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United States Era 1

Three Worlds Meet (Beginnings to 1620)

Standard 1: Comparative characteristics of societies in the Americas, Western Europe, and Western Africa that increasingly interacted after 1450. 

Standard 2: How early European exploration and colonization resulted in cultural and ecological interactions among previously unconnected peoples. 

The study of American history properly begins with the first peopling of the Americas more than 30,000 years ago. Students will learn about the spread of ancient human societies in the Americas, North and South, and their adaptations to diverse physical and natural environments. This prepares students to address the historical convergence of European, African, and Native American people starting in the late 15th century when the Columbian voyages began. In studying the beginnings of North American history, it is important for students to understand that Indian societies, like peoples in other parts of the world, were experiencing change--political, economic, cultural--on the eve of the arrival of Europeans. The history of the Native Americans was complex, and it was continuing even as European settlers landed on South and North American shores.

European mariners were the agents of the encounters among these many peoples of the late 15th and early 16th centuries. To understand why the trans-oceanic voyages took place students must gain an appreciation of Europe's economic growth, the rise of bureaucratic states, the pace of technological innovation, intellectual and religious ferment, and the continuing crusading tradition in the late medieval period. Students' grasp of the encounters of diverse peoples in the Americas also requires attention to the history of West and Central Africa. This study will prepare students to investigate the conditions under which the Atlantic slave trade developed.

By studying the European colonization--and partial conquest--of the Americas to 1620, mostly played out in Central and South America, students will embark upon a continuing theme--the making of the many American people of the Western Hemisphere. As a people, we were composed from the beginning of diverse ethnic and linguistic strains. The nature of these manifold and uneven beginnings spawned issues and tensions that are still unresolved. How a composite American society was created out of such human diversity was a complicated process of cultural transformation that unfolded unevenly and unremittingly as the following eras will address.

By studying early European exploration, colonization, and conquest, students will learn about five long-range changes set in motion by the Columbian voyages. First, the voyages initiated a redistribution of the world's population. Several million voluntary European immigrants flocked to the Americas; at least 10-12 million involuntary enslaved Africans relocated on the west side of the Atlantic, overwhelmingly to South America and the Caribbean; and indigenous peoples experienced catastrophic losses. Second, the arrival of Europeans led to the rise of the first trans-oceanic empires in world history. Third, the Columbian voyages sparked a world-wide commercial expansion and an explosion of European capitalist enterprise. Fourth, the voyages led in time to the planting of English settlements where ideas of representative government and religious toleration would grow and, over several centuries, would inspire similar transformations in other parts of the world. Lastly, at a time when slavery and serfdom were waning in Western Europe, new plantation economies were emerging in the Americas employing forced labor on a large scale.

Each standard was developed with historical thinking standards in mind. The relevant historical thinking standards are linked in the brackets, [ ], below.

Standard 1 

Comparative characteristics of societies in the Americas, Western Europe, and Western Africa that increasingly interacted after 1450.

Standard 1A

The student understands the patterns of change in indigenous societies in the Americas up to the Columbian voyages.

Draw upon data provided by archaeologists and geologists to explain the origins and migration from Asia to the Americas and contrast them with Native Americans' own beliefs concerning their origins in the Americas. [Compare and contrast different sets of ideas]
Trace the spread of human societies and the rise of diverse cultures from hunter-gatherers to urban dwellers in the Americas. [Reconstruct patterns of historical succession and duration]
9-12 Explain the common elements of Native American societies such as gender roles, family organization, religion, and values and compare their diversity in languages, shelter, labor systems, political structures, and economic organization. [Analyze multiple causation]
 7-12 Explore the rise and decline of the Mississippian mound-building society. [Analyze multiple causation

Standard 1B 

The student understands changes in Western European societies in the age of exploration.

5-12 Appraise aspects of European society, such as family organization, gender roles, property holding, education and literacy, linguistic diversity, and religion. [Identify historical antecedents]
 9-12 Describe major institutions of capitalism and analyze how the emerging capitalist economy transformed agricultural production, manufacturing, and the uses of labor. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
 7-12 Explain the causes and consequences of European Crusades in Iberia and analyze connections between the Christian crusading tradition and European overseas exploration. [Analyze multiple causation]
 7-12 Explain dissent within the Catholic Church and analyze the beliefs and ideas of leading religious reformers. [Explain the influence of ideas]
Analyze relationships among the rise of centralized states, the development of urban centers, the expansion of commerce, and overseas exploration. [Identify historical antecedents

Standard 1C 

The student understands developments in Western African societies in the period of early contact with Europeans.

5-12 Describe the physical geography of West and Central Africa and analyze its impact on settlement patterns, cultural traits, and trade. [Draw upon data in historical maps]
 9-12 Describe general features of family organization, labor division, agriculture, manufacturing, and trade in Western African societies. [Analyze multiple causation]
 7-12 Describe the continuing growth of Islam in West Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries and analyze interactions between Islam and local religious beliefs and practices. [Examine the influence of ideas]
 9-12 Analyze varieties of slavery in Western Africa and the economic importance of the trans-Saharan slave trade in the 15th and 16th centuries. [Analyze multiple causation]
9-12 Analyze the varying responses of African states to early European trading and raiding on the Atlantic African coast. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships

Standard 1D 

The student understands the differences and similarities among Africans, Europeans, and Native Americans who converged in the western hemisphere after 1492.

5-12 Compare political systems, including concepts of political authority, civic values, and the organization and practice of government. [Compare and contrast different political systems]
 5-12 Compare social organizations, including population levels, urbanization, family structure, and modes of communication. [Compare and contrast different social organizations]
 5-12 Compare economic systems, including systems of labor, trade, concepts of property, and exploitation of natural resources. [Compare and contrast different economic institutions]
 5-12 Compare dominant ideas and values including religious belief and practice, gender roles, and attitudes toward nature. [Compare and contrast the influence of ideas]
Compare political systems, including concepts of political authority, civic values, and the organization and practice of government. [Compare and contrast different political systems

Standard 2

How early European exploration and colonization resulted in cultural and ecological interactions among previously unconnected peoples.

Standard 2A

The student understands the stages of European oceanic and overland exploration, amid international rivalries, from the 9th to 17th centuries.

5-12 Trace routes taken by early explorers, from the 15th through the 17th century, around Africa, to the Americas, and across the Pacific. [Draw upon data in historical maps]
 7-12 Evaluate the significance of Columbus' voyages and his interactions with indigenous peoples. [Assess the importance of the individual in history]
 5-12 Compare English, French, and Dutch motives for exploration with those of the Spanish. [Compare and contrast different sets of ideas]
 9-12 Appraise the role of national and religious rivalries in the age of exploration and evaluate their long-range consequences. [Consider multiple perspectives]
Evaluate the course and consequences of the "Columbian Exchange." [Hypothesize the influence of the past

Standard 2B 

The student understands the Spanish and Portuguese conquest of the Americas.

7-12 Describe the social composition of the early settlers and compare their various motives for exploration and colonization. [Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas]
5-12 Explain and evaluate the Spanish interactions with such people as Aztecs, Incas, and Pueblos. [Examine the influence of ideas]
9-12 Describe the evolution and long-term consequences of labor systems such as encomienda and slavery in Spanish and Portuguese America. [Appreciate historical perspectives]
7-12 Analyze connections between silver mined in Peru and Mexico and the rise of global trade and the price revolution in 16th-century Europe. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]

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