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The Brief American Pageant , Sixth Edition
David M. Kennedy, Stanford University
Lizabeth Cohen, Harvard University
Thomas A. Bailey
Mel Piehl, Valparaiso University
Suggested Lecture Topics
Chapter 1
Developing The Chapter: Suggested Lecture Or Discussion Topics


  • Using globes and maps, examine the impact of geology and geography on the prehistory and history of the Americas. Point out the areas of relatively dense Indian population and civilization before 1492, and emphasize the ways in which geography shaped the subsequent pattern of European exploration and conquest-in both South and North America.

    REFERENCE: D. W. Meinig, The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of Atlantic America (1986).

  • Explore what has been learned from history, anthropology, and archaeology regarding the life of American Indians before 1492. Emphasize that these societies were varied and dynamic, and had undergone significant conflicts and changes over many centuries. Perhaps select one North American Indian culture that had disappeared by the time of the Columbian encounter (e.g., the Anasazi culture that built Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon in the Southwest), and compare their ways of life with those of the Indians that the Europeans first met when they arrived.

    REFERENCE: Brian M. Fagan, Kingdoms of Gold, Kingdoms of Jade: The Americas Before Columbus (1991).

  • Analyze in more depth the condition of European societies at the beginning of the age of exploration. Consider, for example, the ways in which Europe was still "medieval" in its outlook around 1500 or so, and the ways in which it was being affected by more "modern" developments. Point out the changes in Europe that were occurring almost simultaneously with the age of discovery-particularly the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation, the Italian Renaissance, the unification of Spain, the reign of Henry VIII-and consider their impact on the Americas.

    REFERENCE: Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System (1974).

  • Discuss the "exchanges" involved in the encounter of Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans in the New World. Focus particularly on the ways in which all parties in the process-the "conquerors" as well as the "conquered"-were changed. The emphasis could be on issues of population, intermarriage, agriculture, and the like, or on the new forms of society that developed in both Hispanic America and North America as a result of the events of 1492 and after.

    REFERENCES: Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Settling with the Indians: The Meeting of English and Indian Cultures in America, 1580-1640 (1980); Ramon A. Gutierrez, When Jesus Came, The Corn Mothers Went Away (1991).



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