Big Era Five Patterns of Interregional Unity

Introductory Activity Student Handout 0.1—PowerPoint Overview Presentation

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Introductory Activity

Student Handout 0.1—PowerPoint Overview Presentation

Five factors that increased cultural exchange, 300-1500

Evidence of how these factors

affected cultural exchange

Questions you have about the evidence of cultural exchange

Population Growth and Migration

States and Empires

Trade Networks

Spread of Ideas and Beliefs

Diffusion of Crops and Technologies

Introductory Activity

Student Handout 0.2—PowerPoint Overview Presentation

Five factors that increased cultural exchange

Evidence of how these factors affected cultural exchange

Questions you ask about the evidence of cultural exchange

Questions you would ask the people in slides

Population Growth and Migration

States and Empires

Trade Networks

Spread of Ideas and Beliefs

Diffusion of Crops and Technologies

Lesson 1
Population and Migration

Graph Interpretation

PowerPoint Overview Presentation Slides 8 and 10 show historians’ estimates of world population figures for Big Era Five. Ask students how demographers get data on local, national, and world population during our own era. How do historians gather evidence of population in the recent and distant past? What documentary evidence might be available for ancient times, and how accurate might that data be? Which groups in a society were most likely to be counted or not counted? (Some of the historical evidence on these questions may be found in imperial tax surveys, chronicles of cities, and geographers’ and travelers’ accounts.)

What other methods might demographers use to estimate past populations? (These would include statistical extrapolation from known evidence and information on fertility.) In small groups or as a class, discuss the population trends for each century, over a 500-year period, a 1000-year period, and the whole period of Big Era Five. Ask students to draw upon prior knowledge to make hypotheses about the probable causes of population growth or decline. How might invasions, trade, and the rise and fall of empires have affected population? (For example, there was a major decline in the population of Afroeurasia from 200-600 CE, but then population grew again. What factors might explain that trend?)


Using the migration map given on slide 16 in the PowerPoint Overview Presentation, identify the groups indicated and associate them with geographic regions of origin and destination. Many major migrations occurred during Big Era Five, which are merely suggested by the map. During your class’s study of this era, assign students to list important migratory movements and the approximate beginning and ending dates. Discuss or write about conditions that gave rise to migrations. (These might include shifts in pastoralism, drought, trade, pilgrimage, invasion, population growth, and the “bumper car effect” of one migrating group on another.) By what means did various groups travel? What evidence of transport technology is available? (See the seafaring vessels shown on the map and investigate types of animals, harnesses, and vehicles used in transport.) How have peoples expressed their migrations culturally? What evidence can be found that newcomers dominated others already living in a region or that the newcomers assimilated to the existing society? (Categories here might include language, religion, cookery, dress, music, visual arts, architecture, and military technology.)

Lesson 2
States and Empires

Part One

Teacher Notes

Students will have prior knowledge of some, though not all of the states and empires that were prominent between 300 and 1500 CE. This lesson will help students learn or review the names, locations, and duration of the major states and empires of the era. Students will discover where states and empires have existed in a single region. This raises questions about historical succession. The lesson should prompt students to ask questions about why one empire replaced another or why most empires in the era tended to be located in particular areas of the world (for example, China but not Australia, the Mediterranean region but not Canada).

Lesson Procedure

Using the political maps on the PowerPoint Overview Presentation slides 20-23, assess students’ prior knowledge of what political maps signify and what symbols (for example, shading) are used to indicate the territory that specific states or empires ruled.

Drawing on their prior knowledge, students should construct maps on blank pieces of paper that show the major states and empires that existed in 1500 for the Americas and in 600, 800, 1237, and 1400 CE for Afroeurasia. It may take students ten to fifteen minutes to create a north-south-east-west orientation, sketch an outline of the continents, and record the location of the major states and empires from memory. Tell students that they will not be graded on the correctness of the continent shapes or the location of the states and empires.

While students are making their maps, the teacher should give positive feedback of students’ accomplishments. For example, “As a group, you know quite a bit about which states and empires existed from 300 to 1500 CE.” Then, tell them that the lesson will help them learn or relearn what states and empires were prominent during the era. Organize students in pairs or small groups to transfer information from a series of maps into a simple chart with columns for the names of states and empires, the regions they dominated, and the duration of their political control (see Student Handout 2.1). Tell students that they can use the table and the maps to study for a quiz. Ask students to discuss how political control of a region for a period of time might have affected economic life, cultural traditions and values, religion, and style of government.

Extension activity

Ask more advanced students why they may remember certain states or empires rather than others. Why have some empires, the Roman empire for example, received more attention than others in textbooks, movies, television, and literature? Students who have attended schools outside the U.S. may contribute their own experience of gaining knowledge about empires of the past. For example, students might report that empires they learned about in their school in the country they came from was different from the ones that most students know about.

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