Complete all assignments in Group I, the assignment in Group II, and one of the assignments in Group III. We suggest that you bring your work to school with you on the first day of class in August. If you have questions, you can email Mr. Powell. These assignments will also be posted on Mr. Powell’s course website,

Group I

Focus Point: What’s all the fuss about Columbus?

Provocative Quote: “While the New World was often the scene of tragic violence and systematic exploitation, it allowed ordinary people opportunities to shape their own lives; neither the Indians nor the Africans were passive victims of European colonization. Within their own families and communities they made choices, sometimes rebelling, sometimes accommodating, but always trying to make sense on their own terms out of what was happening to them.”

Robert Divine, et al. America: Past and Present, Chapter One.


Use the internet or spend some time in the library to find out more about Columbus’ voyages to the New World. Make a note of every web site you visit while collecting research or each book you use. Using that information as a guide, and considering also the quote above, answer two of the following questions in a short (1-2 pages) essay:

  1. What does it mean to say that Europeans “conquered” the land and the peoples of North America?
  2. What would it mean to say that Europeans “encountered” rather than “conquered” the land and the peoples of North America?
  3. What role do the course themes play in the initial phase of European exploration and settlement?


  • Richard Hakluyt, Discourse of Western Planting (1584)

    Answer at least two of the primary source questions:

    1. Who was Richard Hakluyt and what was he so eager for England to do?
    2. Who were Walter Raghly (Raleigh) and “kinge Phillippe” and why were they so important?
    3. What arguments did make Hakluyt in support of his position?
    4. How would you describe this document and what does it add to your understanding of European expansion?

  • Giacomo Gastaldi, Map of the New World

    Examine this map and answer at least two of the following questions. For help, use your text and the information on the website located here.

    1. In what year, approximately, did Gastaldi make this map?
    2. Why did he make this map?
    3. Why did he include the details that are presented?
    4. What does this map say about European knowledge of the New World? About European policy and prospects for the New World?


Group II

Read What are Primary Sources? at the Library of Congress website and read sections 1, 1a, 2, and 3. After you’ve read, write your answers to all of the following questions:

  1. How can the historical record be both huge and limited?
  2. What makes a primary source more or less reliable?
  3. How do historians use different kinds of primary sources?
  4. To what extent is history based on fact and/or opinion?

Your answers should be written in paragraph form.


Group III

Complete one of following three readings, then write a short (1-2 pages) reaction paper in response to the reading, using the prompts below as a guide.

  1. Selection from Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States; Ch 1: “Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress.” You can download a .pdf file of the reading by clicking here.

    Speaking of the massacre of Indian people in the Americas by Spanish conquistadores, Zinn says this: “if there are necessary sacrifices to be made for human progress, is it not essential to hold to the principle that those to be sacrificed must make the decision themselves?” What did Zinn mean by this? Was the destruction of native peoples necessary in order to ensure “progress?” Indicate whether you believe that the Columbian exchange should be viewed in a generally negative or positive light.

  2. Excerpt from Bartolome de las Casas, A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1542).

    What was your immediate response to las Casas’ account of the Columbian “encounter?” How does it correspond to impressions of Columbus’ “discovery” of the “New World” in 1492 that you already had? Is this similar to the history of the discovery of the New World that you learned in elementary and middle schools? Do you think it was necessary for the Spanish to do what they did to the Natives, assuming that las Casas is telling the truth?

  3. Excerpt from Samuel Eliot Morison, Christopher Columbus: Mariner (1942). Please note: there are two separate chapters in Morison to read. A .pdf file for the first chapter is available here. The second chapter is available here.

    How is Columbus portrayed in these excerpts from Morison’s book? Do you think this is an accurate portrayal of who he was? How do you know? Try to find out as much as you can about Morison and indicate if you think he is a reliable source of information about Columbus. Also, describe Morison’s account of Columbus’ first encounters with the Indians at Guanahani. What are your thoughts on Columbus and the Indians after reading this account?



          Mill Creek High School
          Hoschton, Georgia