High School History Classes - Curriculum, Honors Classes And List Of Electives You Can Take

High School History Classes - Curriculum, Honors Classes And List Of Electives You Can Take

"A page of history is worth a pound of logic"—and that may be why history is an integral part of the High School Curriculum. A basic understanding of history not only helps a student become a more rounded person but also shapes one's identities.

An appreciation for history not only helps determine where we have come from but also where we are going. Overall, in the era of Science, learning history will develop critical thinking, and comes with a number of other benefits.

Talking of the history curriculum in high school, it contains all the components necessary to understand the world in a better way. Thus, the curriculum is divided into three topics—American History, World History, and European History.

This article will cover a brief introduction to all three topics, their curriculum, and objectives. Moreover, we have discussed various AP and IB history classes you can take as a high schooler. Not only that—we have also listed 10 interesting online history courses that you can take as an elective.

What History Classes do you have to take in High School?

American History/ U.S. History

The study of American History is generally divided into two individual courses— US History 1 and US History 2. Even though the curriculum consists of almost the same topics, different schools have different curriculum structures. For instance, the Time 4 Learning History 1 curriculum includes:

  • Voyages of Columbus and other different explorers. Their relation with the American Indians.
  • Colonization, different colonies in the American history, and colonial life.
  • Political Parties and Washington's Presidency.
  • The Revolutionary War
  • The Declaration of Independence and the constitution, including the Bill of Rights.
  • The War of 1812, The Monroe Doctrine
  • The Indian Removal Act of 1830
  • The Civil War, and the life during Southern Surrender
  • Sectionalism, Slavery in America, the rise of abolition
  • The rise of Jim Crow laws and Lincoln's goals for reconstruction.

On the other hand, U.S History 2 Curriculum includes topics different from the U.S History 1 curriculum. While most of the high schools divide it into two seperate classes, others teach all of these concepts in a single course. The U.S. History 2 course material includes:

  • Comparison of the beliefs of Marxism/Socialism and Capitalism/American Democracy.
  • The impact of the transcontinental railroad on settlement and transportation.
  • The progressive movement, and its achievements.
  • The factors behind the American acquisition of Alaska and Hawaii and a brief explanation on how the acquisitions occurred.
  • The changing role of women in the American Society.
  • The Great Depression and how the war production ended it.
  • The effects of World War 2, and its consequences.
  • The establishment of the United Nations and the making of new political states.
  • The Cold War and how the opposing postwar goals of the USA and USSR led it.
  • The reasons behind the increased US military involvement in Vietnam.
  • The economic climate in the late 1970s.
  • The historical significance of the 2008 presidential elections.

World History

The high school world history curriculum covers all the major events that have impacted the history of the world. The curriculum encourages students to think historically and make connections between various events. Students get to learn about the past through a cross-cultural and comparative perspective. The high school World History curriculum includes:

  • Human Origins and the Neolithic Revolution.
  • The fall of the Roman Empire.
  • Art and Culture in Medieval Europe.
  • The differences and similarities between new and old imperialism.
  • How Europeans colonized Africa.
  • The U.S. and other allies ’ strategies behind the Cold War.
  • The impact of mass communication and medical technology on the global world.

What History honors classes can you take in high school?

Advanced Placement classes in History

AP United States History

The AP U.S. History gives an introduction to the college-level U.S. History courses. Students develop an understanding of the U.S. history from c.1491 CE to the present. The AP U.S. History Curriculum is divided into different time periods:

  • Period 1(1491-1607): The period 1 curriculum includes topics like the European exploration in the New World, Native American Societies before European Invasion, the Spanish Colonial System.
  • Period 2(1607-1754): The period 2 curriculum includes the Transatlantic trade, how European colonies developed and expanded. Moreover, there are topics like slavery in British Colonies, Colonial Society, and Culture.
  • Period 3(1754-1800): The Period 3 curriculum includes the Seven Years’ War, the Articles of Confederation, The American Revolution, Immigration to and migration within America.
  • Period 4(1800-1848): The period 4 curriculum includes topics like the rise of political parties, debates about federal power. The other topics are about Reform Movements, the second great awakening, and the American foreign policy.
  • Period 5(1844-1877): The period 5 curriculum includes Manifest Destiny, The Civil War, The Mexican-American War. Also, there are topics like attempts to resolve conflicts overspread of slavery, the southern succession, and the election of 1860.
  • Period 6(1865-1898): The period 6 curriculum includes the "New South", Reform movements, the settlement of the west. Moreover, the topics include Immigration and Migration and the Rise of Industrial Capitalism.
  • Period 7(1890-1945): The period 7 curriculum includes the progressive movement, debates over imperialism, World War 1. Furthermore, there are topics like World War 2, the Great Depression and the new deal, Postwar Diplomacy, and Innovations in Communications and Technology in the 1920s.
  • Period 8(1945-1980): The period 8 curriculum includes topics like the Vietnam War, The African American Civil rights movement, The Cold War, and Red Scare. Amongst the other topics, there are— the Great Society, Youth Culture of the 1960s, and America as a World Power.
  • Period 9(1980-Present): The period 9 curriculum includes the end of the World War, Migration and Immigration, Reagon, and Conservatism. Also, there are topics like shifts in the economy and challenges of the 21st century.

Advanced Placement World History

The AP World History course focuses on the study of the cultural, economic, and other social developments shaping the world since c.1200 CE. The AP World History Curriculum is divided into the following nine units:

  • Unit 1—The Global Tapestry: The unit 1 AP World History Curriculum includes global and regional religions and belief systems.
  • Unit 2—Networks of Exchange: The unit 2 topics include the silk roads, the Mongol Empire, the trans-Saharan trade routes, etc.
  • Unit 3—Land Based Empires: The unit 3 curriculum covers topics like religious developments in empires. Also, it covers the development of the Manchu, Ottoman, Mughal, and the Safavid Empires.
  • Unit 4— Transoceanic Interconnections: The unit 4 topics include the Columbian Exchange, changes to social hierarchies linked to the spread of Empires. Also, there are topics like the development of Maritime Empires and the Internal and External challenges to state power.
  • Unit 5—Revolutions: The unit 5 includes topics like the Enlightenment, Trade Policies, The Industrial Revolution.
  • Unit 6—Consequences of Industrialization: The unit 6 topics include the Resistance to Imperialism, Economic Imperialism, and the growth of the global economy.
  • Unit 7—Global Conflict: The unit 7 topics include the interwar period, mass atrocities after 1900 the World War 1 and 2. Also, there are topics like changes in political order after 1900.
  • Unit 8—World War and Decolonization: The unit 8 topics include the spread of communism, the end of the Cold War, the creation of new states after decolonization.
  • Unit 9— Globalization: The unit 9 topics include the Economic change, New International Institutions, Environment, Disease, and Movements for Reform.

Advanced Placement European History

The AP European History class largely focuses on social, political, and economic developments influencing Europe since c.1450. The contents of the AP European History Curriculum is:

  • Unit 1—Renaissance and Exploration: The AP European History unit 1 includes topics like Renaissance developments and the Columbian exchange.
  • Unit 2—Age of Reformation: The AP European History unit 2 includes topics like the catholic reformation, the birth of Protestantism. Moreover, there are topics like Mannerism and Baroque art.
  • Unit 3—Absolutism and Constitutionalism: The AP European History unit 3 includes topics like the English Civil War, The Agricultural Revolution, etc.
  • Unit 4—Scientific, Philosophical and Political Developments: The AP European History unit 4 includes topics like population growth and urbanization, Neoclassicism, etc.
  • Unit 5—Conflict, Crisis, and Reaction in the late 18th Century: The AP European History Unit 5 covers concepts like Romanticism, the French Revolution, etc.
  • Unit 6—Industrialization and Its Effects: The AP European History unit 6 covers the revolutions of 1848, the Concert of Europe, and conservatism. Also, there are other topics like the Industrial Revolution and Societal changes.
  • Unit 7—19th Century Perspectives and Political Developments: The AP European History unit 7 includes topics like Darwinism, National Unification Movements. Also, other topics might include New Imperialism in Asia and Africa, Zionism, etc.
  • Unit 8—20th-Century Global Conflicts: The AP European History unit 8 includes topics like World War 2 and the Holocaust, the Great Depression, etc. Moreover, there are other topics like The Russian Revolution and the Treaty of Versailles.
  • Unit 9—Cold War and Contemporary Europe: The AP European History Unit 9 covers topics like 20th-century feminism, The Cold War, etc. Other topics might include The Marshall Plan and The Iron Curtain.

International Baccalaureate History Classes

The IB History Diploma class follows a multi-perspective approach to history. It covers major historical events, along with their cause, significance, and how they changed the social and economic setting. The IB History course curriculum consists of the Standard Level(SL) and the Higher Level(HL) classes.

The prescribed subjects include topics like the Military leaders and the conflict and Intervention. On the other hand, there are a total of 12 World History classes, out of which the student is required to study any two.

Moreover, the Higher Level topics are included only for in-depth studies. These topics cover concepts like the History of Europe, History of the Americas, etc. The internal assessment includes Historical Investigation available both in SL and HL.

What Online High School History courses you can take?

The Holocaust—An Introduction (1): Nazi Germany: Ideology, The Jews and the World

The course content is divided into three weeks including topics namely: From Hatred to Core Ideology, The World and The Jews in World War 2, The Isolation Abyss—the perspective of the Individual. This course is self-paced, 100 percent online and comes with a shareable certificate. High-Schoolers interested in the Holocaust can take this course as an elective in history.

The Modern World, Part Two: Global History since 1910

The course teaches students to look at history from a global perspective. It begins in the early 20th century, when the older ways of doing things, habits, and thoughts give way. The course then concludes in the present day, with communities transitioning everywhere. This course has flexible deadlines, comes with a shareable certificate, and is 100 percent online. Because of its extensive nature, high-schoolers can take it as a supplemental course. This course is preceded by The Modern World, Part One: Global History from 1760 to 1910.

The Ancient Greeks

Offered by Wesleyan University, this course covers ancient Greek history, from the Bronze Age to the death of Socrates. The course curriculum consists of four units— Prehistory to Homer, The Archaic Age, Two City-States: Sparta and Athens, and Democracy. The Persian Wars. This course is entirely self-paced, has a shareable certificate, and is 100 percent online. High-Schoolers interested in ancient history can take this course as an elective.

Stalin and Stalinism in Russian History

Offered by the HSE University, high-schoolers can take up this course to supplement their AP European History Coursework. The course covers the life and deeds of Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union from 1924 to 1953. The syllabus consists of four units— introduction, between the two revolutions, the leader, and Stalin's Revolution from above. This course comes with flexible deadlines, offers a shareable certificate, and is 100 percent online.

Coexistence in Medieval Spain: Jews, Christians, and Muslims

The course largely focuses on intercultural relations between the Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Iberia. The topics covered under this course include—Introduction to Medieval Spain and Coexistence, Developing Dynamic Cultures: Islamic Al-Andalus and Jewish Sefarad, Forging A Christian Future, and creating conversos and rejecting religious diversity. This course is self-paced, offers a shareable certificate, and is 100 percent online. High-Schoolers can take this course either as an elective or to supplement their AP European history coursework.

Introduction to Ancient Egypt and Its Civilization

This course has all the elements to quench a high schooler’s thirst for ancient history. From Colossal pyramids, golden treasures, strange gods to mysterious mummies, this course covers them all. The syllabus gives a brief introduction to the course, followed by units based on the history and chronology, the Pharaoh and Kingship, and the Gods and Goddesses. This course is offered by the Penn University, comes with a shareable certificate, is self-paced, and 100 percent online.

African Development—From the past to the present

Offered by Lund University, the course covers a unique economic history perspective on Africa's development. The syllabus consists of four units— The pre-colonial era, the colonial era, the independence era, preceded by the introductory unit. The course is over 5 weeks long and covers a logical account of historical events, shaping the political and economical landscape of Africa. This course is 100 percent online, comes with a shareable certificate, and is entirely self-paced. High-Schoolers can take this course either as an elective or as a supplemental course.

The Civil War and Reconstruction

Offered by Columbia University, this course gives necessary insight into all the elements behind the Civil War. High-Schoolers can take up this course to supplement their US History coursework. The course consists of three units—A house divided, a new birth of freedom, the unfinished revolution. This course is entirely self-paced, 100 percent online, and will take 11 months(6-8 hours) per week, to complete.

Women Making History: Ten Objects, Many Stories

This course covers all the important events of women's suffrage in 1920. Offered by Harvard University, high schoolers can learn about the centrality of women in American History through this course. Moreover, the course lets students explore the ten iconic objects from the Schlesinger collection, demonstrating how created change by embracing education. This course is entirely self-paced, 100 percent online, and free. However, students will have to pay a fee to get the verified certificate.

American Government: Constitutional Foundations

Offered by Harvard, this course will help students explore the foundation of America's Politics. The course is divided into six units, namely, the Political Culture, Limited Government, Representative Government, Federalism, Civil Liberties, and Civil Rights. As the course is only four weeks long, it is ideal for supplemental learning, or to be taken as an elective. It covers introductory level concepts, is 100 percent online, and is self-paced.


What history classes do you have to take in high school?

In high school, one needs to take up three years of Social Science to graduate. Out of the other social studies classes, U.S. History and World History are mandatory to take.

The U.S. History curriculum covers the civil war, constitutional foundations and the American Democracy.

On the other hand, the World History Curriculum covers broader aspects of history. The topics include ancient, medieval and modern history. When compared to the American history curriculum, the World History curriculum is vast.

What are the different AP history classes in high school?

The high school Advanced Placement history curriculum consists of three different classes. These classes are AP U.S. History, AP World History and AP European History.

Most of the content of AP U.S and AP world History classes coincide with the general curriculum of the same. However, European history class is not a part of the mandatory curriculum and is only available as an AP class.

These history AP classes let students dive deeper into the historical concepts, and are more vast than general classes. We have listed all the history AP classes along with their curriculum above.

How many history credits do I need to graduate?

In high school, a student requires 3 social science credits to graduate. Out of which, american history and world history make up for 1 credit each.

On the other hand, a student gets .5 credit each in Civics, economics, geography, psychology and sociology. Also, elective history or state history also makes up for .5 credits.

Why is history important in high school?

Studying history helps students develop a sense of identity. Not only that, it improves their overall decision and judgement making skills.

Moreover, when students read about history, they build empathy for those who have struggled. Moreover, asking a question related to the past, gathering related documents is no less than solving a puzzle.

Reading history helps students discover how their personal lives fit into the human experience. Furthermore, history is all about change. Thus, students end-up developing critical perspectives on both the past and present.


A high-schooler needs to take up three years of Social Science, out of which U.S History and World History are mandatory. Apart from that, students can take up various AP and IB courses in history, in the senior year.

The high school history curriculum consists of three different sections, American History, World History, and European History. However, the European History class is not mandatory and makes up for the AP class. Amongst the other AP history class, there is AP World History and AP U.S. history.

The history IB classes are divided into Standard Level (SL) and Higher Level (HL) classes. Overall, the curriculum consists of twelve different topics, out of which 2 are mandatory to study.

Furthermore, if you want more of history, we have listed 10 interesting history courses that you can take as an elective. All these courses are from different MOOCs platforms and are 100 percent online. However, you can always rely on the Red Comet Course Catalog for some interesting high school courses. Do check it out!

Also, do not forget to comment down and let us know which high school history class is your favorite? And, has this blog helped you understand the curriculum?

Awards, Approvals, and Accreditation

  • inc-1500
  • Cognia Advanced
  • International Association for K-12 Online Learning
  • National col-2dot4legiate Athletic Association
  • Northwest Accreditation Commission Board
  • Washington OSPI
  • University of California