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Session 1: The Spice Trade

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Session 1: The Spice Trade

  • Outline map of the world

  • Colored pencils and/or markers

  • Selected spices to use for smelling (and tasting) (CAUTION: Spice allergies are rare but could be present in a student. Do not select spices to which students could be allergic, such as anis, caraway, celery seed, coriander, curry, fennel, garlic, mustard, paprika, saffron.)

  • Small plastic zip bags

  • Web sites such as the following:

The Influence of Spice Trade on the Age of Discovery. http://muweb.millersville.edu/~columbus/papers/strass-1.html

Geographic Spice Index. http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/spice_geo.html

Instructional Activities

1. Display a picture of a fifteenth-century European home or village, and ask the students to describe the contents of the kitchen or cooking area. Instruct them to consider the following questions and issues:

  • What are the most striking features about this kitchen? If you were to visit, what modern convenience would you miss the most?

  • Discuss the fifteenth-century diet and the desire of people to make their food taste better.

2. Assign an appropriate reading selection on the spice trade, using selections identified in the textbook and/or at the Web site listed above.

3. Briefly discuss the causes for and effects of controlling a piece of the spice trade, profit motives, risks, and benefits.

4. After the discussion, have students create a “Spice Map” of the world that shows the areas of production for the selected spices. Follow the directions below for this activity:

  • Place the spices in plastic zip bags for easy access to smell (and taste).

  • Make a series of stations around the classroom, each with a different spice. Include saffron (Mediterranean basin), cinnamon (Spice Islands and India), black pepper (Spice Islands and India), and cloves (Southeast Asia).

  • Have students label on their outline map of the world the continents of Europe, Africa, Asia, North American, and South America; the countries of England, France, Spain, Portugal, and The Netherlands; and all oceans.

  • Direct students to visit each spice station, smell (and taste: use caution!) the spice, and label the appropriate location on their maps with a symbol for the spice.

  • On the same map, have students locate the routes of the explorers Columbus, Magellan, da Gama, Drake, and Cartier.

  • The completed maps should include symbols for the spices, color-keyed routes for the explorers, and explanation of the symbols and colors in the map key.

5. Have students compare the exploration routes with the desired spices. Brainstorm conclusions that this comparison suggests.

6. Assign a teacher-selected reading or other reinforcement activity.

Session 2: The Conquistadors


  • Internet access

  • Textbook or other instructional resources on the Aztecs, Incas, and the conquistadors

  • Web sites such as Conquistadors. http://www.pbs.org/opb/conquistadors/home.htm
Instructional Activities

1. Direct students to research print and electronic resources containing information on the impact of the conquistadors, including missionaries. If students do not have Internet access, information from the Web site listed above could be downloaded and provided, along with other selected information. Have students also use information found in the textbook or other instructional resources.

2. After students have gathered information and taken notes on it, direct them to create a series of five journal entries from the perspective of a native. Provide them with a rubric for evaluation of the journal, such as the following:

  • Completeness: Five entries of 150 to 200 words each = 30 points

  • Accuracy: Events and facts based on factual evidence from the readings = 30 points

  • Illustrations = 10 points

  • Mechanics: Grammar, spelling, and punctuation = 30 points

Session 3: Colonies and Trading Posts


  • Textbook or other instructional resources

  • Map showing colonies and trading posts, available at Web sites such as Historical Maps of the World. http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/history_world.html

  • Colored pencils and/or markers
Instructional Activities

1. Select a reading from the textbook or other instructional resource that explains where Europeans established colonies and trading posts and the impact these had on all involved—i.e., the indigenous people, the explorers, and the people of the countries from which the explorers came.

2. Display a map showing colonies and trading posts in the Americas, Africa, and Asia during the European Age of Discovery, and ask questions that will require students to analyze the map.

3. Direct students to draw a map showing these colonies and trading posts. Have them color-code the locations of these outposts according to the countries that possessed them.

4. Lead a class discussion based on the reading assignment to analyze the impact these colonies and trading posts had on

  • indigenous peoples

  • explorers

  • Europeans.

5. Display the following questions, and have students respond:

  • Which European countries established colonies around the world?

  • Who were the monarchs of these countries?

  • What was the role of each of these monarchs in colonization?

  • What were the reasons for colonization?

  • What risks were involved for the country establishing colonies?

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