Lesson Plans -- Student

The Columbian Exchange and Reaction:
Cultural Contact and Adaptation in The Age of Exploration

A Documents-Based Question by Casey Jakubowski
HIST 530a, Fall 2002

Directions: Using skills you have gained during the last unit, answer the following short-answer questions and create an essay that meets the requirements of each portion of the task. Regents essay writing standards apply: 5 paragraphs (introduction, conclusion, and three support/detail paragraphs)

Historical Background: In the late 1400s, European explorers fournd the North American continent. Native American peoples who were already living in North America had created a system of government and society that rivaled Europe's. The cultural exchange between the "New World" and the "Old World" (North America and Europe, respectively) is often called the Columbian Exchange in reference to Christopher Columbus.

Task: In a well-planned essay, identify and evaluate:

1. The reaction Native Americans had to the Europeans
2. The reaction Europeans had to the Native Americans
3. How the world changed because of the interaction between these two cultures.

Document 1: Columbus's diary

Saturday, 13 October. [1492] At daybreak great multitudes of men came to the shore, all young and of fine shapes, very handsome; their hair not curled but straight and coarse like horse-hair, and all with foreheads and heads much broader than any people I had seen; They came loaded with balls of cotton, parrots, javelins, and other things too numerous to mention; these they exchanged for whatever we chose to give them.

1. What did Columbus observe about the Natives?

2. What did the Spanish and Native Americans do together?

Document 2: Description of Aztec reaction to Cortez

Cortez was coming. Montezuma [leader of the Aztecs] had already sent wizards, magicians, and seers to cast spells that would destroy or at least deter the Spaniards from continuing towards the Capital. Their failure had re-confirmed the [Aztec] emporer's opinion that these indeed, were the gods of legend

1. What did Montezuma send to Cortez?

2. Why might the Aztecs believe the Spaniards were gods?

Document 3: Journal entry of Bartolome de Las Casas

The [the Americans] do not have weapons, nor do they know about them because when we showed them a sword, they cut themselves from grabbing the [blade].

1. How did the Native Americans show that they did not know about weapons?

Document 4: Farming and Food calories

North America
Chief Crops Calories
per Hectare
Maize 7.3
Potato 7.5
Yams (Sweet Potato) 7.1
Cassava 9.9

Chief Crops Calories
per Hectare
Rice 7.3
Wheat 4.2
Barley 5.1
Oats 5.5

1. Which area had a higher calorie average?
2. Of the 4 European crops listed, which one was the most important?

Document 5: Columbian Exchange

Pathogens Animals Effects
Small Pox Horse Native population falls
Measles Cattle Guns kill many Natives

8. What was one animal brought to America?

Document 6: " Loss of hand because gold quota not met"
Commissioned by B. De Las Casas

1. Based on the document, did the Spanish treat the Natives kindly?
2. According to the title of document 6, the penalty for missing the Gold quota was a loss of a hand. Why would the Spanish cut off workers hands?

Essay Question: In a well planned essay, discuss how Natives and Europeans reacted to their encounters with each other. Provide at least three specific examples to support your thesis.

Explanation of how documents are chosen: The documents were selected in order to provide students with a selection of written and visual examples of the Columbian Exchange. I attempted to give students unambiguous documents to facilitate their writing a clear compare-and-contrast essay. In an effort to meet state standards, the documents collected include primary sources from European and American perspectives. I attempted to provide questions that created a basis for students to reenforce the exploration and discovery section within the unit.

Grading plan: Based on the Regents requirement of a scoring scale:

0 Student fails to write anything on paper, no coherent answer, scribbling, curse words, statements of opposition

1 Student clearly makes an effort to answer question; major factual errors; incoherent; lacking any connection with essay questions.

2 Student clearly makes an effort to answer question; contains one or two quotes from documents; lacks coherence, structure and planning.

3 Student uses all documents in a well-written essay; student has an introduction and conclusion; no outside information present.

4 Student uses all documents in a superbly written essay; student includes one or two facts based on outside information.

5 Student uses all documents in an excellent essay; clear structure; clearly demonstrates comprehension of question; at least three facts based on outside information


Document 1: Columbus' Diary

Document 2: Aztec Reaction to Cortez

Document 3: Journal of Bartolome de Las Casas
John E. Kicza, Resilient cultures : America's native peoples confront European colonizaton, 1500-1800.Upper Saddle River, NJ : Prentice Hall, 2003.

Document 4: Farming and Food Calories

Document 5: The Columbian Exchange
Alfred W. Crosby, The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1972.

Document 6: "Loss of a hand because gold quota not met"