What We Believe ... The History Department believes that the study of the past fosters the compassion, humility and moral vision that Branson strives to impart. Our classes are open spaces for discussion, debate, and collaboration. We expect students to formulate their own questions about the past, analyze primary and secondary sources, and discuss and write about their conclusions. We ask students to engage with concepts and controversies, considering a variety of perspectives so as to better understand themselves and foster empathy for others. The goal is to provide students with tools that will help them engage meaningfully in the challenges of the future as citizens and members of the global community.
Roots of Civilization (Incoming 9th graders)
“The Epic of Gilgamesh comes from an age which had been wholly forgotten…The poem has a right to a place in the world’s literature not only because it antedates Homer by at least one thousand years, but mainly because of the quality and character of the story. It is a mixture of pure adventure, of morality, and of tragedy. Through the action we are shown a very human concern with morality, the search for knowledge, and for an escape from the common lot of man.”
The Epic of Gilgamesh is a story of friendship and struggle, of our relationship with the divine and our mortality. We hope you will enjoy reading this epic.
After you have read it, we’d like you to think about what you have read and write brief (2-3 paragraphs each) answers to the following questions. Please have them printed out, double-spaced, by Wednesday, August 29.
1. Underworlds are generally places of the dead, and/or of underground divinities. These places are dangerous and difficult for living persons to enter and hard to leave. Why does Gilgamesh go to the underworld, and what does he learn there? Develop a clear argument and use specific examples from the story to support your main points.
2. Compare the characters of Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Who, in your opinion, was the more heroic? Why? Which character do you think the Sumerian people looked to for leadership? Begin with an explanation of what YOU consider heroic and see if it is similar to what is considered heroic in the story. Support your argument with examples from the story.
3. The female characters in the epic appear at crucial moments in Gilgamesh’s and Enkidu’s journeys. What do these females tell you more generally about the roles of women in ancient Sumeria? Pick two examples from the story to support your claim.
The Roots class will be a journey as exciting as your own curiosity. We look forward to meeting you in the fall and beginning the journey.
Have a great summer,
The Roots Teachers
Modern World History Honors (Rising 10th graders)
Your summer reading for Modern World History is Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel. Do not read the whole book. Instead, read the Prologue and Chapters 1, 3, 4, and 19.
After you read the prologue and these chapters, answer the questions listed below. Each response should be formal in language and tone. Approximately 2-3 pages total. The purpose of the responses is two-fold: they will provide us a basis for discussion when we return to school and they will be collected and graded for their thoughtfulness and thoroughness.
Answer these questions:
1. Identify the major theme of this book. What is it that Diamond is trying to prove? Was his thesis compelling or do you have arguments against his thesis?
2. Identify 3 important passages that you think best support Diamond’s thesis-- Cite specific examples with page numbers. After each passage-- analyze and explicate the significance of the passage and why it proves Diamond’s thesis.
3. How does this story relate to you? What meaning does Guns, Germs, and Steelhave for you? In what ways do the ideas raised in this book relate to you and your life? Once again, cite specific examples to support the points you raise.
United States History Honors (rising 11th graders)
As final research projects for Honors Modern World History. Sophomores are asked to choose a current event and research the historical antecedents of that event.
Here is the interactive map with location pins tied to abstracts of all the projects sophomores completed.
Political Forum Fosters Meaningful Conversations
“Community Conversations on Democracy” was a political forum sponsored by the History Department last spring in advance of the presidential election. After a special assembly providing an overview of US government and election structure, the entire school attended small group breakout sessions on current political issues facilitated by Branson faculty and students.