Big Era Five Patterns of Interregional Unity

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Lesson 2

Student Handout 2.1—States and Empires

State or empire name

Dates of rule

Geographic region

Part Two

Have students use the maps indicated in Part One to trace historical succession for states and empires in Big Era Five. Have the class use the Student Handouts and activities below to discuss the following two questions:

  • Which empires and states existed in the same regions?

  • What geographical factors might have made some regions more favorable than others for the development of states?

Using the climate and vegetation maps (Student Handouts 2.2 and 2.3), have students correlate them with the political maps in order to find out what physical regions and topographical features were encompassed by various states and empires.

Ask students also to consider how a map might be designed to show that the borders of empires expanded and contracted over time and that they were fuzzy and fluid, not sharp and fixed. How might students use computers to design maps that show how empires changed over time?

As an extension activity, scan relevant chapters in the textbook used in class to identify which states and empires get more coverage than others. Discuss what factors might determine how much coverage an empire gets in a textbook. What criteria might textbook authors use to determine which states and empires receive the most attention? Teacher and students might also discuss this issue using the National Standards for World History or state/local content standards.

Assessment: Twister “Find the Empire” Political Geography Game

This activity is designed to put some dynamism into the exercise of memorizing location and time period (historical succession) of states and empires. It is especially appropriate for Big Era Five, when political change was quite rapid.

Students work in small groups to create large maps of the hemispheres, with states and empires in the regions outlined and labeled for each of the time periods shown in the PowerPoint Overview Presentation slides 22-23. Each group reproduces the maps sized large enough so that all members of the group can stand on their map. Have them use colored markers or crayons to shade in the major states and empires in the locations where they belong.

Students tape the big maps of the states and empires to the floor of the classroom. Students then stand in a circle around the maps, either around each individual map or around the group of maps. Then, the teacher calls out a name of a state or empire, and students identify the correct time period map. They also locate the state or empire by placing one hand or one foot on the correct shaded area, taking a maximum of ten seconds to act. The teacher calls out another name of a state or empire, and another student puts a hand or a foot on the correct spot. The winner is the first player who identifies four states or empires by placing all four limbs on the map at once.

Lesson 2

Student Handout 2.2—States and Empires

Map: ©Houghton Mifflin Co.

Lesson 2

Student Handout 2.3—States and Empires

Map: ©Houghton Mifflin Co.

Lesson 3
Trade and Transfers of Products and Technology

The following activities are intended to get students thinking about the transfer of knowledge, technology, and products as a hallmark of Big Era Five.


First, assess students’ prior knowledge of map symbols used to indicate routes and places connected with trade during specific historical periods. Using a trade route map in a textbook or other source, ask students to:

  • List ten cities through which trade routes passed.

  • List all the major seas and oceans that trade routes crossed.

  • List geographic regions (e.g., West Africa, Southwest Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Inner Eurasia) that were connected by trade routes with other regions.

  • List geographic areas that may have been only infrequently connected by trade routes to other regions, or never connected at all.

In groups of five or six, have students use trade route maps to discuss the following questions, filling in the chart of technologies, goods, and ideas (Student Handout 3.1). A trade route map may found on slide 27 of the PowerPoint Overview Presentation for this era. Other maps may be found in Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam, Vol. 2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), 75, or in Francis Robinson, ed., Cambridge Illustrated History of the Islamic World (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996), 126.

  • Which trade goods may have moved within regional networks and which ones may have been traded on long-distance routes? (Bulk, perishable, and relatively cheap goods locally or regionally; light-weight, precious, prestigious, and expensive goods on long-distance routes.)

  • Which crops or resources were particular goods made from, and what technologies were needed to process or manufacture them? (Cotton, metals, clay, dyestuffs, wood, precious stones.)

  • What kinds of people or groups might have transferred these items within or between regional networks during Big Era Five? (Merchants, pilgrims, soldiers, migrant farmers, pastoral nomads, and itinerant scholars.)

  • Give examples of items that were widely distributed across Afroeurasia during this period. (Paper, silk, cotton, gunpowder, stirrup.) What geographic factors might have caused some items to be desirable in specific regions? (Arid lands need irrigation devices, areas affected by disease need medicines and medical techniques, maritime routes need useful transport technology.)

  • What factors in specific regions may have facilitated or motivated people to trade and travel during Big Era Five? (Opportunities for income and profit, religious pilgrimage, invasion, flight from drought or flooding, governments present to maintain and protect routes, and growth of cities.)

  • As a class, discuss what factors might have facilitated the movement of some items within specific regions? Across regions? Across Afroeurasia? (Usefulness of new inventions, culture-specific goods in demand like incense for religious rituals, fibers such as cotton, linen, furs and wool suitable for specific climates, books and manuscripts for religious use.)

  • How did increases in regional or hemispheric population affect the transfer of crops, trade goods, technologies, and ideas? (It created a demand for goods, increased the available labor force, caused urbanization, or brought more people into contact with one another.)

  • What kinds of places were involved in the transfer of goods, ideas, crops, and technologies across the hemisphere? (Permanent and seasonal markets, urban bazaars, royal courts, libraries, universities, caravansaries, monasteries, landowners’ estates, castles, route junctions, and river crossing-points.)

  • How did the introduction of specific technologies during Big Era Five affect societies that received them? What evidence might be found to show that an item was accepted, modified, or rejected?

  • To include the Americas in this activity, list items that were traded among indigenous American groups (Turquoise, mica, gold, silver, shell). Discuss as a class what might make it difficult for historians to create maps of trade networks in the Americas for Big Era Five? (Lack of written records, disappearance of some groups after 1500 CE, loss of languages, and incompleteness of archaeological record.)


Have students use maps and discussions to fill in the chart (Student Handout 3.1) with ideas about the agents, environments, and characteristics of major transfers of technology during Big Era Five, including discussion of modifications to these technologies. (Various fibers for paper, translations of books, new forms of stringed and wind musical instruments, forms of arms and weapons, gunpowder applications and delivery systems, design of sails and ship hulls.) Students may use the information on the charts and maps to perform skits showing how the transfer of goods, ideas, and technologies took place in Afroeurasia.

Lesson 3
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