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Session 1: Movements toward Independence from European Imperial Powers

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Session 1: Movements toward Independence from European Imperial Powers

  • Map of the Indian subcontinent under British control

  • Map of the Indian subcontinent after the 1947 partition

  • Internet access

  • A set of questions about the India-Pakistan crisis in the modern era, such as those found on the BBC News World Edition Web site at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/353352.stm
Instructional Activities

1. Divide the class in half, one half representing the European imperial powers, the other half representing the European imperial possessions. Assign the following questions to the group representing the European imperial powers:

  • Why do your countries want colonies?

  • How does the possession of colonies affect the economy and military might of your countries?

  • How did World War II affect the imperial strength of your countries? How would this question be answered by the victorious nations (Great Britain and France)? By the defeated nations (Germany and Italy)?

  • How does the right to self-determination (guaranteed by the United Nations charter) affect European imperialism?

Assign the following questions to the group representing the European imperial possessions:

  • Why do European imperial powers want control of your countries?

  • How did European imperial powers affect your countries, both positively and negatively?

  • How did World War II influence nationalism and the self-determination movements in your nations?
  • How does the right to self-determination (guaranteed by the United Nations charter) further inspire nationalism and the independence movements in your countries?

Tell students they must recall information from the units on imperialism and World War II to answer the questions fully.

2. After groups have had time to answer their questions, review their responses as a class. Include the following in the discussion:

  • European Powers were weakened politically, economically, and militarily after World War II. Therefore, the governments of the European powers were unable and unwilling to hold on to colonies around the world.

  • Citizens of colonial possessions no longer wished to be governed by outsiders. Therefore, independence movements began.

3. Introduce the unit by explaining to the class that the peoples and nations of India, Africa, and the Middle East began to seek and win independence from the European powers and that their roads to independence were often bloody.

4. Direct the students to read the article on Mohandas Gandhi from the Time Magazine Web site http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,988159,00.html as background for class discussion during the next session. Explain that Mohandas Gandhi is sometimes referred to as mahatma (great soul).

Session 2: Mohandas Gandhi


  • Attachment A: Notes on Indian Independence

  • Video on Gandhi

  • Teacher-prepared video-viewing guide (see p. 10)

  • Web sites such as the following:

Colonial India, Gandhi, and Eventual Independence. http://www.wmich.edu/dialogues/themes/indiagandhi.html

“Q&A: Kashmir dispute,” BBC News World Edition. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/353352.stm. Provides questions and answers regarding the history of the India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir.

Rushdie, Salman. “Mohandas Gandhi.” Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,988159,00.html. This article on Gandhi tells how “his philosophy of nonviolence and his passion for independence began a drive for freedom that doomed colonialism.”

Instructional Activities

1. Distribute copies of Attachment A, and discuss the notes with students (see teacher notes below).

2. Distribute copies of the video-viewing guide, and go over it with the students. Then, show a video on Mohandas Gandhi that contains sections that reinforce the notes and other information taught in class, and have students use the video-viewing guide as they watch. Discuss the video as a class.

3. Assign a teacher-selected reading or other reinforcement activity. The assignment may include reading selections from the Web resources cited above.

Teacher Notes for Attachment A

Questions for discussion:

  • What motives did Great Britain have for limiting the economic and political rights of Indians?

Answers may revolve around racism and Britain’s strategy of maintaining the inferiority of Indians so they would not resist working for the British companies.

  • How might receiving an English education have helped the independence movement in India?

Have students think back to the Age of Enlightenment and its influence on America and France.

  • How did this religion-based party system create tensions within India and affect the Indian push for self-rule?

Possible answer: Muslims and Hindus became so occupied with conflict against each other that they could not focus on the British colonization.

  • How did this boycott influence the British government?

Possible answer: British government would be angered because British companies would lose money.

  • Why did these acts of violence against Indians actually help the Indian independence movement?

Possible answer: The British people and the world would begin to turn against the British government in response to these acts of violence.

  • What American would use these same tactics during the 1960s?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • How far back did these tensions date?

To the 1200s, when the Delhi Sultanate was established in Northern India

  • What new nations were created after partitioning?

Have students look at two maps of India—one before partitioning and one after.

  • Why did the British government create new nations?

  • From a geographical perspective, what were some potential troubles with this partitioning?

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