Saturday, May 15, 2004

Teaching about the Voyages of Columbus

Teaching about the Voyages of Columbus. This is an interesting article which details the history of the Columbus voyages of discovery. It also includes tips on teaching this in the classroom.

From the site:

The voyage of Columbus in 1492 is a turning point in world history. After 1492, peoples and civilizations of long-separated regions began to develop connections that have led to the incipient global community of the 1990s. It is their global significance that justifies a prominent place in today's school curriculum for the four voyages of Columbus to the Western Hemisphere, not the mere fact of their 500th anniversary in 1992 and thereafter. Educators, therefore, should use the Columbian Quincentenary as a ripe time to renew and reform teaching and learning about these events of long ago that still affect most peoples and places of our world today.


The far-reaching and transforming interactions of peoples in the Western and Eastern Hemispheres, which occurred after 1492, are known today as the "Columbian Exchange," the title of a seminal book by Alfred W. Crosby.

Crosby has provided an ecological perspective on the conditions and consequences of the Columbian voyages that should be included in the school curriculum. He has examined how plants, pathogens, and animals moved from one hemisphere to the other and changed natural environments and cultures. He has described the devastating effects of Eastern Hemisphere microbes on Western Hemisphere peoples and the subsequent shifts in the genetic composition of populations in the Americas. However, Crosby has emphasized that the "Columbian Exchange" has not been one-sided. Certainly European and African plants, animals, goods, and ideas have affected the Amerindians. But peoples of the Western Hemisphere have influenced the Europeans, Africans, and Asians too, especially in their cultivation of crops and preparation of foods.

Elementary and secondary school teachers should use Crosby's concept of the "Columbian Exchange" to help their students acquire an ecological perspective on world history. Thus, they will learn how cultural diffusion and social changes have shaped our modern world. And they will understand Crosby's most important message: Once begun, the "Columbian Exchange" cannot be reversed. The Columbian voyages and the subsequent Age of Exploration and Discovery have forged inseparable bonds between once separated peoples and civilizations, and there is no turning back.

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