Unit I Guiding Questions

"Why should I care" questions:

  1. What makes a nation? People? Territory? Principles? Shared stories?
  2. What does it take to understand people very different from myself, and a world very different from my own?
  3. Why do differences matter at some historical moments, and not at others?  How can this help us think about the ways our culture currently draw lines between “us” and “them”?
  4. What does it mean to be educated? How do our ideas about education compare with those of the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries?

Questions that might be on the test:

  1. What made 1492 a significant historical turning point?
    1. Your text book identifies the "Columbian exchange" and the related "demographic catastrophe" among "the most important events of all time." Explain what these were, and illustrate their significance for European colonial policy and European ways of justifying their actions in the Americas. Other questions to consider as you develop your argument include: How do the “Columbian exchange” and “demographic” catastrophe help us understand the significance of 1492? What “policies” or plans regarding exploration and colonization and conquest did Europeans have in place prior to 1492? In what ways did (or didn’t) the Columbian Exchange and demographic catastrophe change those policies?
    2. How and why did the global balance of power change between the late 15th century (1400s) and the sevententh-century (1600s)? Which countries (or empires) and cultures were the most powerful before 1492? Which could think of themselves as the "center" of the world, with the power to take or leave the rest of it as they chose? What was the basis of their power? How did the empires that arose after 1492 differ?
  2. Authority: Your readings contain many examples of people trying to draw boundaries between "us" and "them" in ways that justify their own group's claim to authority. Religion, language, national or ethnic identity, gender, economic status, and (eventually) race all play a role in defining group boundaries and power relationships. Focus on one of these categories of identity, and examine how its use as a justification for authority changed over time and/or varied across regions. You may discuss the intersection of multiple categories where it helps your argument. Some examples of how to break this down:
    1. How do the ideas about race and authority found in Jaun Gines de Sepulveda, Robert Beverly, and Benjamin Franklin compare? How are the similarities and differences between them connected to the colonial policies (or styles of government) they were trying to defend?
    2. What were the connections between religion and authority in New England and the Chesapeake? (Or for Puritans and Anglicans?) [several readings could work for this]
    3. How and why did the Puritans draw gender boundaries between men and women? In what ways were their concerns shared with or distinct from … [question invites comparison with many other readings]
  3. Compare England's early colonial ventures with those of two other European powers (i.e. the Spanish, Portuguese, French, or Dutch]. In what ways did these empires develop differently from one another? In what ways were they similar?
  4. When and how did slavery become established in North America, and how did it shape the development of distinctive regional cultures?
  5. What was the "spectrum of settlement" referred to in your textbook? Use examples from primary source readings and lectures, as well as the textbook, to illustrate the concept. Focus on two or three colonies, and explain how they fit into larger patterns.
  6. Compare the experiences of three different colonists, using these to show significant similarities and differences between different colonial regions.
  7. Compare the experiences of three different colonists, using these to illustrate patterns of colonial development over time - (i.e. outpost, settlement, colony, Anglicization …)
  8. What were the English Civil Wars and the "Glorious Revolution"? How did these matter to ideas about authority and to the practice of government in colonial America?
  9. Tension between allegiance to moral and religious principles and attachment to existing social order was (and remains) an important theme in American history. Identify and explain some of the ways this tension influenced colonial development.
  10. What was the relationship between the English Enlightenment and the evangelical religion that grew out of the "Awakenings" and revivals of the mid-1700s? What was the spectrum of belief in the eighteenth-century American colonies?