A people and a Nation, Volume 1 Chapter Outlines (by chapter title) and Study Questions



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A People and a Nation, Volume 1

Chapter Outlines (by chapter title) and Study Questions

These chapter outlines go with your A People and a Nation book and may prove to be a useful tool. Be sure to study by chapter title, rather than chapter number; students use a variety of editions in my class, so I try to make the outlines match multiple editions. After each chapter outline, you’ll find some study questions that may help you understand the information better.

Chapter one, “three old wolrd’s create a new”

chapter Outline


I. Introduction

The desire for treasure and trade led the European kingdoms of the fifteenth century to an interest in establishing colonies and trading posts that might strengthen the emerging nation states. This expansionist sentiment introduced Europeans to African and American societies that had evolved over centuries, and the cultural interaction that followed initial contacts between these civilizations profoundly influenced western history.

II. American Societies

A. Ancient America

The ancestors of Paleo-Indians possibly arrived in the Americas in three successive waves beginning some 30,000 years ago. Because of climate change accompanied by rising sea levels, the descendants of these earliest migrants were separated some 12,500 years ago from Asia, Africa, and Europe. Paleo-Indians survived by hunting large game and gathering wild plants and gradually spread throughout North and South America. As the prehistoric animals disappeared, however, people grew more dependent on agriculture, a change that allowed for the emergence of more sophisticated civilizations.

By 9,000 years ago, the inhabitants of Central and South America began cultivating various crops, and wherever agriculture dominated the economy, complex civilizations flourished.

B. Mesoamerican Civilizations

Early civilizations emerged in what is now Mexico as early as 4,000 years ago. A number of powerful and complex societies developed, including the Olmecs, the Mayas, and Teotihuacán.

C. Pueblos and Mississippians

Besides the empires of Mesoamerica, great civilizations arose further north, including the Hohokam, Mogollon, and Pueblo peoples of the modern states of Arizona and New Mexico, and the Mississippian culture of the Midwestern and Southeastern United States.

D. Aztecs

The Aztecs moved into the Valley of Mexico in the twelfth century where they ultimately established an empire built on a warrior tradition that included human sacrifice and conquered people's tribute.

III. North America in 1492

A. Gendered Division of Labor

Native Americans living north of Mexico adapted their cultures to the climate and terrain in which they lived. Hunting societies assigned the task of hunting to men, while women prepared the food, made clothing, and raised children. In the agricultural tribes of the West, the men farmed, but in the East, women performed that task.
B. Social Organization

The social organizations of the agricultural peoples of the southwest and east were similar, with extended families being defined matrilineally. The nomadic Indians of the Prairies and Great Plains, by contrast, were usually related patrilineally.

C. War and Politics

The Indians of North America engaged in wars with each other long before the coming of Europeans. Native American political structures, including the role of women, varied widely from tribe to tribe. Civil and war leaders divided political power in all North American Indian cultures.

D. Religion

Although all Native Americans in North American were polytheistic, their most important beliefs and deities were tied to a group’s means of subsistence.

IV. African Societies

A. West Africa (Guinea)

Upper Guinea had a culture that reflected contact with the Islamic Mediterranean region, while the peoples of Lower Guinea practiced traditional African religions.

B. Complementary Gender Roles

In West Africa men and women shared agricultural duties, with the men also hunting or herding while the women performed household tasks and managed local commerce. In Lower Guinea, society developed based on the “dual-sex principle.” Throughout Guinea religious beliefs stressed complementary male and female roles.

C. Slavery in Guinea

Slavery existed in West Africa primarily as a means of accumulating wealth. The degree to which slaves were exploited varied considerably.

V. European Societies

A. Gender, Work, Politics, and Religion

Most Europeans lived in small villages. All shared in the work but men did most of the farming and herding; women’s duties were primarily domestic. Men dominated European society as women were relegated to inferior positions and children were tightly controlled.

Christianity was the dominate religion with authority centered in the Catholic Church.

B. Effects of Plague and Warfare

Bubonic plague first struck Europe in 1346, then struck again in the 1360s and 1370s, killing a third of the continent's population. The Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453), which disrupted overland trade routes, led merchants in the eastern Mediterranean to establish maritime links with Antwerp. This led to the use of the triangular sail and the perfection of the astrolabe and the quadrant.

C. Political and Technological Change

European leaders took advantage of the chaos resulting from the Black Plague and the Hundred Years’ War to engender nationalism as a means of consolidating power. Along with this political innovation, technological change ushered in movable type and the printing press, which made information more accessible. The publication of Marco Polo’s Travels in 1477 led many European to believe they could trade directly with China by sea rather than relying on overland routes.

D. Motives for Exploration

Developments in Europe made possible an era of exploration designed both to gain access to markets and to spread Christianity.

VI. Early European Explorations

A. Sailing in the Mediterranean Atlantic

European sailors learned much of navigation, winds, and currents by sailing in the Mediterranean Atlantic, a region bounded by the Canaries, the Azores, and the Madeiras. The most important concept was sailing “around the wind” or picking up westerly breezes that allowed ships to return safely to port.

B. Islands of the Mediterranean Atlantic

In the fifteenth century, Europeans, particularly Portuguese and Spanish, settled the Azores, Madeiras, and Canary islands and began plantation economies.

C. Portuguese Trading Posts in Africa

The Portuguese established trading posts in West Africa, which were mutually beneficial to the Portuguese and to the African kingdoms.

D. Lessons of Early Colonization

On São Tomé in the 1480s, the Portuguese established sugar plantations dependent on slave labor from the African interior.

Europeans learned that they could transplant crops and livestock successfully to new lands, that the inhabitants of these new regions could be conquered, and that slave-based plantations could be profitable.

VII. The Voyages of Columbus, Cabot, and Their Successors

A. Columbus’s Voyage

Christopher Columbus sailed west in an effort to reach Asia. Instead of reaching Asia, he encountered the Bahamas a month after starting.

B. Columbus’s Observations

Columbus made obvious his intentions by asking the natives about gold, pearls, and spices. He also marveled at the new plants and animals he encountered and described how they could be exploited. Columbus also reported that the human inhabitants he encountered would be useful as converts and as laborers.

Even though Columbus died believing he had found Asia, map makers named the new region America in honor of Florentine explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, who was the first to publish the idea that a new continent had been discovered.

C. Norse and Other Northern Voyages

Leif Ericsson had established a short-lived settlement in modern Newfoundland in the year 1001.

Because of the winds they confronted, northern mariners who sailed to the region that was to become the United States and Canada followed a route different from those who sailed to the south.

D. John Cabot’s Explorations

John Cabot deserves credit for the first formal exploration of North America’s northern coast. Other mariners added to Europe’s knowledge of the Western Hemisphere.

VIII. Spanish Exploration and Conquest

A. Cortés and Other Explorers

Having first arrived in the West Indies in 1506, Cortés embarked for the mainland in 1519. Malinche, one of twenty slaves given to Cortés by the Mayas, became his mistress and translator.
B. Capture of Tenochtitlán

The Aztecs were weakened by a smallpox epidemic. Largely as a result, the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán fell to the Spaniards in 1521.

C. Spanish Colonization

Spanish conquerors established a colonial system that stressed strict royal control, the predominance of male settlers, and exploitation of Americans and Africans.

D. Gold, Silver, and Spain’s Decline

The Spaniards extracted great wealth from their colonies, to the detriment of both the American and the Spanish cultures. The influx of such wealth into Spain led to rapid inflation, to the overpricing of Spanish goods in international markets, and to lavish spending by Spanish monarchs. Ultimately, the Spanish economy crumbled and Spain lost international importance.

IX. The Columbian Exchange

A. Smallpox and Other Diseases

Hundreds of thousands of Native Americans died from European diseases, particularly smallpox, to which they had no immunity.

Syphilis apparently traveled from America to Europe, with the first recorded case occurring in 1493.

B. Sugar, Horses, and Tobacco

By the 1520s, sugar was being transported from the Greater Antilles to Spain. By the 1570s, the Portuguese cultivated sugar in Brazil for sale in the European market, and after 1640, sugar was produced in the English and French colonies in the Caribbean.

The introduction of horses into the Americas by the Spanish in 1493 ultimately led to changes in the subsistence cultures of North American natives.

Europeans believed that tobacco had beneficial medicinal effects.

X. Europeans in North America

A. Trade Among Indians and Europeans

Rich fishing banks off the coast of North America attracted many Europeans to the New World. The English also developed a lucrative fur trade with the Indians. The Indians, in turn, desired European goods. This mutually beneficial trade arrangement not only affected Indian cultures but had serious ecological consequences as well.

B. Contest Between Spain and England

Geopolitical conflict with Spain led England to desire colonies in North America.

C. Roanoke

Early efforts by the English to settle the region they called Virginia had disastrous results.

D. Harriot’s Briefe and True Report

Harriot, a noted scientist, publicized the benefits of Virginia, including its natural resources like copper, iron, furs, grapes, and people.

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