Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation .
– William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation
The first section will seek to demonstrate that the although a watershed moment in human history, Christopher Columbus’ voyage across the Atlantic was by no means the result of one lone discovery. The events that led the Spanish Empire to decisively conquer and subdue the civilizations of North and South America were the sum total of a far more interconnected world than is typically understood. In each of the documentaries below you will have the option of learning more about the lifestyles of the pre-Columbian civilizations active in the Americas before the time of Columbus, as well as notable explorers and explorations that were carried out before 1492. Additionally this selection will contain several documentaries that look at the consequences that emerged as a result of the globalization that developed with the Spanish and Portuguese sponsored explorations of the 16th Century.
We next transition to the consequences of Queen Elizabeth I of England’s defeat of Phillip II’s Spanish Armada in 1588, supremacy over the Atlantic World shifted to favor England. Within two years after the English victory over the Spanish Navy Elizabeth commissioned the first organized attempt to establish an English colony in the Western Hemisphere. Although John White’s ill-fated expedition to Roanoke Island eventually resulted in the colony’s mysterious disappearance within a year of settlement, the Virginia Company sought to learn from past mistakes and organize a more concerted effort to establish English colony in North America. The trials and tribulations of first the Jamestown colony in 1609 and then the Plymouth Colony in 1620, the English established their first permanent hold on the continent. The historical legacy of the first contact between the English and Native tribes has led to severe historical exaggerations and falsehoods ranging from Disney’s Pocahontas and a fundamental misunderstanding of the circumstances that led to the first so-called “Thanksgiving.”
This week’s discussion activity will explore the legacies of the first colonists in North America, the native groups they encountered, as well as Africans brought against their will. Each of the documentaries selected will examine how these competing groups interact with and against one another and the factors that went into the creation of the first truly global melting pot.
You are expected to choose any one of the following resources listed below and then submit a 300-500 word review of your selected documentary in the class discussion board. After submitting your review, you will then be expected to respond (100 word minimum) to at least two of your classmate’s posts. This is an opportunity for you to reflect critically on both our class discussions and the film you had just watched.
Keep in mind that this is a graded writing assignment, so all expectations involving grammar, spelling, and structure will apply. Additionally it should be already apparent be these class discussions are an opportunity for respectful discussion and debate between you and your classmates. Throughout this course we will be dealing with a number of controversial topics where students are encouraged to express a multitude of perspectives and ideas which should be allowed to be openly discussed. That being said, any open demonstration of aggression or intolerance toward another classmates’ opinion, specific individuals or groups of people, will not be tolerated.
First, Read: Davidson, Experience History Volume 1: Interpreting America’s Past (via McGraw Hill Connect)
- Chapter 1: The First Civilizations of North America
- Chapter 2: Old Worlds, New Worlds
- Chapter 3: Colonization and Conflict in the South
- Chapter 4: Colonization and Conflict in the North
Second, Using the text as your source, write a 300-500 word essay answering any one of the following questions from the Section 1 notes:
- Describe the histories of several pre-Columbian civilizations that had appeared and disappeared before the arrival of the Spanish. What can we learn from their rise and fall? Are there any cautionary tales for our own civilization?
- Who were some of the great explorers who were active outside of Europe prior to the Age of Exploration? Why is it that these civilizations did not colonize North or South America? Give examples from the explorers perspective and the structure of the civilizations they represented.
- Explain the dimensions of the Columbian Exchange. How was the entire global community impacted by the different components of this exchange?
- Identify major figures and emerging nation-states that arose during and because of the Age of Discovery. How did these explorers/nations interact differently with various native groups?
- Explain the differences between the various colonies established throughout North America. How might the motivations of the colonizers and initial settlement have influenced life in the region into the present day?
Suggestion: When writing your essay in the discussion thread make sure to do the following:
- If using a direct quote or block of information from the text, make sure to put the name of the textbook editor in parenthesis, followed by a period (Davidson).
- Where possible, use examples from the text to support an historical argument that follows your own interpretation from the reading and ideas of its meaning.
- Do not simply say, “According to the book….” Instead make a statement and then use the book as a resource to help support your answers.
- Discuss what you learned and what you would like to learn more about.
- Where possible, connect at least one idea discussed in class to your review.
- You are welcome – but not required – to challenge the historical perspective presented in the text. If there is something that you feel could be fleshed out more, or a part of the story that seems to be missing, be sure to point it out.
First, Watch or listen to any of the following multimedia sources listed below, curated by Dr. Morton:
Tides of History: The First Americans
The Americas were the last continents Homo sapiens reached. Why did it take so long for people to enter this vast and promising expanse of land? Who were they, and where had they come from? In today’s episode, we explore the latest – just days old! – science of the First Americans, and discover the descendants they’ve left behind even today.
Ben Franklin’s World: The Pilgrims of Plimoth
In 1621, the Pilgrims of Plimoth (or Plymouth) Colony and their Wampanoag neighbors came together to celebrate their first harvest. Today we remember this event as the first Thanksgiving.
But what do we really know about this holiday and the people who celebrated it?
So much of what we know about the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving comes to us through myth and legend, which is why Rebecca Fraser (Links to an external site.), author of The Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America (Links to an external site.) , joins us to help suss out fact from fiction.
Ben Franklin’s World: Virginia 1619
2019 marks the 400th anniversary of two important events in American history: The creation of the first representative assembly in English North America and the arrival of the first African people in English North America.
Why were these Virginia-based events significant and how have they impacted American history?
Cassandra Newby-Alexander (Links to an external site.), a scholar of African American and American History and the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Norfolk State University, helps us find answers.
In Our Time: The Inca
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how the people of Cusco, in modern Peru, established an empire along the Andes down to the Pacific under their supreme leader Pachacuti. Before him, their control grew slowly from C13th and was at its peak after him when Pizarro arrived with his Conquistadors and captured their empire for Spain in 1533.
Native America: Episode From Caves to Cosmos
Modern scholarship and ancient oral tradition work side-by-side to discover a shared native science and spirituality, maintained across thousands of miles, that creates the foundation for some of our planets greatest wonders. These stories point to the genesis of a vast social and cultural network that connects people across two continents one that began earlier than ever imagined. Recent discoveries are driving archaeologists and indigenous leaders to a bold new perspective: that all Native Americans are part of a unique interconnected world. New evidence hints that the First Americans spent millennia developing their distinctive culture and beliefs as a single community in what is now Alaska, before spreading rapidly across North and South America. Together, they set Native America in motion, continents apart and untouched by influence from Europe, Asia and Africa. The result was incredible cities, sophisticated cultures, and unique ways of life that continue to reverberate in native beliefs and ways of life to this day.
Documentary Link: Native America Episode 1 (Links to an external site.)
The Mystery of the Miami Circle
July 1998, downtown Miami, Florida. Six apartment blocks have just been demolished, to allow the construction of two brand new 40-story skyscrapers. As construction workers prepare the site, they notice a strange phenomenon in the ground – a perfectly preserved circle of large holes, almost 13 metres across. What they had stumbled upon would generate huge excitement and controversy: either they had unearthed a rare and mysterious 2,000 year old Indian site – or a 1950s septic tank?
When Two Worlds Collide (Apple TV Rental)
When Two Worlds Collide offers a vivid depiction of the clash between indigenous Peruvian minorities and government interests bent on opening up protected tribal lands to multinational-corporation mining, drilling and clear-cutting. That conflict flared into contentious, highly publicized strikes and violence in 2009, which are depicted here in alarmingly immediate on-the-ground footage shot by participants on both sides. Winner of a World Cinema documentary competition prize for best first feature at Sundance.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: Conquest
The second of a three part Documentary series based on Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name, Guns, Germs and Steel traces humanity’s journey over the last 13,000 years from the dawn of farming at the end of the last Ice Age to the realities of life in the twenty-first century. Inspired by a question put to him on the island of Papua New Guinea more than thirty years ago, Diamond embarks on a world-wide quest to understand the roots of global inequality through the lens of the Spanish conquest of Peru.
The Vikings Uncovered
Dan Snow uncovers the lost Vikings in America with space archaeologist Dr. Sarah Parcak. Snow tracks the Vikings expansion west, first as raiders and then as settlers and traders throughout Britain and beyond to Iceland and Greenland. In North America, they excavate what could be the most westerly Viking settlement ever discovered.
Documentary Link: Vikings Uncovered (Links to an external site.)
When China Ruled the Waves
Told through the eyes of a daring modern day adventurer, this is the story of a unique chapter in the history of one of the world’s greatest super-powers. This program chronicles the history of the great Ming Dynasty treasure ships. Built in the early 15th century these ships gave China the capability of exploring and perhaps conquering the world.
Ibn Battuta: The Man Who Walked Across the World (Part One)
A series of documentary travelogues following in the footsteps of 14th Century Moroccan scholar Ibn Battuta, who covered 75,000 miles, 40 countries and three continents in a 30-year odyssey from North Africa to China.
America Unearthed: Lost Colony of Roanoke
In the late 1500s, years before Jamestown, the English sought to create their first settlement in America at Roanoke. A party of 119 colonists came over and settled but ultimately vanished.
Conquest of America: Southeast
In 1562 French naval officer Jean Ribault sailed to America with the goal of establishing a French Protestant colony. Exploring the Florida coastline, Ribault sailed north and built Charlesfort (Port Royal, SC) before returning to a France in the midst of a religious war. He eventually returned to America to help fight Spanish forces at Fort Caroline on the mouth of the St. Johns River in Florida.
American Experience: The Pilgrims
Arguably one of the most fateful and resonant events of the last half millennium, the Pilgrims journey west across the Atlantic in the early 17th century is a seminal, if often misunderstood episode of American and world history. The Pilgrims explores the forces, circumstances, personalities and events that converged to exile the English group in Holland and eventually propel their crossing to the New World; a story universally familiar in broad outline, but almost entirely unfamiliar to a general audience in its rich and compelling historical actuality.
Documentary Link: American Experience: The Pilgrims (Links to an external site.)
God in America (Part 2: A New Eden)
The unlikely alliance between evangelical Baptists and enlightenment figures such as Thomas Jefferson forges a new concept of religious freedom. Upstart denominations race ahead of traditional faiths and a new wave of revivals sweep thousands of converts into the evangelical fold and inspire a new gospel of social reform. Catholic immigrants challenge Protestant domination of public schools.
Documentary Link: God in America Part 2: A New Eden (Links to an external site.)
Second, Write a 300-500 word review on your chosen source. Your documentary/podcast review should contain:
- A very brief summary (no more than 50 words ) that explains the premise of your chosen documentary.
- In your opinion, who is the intended of your chosen media source? Do the content creators succeed or fail in connecting to this audience?
- Your response/reaction to the film. Here you can discuss the following:
- What did learn and what you would like to learn more about?
- Did you enjoy the structure/presentation of your chosen media or did it fail to keep your attention?
- Were there any details that you found especially surprising or interesting?
- What perspective or point of view do the content creators take when presenting your chosen media?
- In your opinion is there a particular moral, political, or social ideology that your source is in on the side of?
- Are there any individuals or groups showcased in your media source in a positive or negative light?
- Do you feel that your source was balanced in presenting multiple perspectives, or mostly one sided?
- Discuss at least one place within your chosen source where the information/presentation could be improved. This can include:
- Describing at least one blind spot or missed opportunity your source could have addressed.
- Places where the content creators could have provided more information.
- Identify at least one instance of bias (a preference toward one point of view over another) that occurred in the documentary.
- This could be from the way the film is presented, an explanation given by one of the experts interviewed, or the way the information is packaged.
- Note: There will always be occurrences of bias in everything you watch in this class. Becoming aware of how a preferred point of view can inform the way a story is told is one of the primary goals of this course.
- (Optional) Where possible, discuss how the topics brought up in the film relate to subjects covered during our lectures.
- Note: Several of the sources selected may cover a time period or topic that extends beyond the material we have covered thus far in our lectures. Instead of writing along the lines of “we have not discussed this in class,” do your best to address the ideas discussed.
Third, After submitting your review, respond with two 100 word minimum replies to your classmate’s posts.
This is an opportunity for you to reflect critically on both our class discussions and the film you had just watched. Replies should include:
- Feedback on your classmate’s submission and a short explanation of the source you selected (if differs from the review you are replying to).
- A short reflection on what drew you to the source you selected and how your classmate’s review either reinforces or challenges your choice.