Collision of Worlds: The Paradox of International Contact in a Provincial Age

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HST 201D 29 Sept 2010

Wednesday 10:00 and 2:00

Collision of Worlds: The Paradox of International Contact in a Provincial Age

  1. Administrative:

  1. Assign voices and images for next week’s presentations

  2. Questions about syllabus? Course assignments? Books?

  3. Come to class Monday prepared to discuss readings for Week #2—especially primary “voices”

  1. Unit Theme: Graphical Depictions of North America as a reflection of and impetus for misconceptions about its people

  1. How have historains’ selection of evidence influenced their past interpretations of the experience of early intercontinental contact in North America? What are some inherent biases in the discipline of history as an academic pursuit? Remedies (how do we adjust for those?)

  1. What kinds of sources are available for understanding the experience of early intercontinental contact?

  2. What biases do those sources introduce into our understanding of early American History?

  3. What kinds of questions do historians ask of those sources?

  1. How did graphical depictions of North America affect the assumptions Europeans brought to this continent and their interactions with North Americans who were already here? What was commonly included and what was commonly excluded?

  1. Natural Geography and Territorial limits?

  2. Human characteristics of community?—political, economic, social interactions?

  3. Chronological limits (limits of the evidence?)

  1. How did a person’s background and cultural upbringing influence their understanding of the “other” in the era of early intercontinental contact in North America?

  1. male-female relations

  2. inter-racial and inter-ethnic relations

  3. ideals of “nature” and human place in nature

  4. patterns of violence and retribution (conflict resolution)

  5. role of the individual in community

  6. patterns of land use and property holding

  1. Who were the agents of intercontinental contact and what records did they generate?

  1. Little Ice Age (1200-1850): Period of disruption and disorder on a global scale

  2. Era of human migration and nomadism in formerly settled regions

  3. Centuries of spiritual uncertainty and searching (unpredictable world)

  4. Epoch of wrenching cultural changes before, during, and after intercontinental contact

  1. Discussion of Historical Method/Goals:

  1. What kinds of questions do historians ask and why? (context, contingency, and theory)

  2. What kinds of questions do historians ask of primary sources? How does this compare with the kinds of questions they ask of secondary sources?

  3. What are some tools historians can use when evaluating primary sources?

    1. Internal contradictions/consistencies

    2. External contradicitions/consistencies

    3. Author/author’s purpose

    4. Intended audience (context for generating source)

  4. What are some tools historians can use when evaluating secondary sources?

    1. Prefatory information (what does the author claim as his/her purpose?)

    2. Footnotes & endnotes

    3. Other contemporary sources (who is this author responding to/challenging?)

  5. When and what should you quote and when and what should not be quoted (for historical writing)?: pp. 96-98

Discussion/Analysis of primary sources from readings: Intercontinental Contact & the Problem of Historical Records

  1. Primary Voices :

  1. Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, “Indians of the Rio Grande (1528-1536)

    1. How does de Vaca describe Indians he met? What language does he use to describe them

    2. What do we learn in this document about how the Avavares Indians viewed de Vaca and his companions?

    3. How does de Vaca claim to have been treated? What can we learn about the motives of the Avavares from this document?

    4. What is de Vaca’s audience for this document? When does he draft it relative to the events he describes? Why?

  2. Bartolome de Las Casas (1542), “Of the Island of Hispaniola” (cont. next page)

    1. What is de Las Casas background? Purpose in drafting this document?

    2. What sort of language does he use in the document? What does that tell us about his priorities? Audience?

    3. What is the metaphor that he uses to describe Spanish treatment of the people of Hispaniola? Why?

    4. How does he depict Spanish authorities in the document?

    5. Bartolome de Las Casas (1542)Which practices of the Natchez were adopted from their ancestors (who originated from south of the Rio Grande)?

  3. Bartolome de Las Casas (1565), “The Devastation of the Indies”

    1. How does this document compare with the one drafted in 1542?

    2. How is his purpose in this document different/revised from his earlier purpose? What has happened to him since 1542? How does that affect his language, audience, and purpose?

    3. What language does he use to describe Spanish motives and actions?

    4. How do his depictions of Spanish motives and Indian motives differ in this document from the 1540s document? Why?

  4. Jose de Acosta (1590), “A Spanish Priest Speculates on the Origins of the Indians”

    1. How does the depiction of Indians in this document compare with the previous 3 documents? What is the relative time frame and what has happened in that time?

    2. What is Acosta’s background and motives by comparison with de Las Casas?

    3. What is his view of the natural world? Compare with de Vaca’s? de Las Casas? How do Indians fit into that world?

    4. What language does he use to describe Indians? Europeans? Comparions/contrasts?

    5. What is his purpose in this document? Audience?

    6. What does he conclude about the origins of the Indians? On what evidence does he rely? How does this relate to his audience and purpose?

    7. What do we learn about Indians in this document?


L’Anse aux Meadows (ca 1000 A.D.) Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca (ca. 1530)

the little ice age (ca 1250-1850) Bartolome de Las Casas (ca. 1540s, 1560s)

the Black Death (Europe, 1347-1350) Jose de Acosta (ca. 1590s)

The Grand Banks “Wife of Pomeoc”

The “Columbian” Exchange (disease epidemics) “Towne of Pmeiock”


Cherokee Confederacy

Iroquois Confederacy

The “long Century” (ca 1480-1620)

Songhai Empire (ca 1350-1591)

University of Sankore (Timbuktu, ca 1500)

Cahokia (ca 1200)

“Talomeco” (De Soto Expedition, ca 1539-42)

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