history and social science classrooms, Milton students develop the tools to become historians and social scientists. Faculty help students find their voices in the dynamic conversation about the people, places, events, patterns and themes of human civilization. Respecting students’ ability to think for themselves, and analyze sophisticated content, faculty instill a sense of ownership in students—who come to deeply understand world events, and ultimately their own place in time.

At Milton, we treat history not as a collection of data, but as an ongoing narrative. Grounded in the reality of past events, we can work to make sense of current events. Research is a hallmark of Milton’s history and social sciences curriculum, and students choose subjects that interest them, in which they become experts. Through primary source documents, students come to understand historical events from firsthand accounts; rather than judging actions of the past, they work to understand the motivations of the time. Students look at particular cultures in depth and at the interactions among cultures over broad periods of history. They test newly won insights daily in class discussions around the Harkness table. We help students understand from where they’ve come, and empower them to contribute to the broader world, in meaningful and important ways.

From the Classroom

The Ethan Wyatt Bisbee Prize

Each year, faculty teaching the U.S. History and U.S. History in the Modern World courses select students whose projects represent outstanding research in United States history. The department invites prizewinners to the annual Bisbee Tea to celebrate their achievements and share their work with faculty and fellow honorees. Winning paper topics recognized at the 2016 Bisbee Tea included the failure of post-Civil War reconstruction, the role of the media on the Spanish-American War, and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Course Readings, a sample

United States in the Modern World I
Peter the Great, “Decree on the Invitation of Foreigners”
Simón Bolivar, “The Jamaica Letter”
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

United States in the Modern World II
Joseph Stalin, “The Results of the First Five-Year Plan”
The Muslim Brotherhood, “Toward the Light”
Richard M. Nixon, “Vietnamizing the War”


I am taking a newer elective called Activism. We talk about current issues, like homelessness, poverty, and food insecurity. My favorite topic in class so far has been education. We researched and analyzed some of the issues around the education systems in the United States and other countries, and that was really interesting. Through that course we also have action projects, where we go into the city. And we do weekly community service. I volunteer at the Taylor School in Boston. The young students there have so much energy—they are so positive, and I learn a lot from them too!

Emilio Pinedo

Mexico City, Mexico