Geography and History

Today I began reading with great interest a report from the Road Map for 21st Century Geography Education Project. While my main field is history, I love maps and I’ve always thought that more emphasis needs to be placed on geography in the history-social science curriculum. In the History Blueprint Cold War unit, we are having students analyze lots of maps and to combine knowledge gained from maps and other visual sources with knowledge gained from written sources. This is a key Common Core standard: RH7: Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g. visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

For example, in the lesson entitled “Decolonization and Nationalism,” which comes immediately after the first lesson (on the origins of the Cold War) in the world history sequence, we have students analyze a series of maps to understand the issues of the new nations which came to be called the Third World. Here are the maps and the questions of that lesson.

Three World OrderThe first map shows students the Three World order that emerged after World War II. The questions ask:

What nations were in the First World? Which side of the Cold War did the First World take?

What nations were in the Second World? Which side of the Cold War did the Second World take?

Where were the Third World countries located? Which side of the Cold War did the Third World take?

In which of the three worlds were most of the imperialist nations (the colonizers)? In which of the three worlds were most of the colonies?

Once students have some idea of where the three “worlds” were, they move on to consider the first problem: How did the nations get their borders?
Decolonization-in-AfricaLook at Decolonization in Africa Map:

In what decade did most of the African nations become independent?

Which colonizer had the largest empire?

List 5 nations that had anti-colonial revolts or wars after World War II.

nigeria_linguistic_1979Look at this map of Linguistic Groups in Nigeria in 1979:

How many linguistic (ethnic) groups were combined in the nation-state of Nigeria?

Find Nigeria on the Colonial Africa map. What imperialist held Nigeria as a colony? How do the colony borders compare to the modern national borders of Nigeria?

What problems might that cause?

Decolonization-in-AsiaNext students look at a map of decolonization in Asia:

Which colonies became independent before the end of World War II in 1945?

Which colonies became independent between 1945 and 1950?

Which nations had anti-colonial revolts or civil wars?

Red_state,_blue_state.svgLeading up to an analysis of the Partition of India upon independence in 1947, students look at a Red State / Blue State map of the US.

Imagine you were trying to “decolonize” the US. Here is a map of the political divisions in the nation. What problems might arise if you divided the US according to the Red State/Blue State Map?

732px-Brit_IndianEmpireReligions3Students move to analyzing a 1909 map of religious adherence by region of India.

When the British freed their colony of India in 1947, it was divided into two nations, India and Pakistan, based on the religious identification of the majority of the population in each area. What areas of India became Pakistan?

What problems might this division of South Asia into two nation-states cause?

Three World OrderFinally, they return to the Three World Order map, and consider another paradigm: The North and the South.

There is another way to look at world differences in the period between 1947 and 1991. It is to divide the world into the North and the South. Which of the three worlds would be in the North?

Which would be in the South?

What were some of the differences between the North and South?

The purpose of the questions is to get students to look closely at the maps and develop their geographical thinking skills in combination with historical inquiry. The rich partnership between history and geography can only help them understand their world better.

Citations: The Three World Order map, the Decolonization in Africa map, and the Declonization in Asia map were created by Sonali Dujari for the California History-Social Science Project in 2013.
Linguistic Groups in Nigeria in 1979, produced by the CIA. Courtesy of Perry-Castañeda Library, University of Texas at Austin,
Map of Red States and Blue States in the US, created by Angr, Wikipedia Commons GNU Free Documentation license,,_blue_state.svg.
Map of “Prevailing Religions of the British Indian Empire, 1909,” from the Imperial Gazetteer of India, Oxford University Press, 1909, scanned by Fowler&fowler, 2007, Wikipedia Commons,


A Cold War Unit Activity

We are hard at work on the Cold War unit, building up its collection of primary sources, visuals, and Common Core skill development and literacy activities. I’d like to share with you one activity from the third lesson in the world history track. This lesson covers developments in the First or “free” world, the Second or communist world, and the Third World between the early 1960s and 1980. The title of the lesson is “Principles versus Practices,” and its historical focus question is: “How did practices undermine the principles sought by each of the Three Worlds?”

Cult Rev ChildrenHere are the main points of the lesson: Each of the Three Worlds promoted principles, but in the late 1960s and 1970s, US and Soviet practices undermined their appeal. Racism inside the US undercut US moral authority and its claim to be the leader of the “free world.” The Soviet Union was embarrassed by having to use force to keep the Czechoslovaks and others aligned with Soviet communism. In China, Mao Zedong broke away from the Soviet Union, and tried to establish his version of communism as a model for Third World revolution. At the same time, the actions of the superpowers created external realities that undermined the efforts of Third World nations to follow a third way. When Chile’s President Allende tried to institute socialist reforms, opposition from the US and multinational corporations undermined his regime, and assisted the victory of a military dictator, Pinochet, and a repressive government. Students will analyze speeches, posters, videos, and newspaper articles, paying special attention to multiple points of views and the role of media in the Cold War. The lesson models research and reporting on international crises of the 1960s and 1970s, and concludes with a research project.

3c29840rThe activity I’ve attached addresses the relationship between racial struggles within the US and its claim to international leadership: CW3.2 US Racism Activity The activity is designed to help students see the connection between the internal Civil Rights movement, decolonization in the Third World, and the Cold War. It also helps them practice identifying point of view or perspective from documents (Common Core Standard RH6). There are primary sources from John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mao Zedong. In the activity, students read one of the sources in a small group, complete the literacy activity and answer the analysis questions at the end. Groups then share their answers with the whole class.

This is a draft, so your comments and feedback are very welcome! Tell me how to improve this activity.

Photograph of 1971 elementary school textbook cover from Guangxi, taken by Villa Guilia and released to public domain. Wikipedia.
“A café near the tobacco market, Durham, North Carolina, 1940,” taken by Jack Delano for the U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information. Library of Congress, no. LC-USF33-020513-M2,

Civic Education, Common Core Standards and Government Documents

FordNixonKissingerHaigOne of the primary missions of education is to train citizens for participation in our democracy. Students have to learn about the law and the ways in which government functions at the local, state and national levels. Helping students become familiar with government documents – the constitution, court decisions, executive policy statements, and legislative proposals – is a crucial part of civic education. However, it can be a daunting task, because government documents make use of specialized vocabulary, elaborate syntax, and euphemisms. The real point of a government document is often buried in qualifying phrases, passive-voice constructions, and legal disclaimers. While teachers can get around the complexity of government documents by restating the key ideas for students, the Common Core standards emphasize close reading of texts. Even more importantly, if students are to be educated citizens, they have to be able to decode government documents on their own.

At the History Project, our approach is to provide a literacy strategy to help students comprehend the most critical piece of the government document, along with asking them to source the document, analyze it, and consider it within its historical context. Here is one example from lesson 3, Principles and Practices, of the History Blueprint Cold War unit:

Nixon’s National Security Council, 9 November 1970

Richard_Nixon“… the President has decided … that (1) the public posture of the United States will be correct but cool… but that (2) the United States will seek to maximize pressures on the Allende government to prevent its consolidation and limit its ability to implement policies contrary to US and hemisphere interests.
Specifically, the President has directed that…. necessary actions be taken to:
a. Exclude, to the extent possible, further financing assistance or guarantees for US private investment in Chile…
b. Determine the extent to which existing guarantees and financing arrangements can be terminated or reduced;
c. Bring maximum feasible influence to bear in international financial institutions to limit credit or other financing assistance to Chile….
d. Assure that US private business interests having investments or operations in Chile are made aware of the concern with which the US government views the government of Chile and the restrictive nature of the policies which the US government intends to follow.

For the literacy activity and analysis questions, click here: CW3.16 Nixon Security Council.

Citations: “Nixon’s National Security Council, 9 November 1970,” in The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts, ed. by Jussi Hanhimäki and Odd Arne Westad (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 401-2.
Richard Nixon, ca. 1973, National Archives no. 530679, Public Domain,
President Richard Nixon, Vice President Gerald Ford, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig in Oval Office, []. Public Domain,

Progress on the Cold War and Medieval World Units

We are in throes of researching, writing, and editing two History Blueprint units at the moment. The Cold War unit is slated to be ready for piloting in early April. Using the comments and feedback we received from all those who reviewed the lessons (professors, teacher leaders, the folks at all our sites), we are now working to revise the teacher leaders’ second drafts of the lessons. The teacher leaders have provided us with terrific lessons, but, of course, there is always room for improvement. Some of our work is to find additional sources, create maps, fine-tune activities, add literacy supports, and fill in gaps that inevitably emerge. Then we have to weave the lessons together into a coherent unit. Given the different styles of the teachers and the difficulty of working separately (in different parts of the state), our task is to connect the lessons together under the overarching unit focus question, “Why was the Cold War fought on so many fronts and in so many ways throughout the world?”

We have already had an amazing response from teachers who want to pilot the Cold War unit this spring. More than 150 have responded positively to our appeal. Because the unit will be posted free online, any teacher will be welcome to pilot the unit.

The second unit, Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World, is also progressing. I met in late January with a great team of teacher leaders who will be designing the lessons. Let me introduce them:

Med World Team 1Erica Aguirre, Ross Middle School, ABC Unified School District, Cerritos (not in photo)

Michelle Delgado, Edward Harris Jr. Middle School, Elk Grove Unified School District, Elk Grove

John Muller, Wood Middle School, Alameda Unified School District, Alameda

Shomara Gooden, Cesar Chavez Middle School, Lynwood Unified School District, Lynwood

Mary Miller, UCLA History-Geography Project, Los Angeles

Also in the photo are Antonio Zaldivar and Maya Maskarinec, graduate students from UCLA. These two have worked very hard to find an amazing collection of primary sources for the unit.

Since our meeting, we have held five online lecture/discussion sessions with professors who are experts in the different regions covered by the unit. Our faculty advisor, Professor Teo Ruiz of UCLA, gave two lectures on the Mediterranean sites of encounter, Sicily and Majorca. Professor Laura Mitchell of UC Irvine lectured on Calicut and Indian Ocean trade networks between 1000 and 1491. Professor Beverly Bossler of UC Davis discussed Quanzhou and Chinese trade. I presented a talk on travel narratives and world systems, and the final lecture, on Cairo and Islamic trade and pilgrimage networks, will be presented next week. I’m happy to tell you that most of these lectures will later be available free online for teachers to view as part of their preparation to teach the unit. I am so thankful for the generosity of these scholars.

The teacher leader are now starting to design the first drafts of the lessons. It’s a very exciting and busy time!

Here’s a great resource for 6th-grade teachers: The book ‘Art of the Ancient Near East: A Resource for Educators’ ( is now available as an electronic download at: .”>>.

Keeping up with History

Much has been happening while I’ve been incommunicado on this blog. In fact, I’ve been incommunicado because much has been happening! Last Saturday I met with four of the five teacher leaders who will be designing lessons for the History Blueprint Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World unit. It was a delight to meet such interesting and inventive teachers! They were very excited to hear about the lessons they would be designing and about the program of online lectures from professors who study the different regions of the Afro-Eurasian world. I’ll tell you more about our meeting and the teachers’ work in a later blog.

Another absorbing recent event was the American Historical Association conference in New Orleans, which was held the first weekend of the year. CHSSP had a booth in the Exhibit Hall, and I spent some time talking there talking to folks about the History Blueprint. I also got to attend several fascinating presentations. The most eye-opening talk was about “Science and the Human Past,” at which I learned that 1) Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens did indeed mate together, 2) the bacillus Yersinia Pestis did cause the Black Death circa 1348-50 (this had been an issue debated by medievalists), and 3) the transition to farming in Europe 5000 years ago was the result of migration, not cultural adoption. Wow! What research revealed this? Genetics. As the scientist (Nick Patterson of the Broad Institute) told us, “Now we know the truth. The debates are over.”

Although I and other historians in the audience were quietly skeptical about the absolute certainty of these “truths,” we were fascinated to learn about this evidence. It simultaneously tells us more about the human past and sparks new questions. I was struck – once again – by how exciting it is to learn “what’s new” in the historical field, and how hard that was to do when I was a high school teacher. How long will it take for this information, and the rethinking of history which it implies, to drift down into the K-12 classroom?

K-12 history teachers don’t often have the opportunity to learn about the changes in historical understandings, evidence, and arguments. Because History Project events link professors and history teachers, the academy and the classroom, history teachers are more likely to hear about the changes in historiography, the way historical events are interpreted.

Shennan Dave at AHA 1-13 1For world history teachers, the problem is particularly acute. First, world history encompasses a vast extent of time and geographical space. In addition, many of us were taught the western civilization model of history rather than an extensive world history. The field of world history has grown exponentially in the last thirty years. Many generalizations once firmly believed have fallen by the wayside as further research revealed new evidence. For example, I learned (and taught students) that China was always isolated from the rest of the world. Evidence of Chinese voyagers, travelers, and trade networks has overturned that notion completely.

European_Late_NeolithicThe Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World unit will be based on the most up-to-date historical research and thinking. It examines a topic that is a tremendously exciting new field among medieval historians (the Medieval Mediterranean), as well as looking at a system of trade and exchange which operated across Afro-Eurasia long before the voyages of Christopher Columbus.


Did you know that the Black Death killed thousands in Cairo and Damascus?

Did you know that European Christian galley captains (from Venice, Genoa, France, etc.) used captive Muslims as slave rowers?

Stay tuned for this and more!

Dave Neumann, Site Director of the History Project at CSU Long Beach, and I, at the CHSSP AHA booth,
Map of the European late Neolithic (c.3500 BCE), showing the main cultures, Wikimedia Commons {{PD-self}} –Sugaar 22:11, 30 October 2005,

Deconstructing Point of View: A Common Core Strategy for Analyzing Allende’s Speech to the UN

In a 1972 speech to the United Nations, Salvador Allende, president of Chile, charged that multinational corporations posed a serious challenge to the sovereignty of nation-states. Elected in 1970, the embattled socialist president was dead by 1973, killed in a military coup partially engineered by the CIA. Nixon and his secretary of state Henry Kissinger viewed the Allende regime as completely unacceptable to the US, and the American president ordered the CIA “to prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him” in order to “save Chile.” Allende was naturally more popular in the Communist bloc. Fidel Castro advised Allende to mobilize “the Chilean working class” to “decide the fate of Chile.” Fate ended up favoring the anti-Allende forces, and brought the military regime of General Augusto Pinochet and its horrible human rights abuses.

Marchers for AllendeFor high school students studying the Cold War, the rise and fall of the Allende regime in Chile offers a good example of a third world nation caught in the pressures of the Cold War. It would not be difficult for students to identify the points of view on each side based on a brief secondary account. The Common Core standards, however, require students to go a step further, into analyzing texts for the structure of an argument, subtle details, allusions and underlying assumptions. Having students read and analyze Allende’s 1972 speech offers an ideal opportunity for students to go beyond the simple binary understanding of point of view. The excerpt teacher leader Adrienne Karyadi selected from the speech emphasizes the pressure put on Chile and other third world countries by multinational corporations, rather than by political organizations such as the CIA. As a socialist, Allende had nationalized the copper mines which were largely owned by American-based multinational corporations, such as Anaconda Copper. Allende identified the chief source of his opposition to be economic, a point that could easily be missed by students. Students have to grasp the connection between multinational corporations and capitalism, and associate the critique of these corporations with Marxism. In addition, they must deal with the economic and political challenges faced by the third world countries.

Here is the excerpt:

“At the third UNCTAD [United Nations Conference on Trade and Development] I was able to discuss the phenomenon of the transnational corporations. I mentioned the great growth in their economic power, political influence and corrupting action. That is the reason for the alarm with which world opinion should react in the face of a reality of this kind. The power of these corporations is so great that it goes beyond all borders. The foreign investments of US companies alone reached US$ 32,000 million. Between 1950 and 1970 they grew at a rate of 10 per cent a year, while that nation’s exports only increased by 5 per cent. They make huge profits and drain off tremendous resources from the developing countries.

In just one year, these firms withdrew profits from the Third World that represented net transfers in their favour of US$ 1,743 million: US$ 1,013 million from Latin America; US$ 280 million from Africa; US$ 376 million from the Far East; and US$ 74 million from the Middle East. Their influence and their radius of action are upsetting the traditional trade practices of technological transfer among states, the transmission of resources among nations and labour relations.

We are faced by a direct confrontation between the large transnational corporations and the states. The corporations are interfering in the fundamental political, economic and military decisions of the states. The corporations are global organizations that do not depend on any state and whose activities are not controlled by, nor are they accountable to, any parliament or any other institution representative of the collective interest.

In short, all the world political structure is being undermined. The dealers don’t have a country. The place where they may be does not constitute any kind of link; the only thing they are interested in is where they make profits. This is not something I say; they are Jefferson’s words.

The large transnational firms are prejudicial to the genuine interests of the developing countries and their dominating and uncontrolled action is also carried out in the industrialized countries, where they are based. This has recently been denounced in Europe and in the United States and resulted in a US Senate investigation. The developed nations are just as threatened by this danger as the underdeveloped ones. It is a phenomenon that has already given rise to the growing mobilization of organized workers including the large trade union organizations that exist in the world. Once again the action of the international solidarity of workers must face a common enemy: imperialism.”

Adrienne’s activity has students identify the points of view of both the US and the Soviet Union to the speech:

Allende Speech Activity

As they articulate what US and Soviet leaders might have responded to each part of Allende’s speech, students have to grapple with Allende’s points and perspective, and the viewpoints of the superpowers. For the Allendes Speech Activity (and a Key Allende Speech Activity), click here.

Quotes in the text:
Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 201.
Hal Brands, Latin America’s Cold War (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010), p. 119.
Salvador Allende, “Speech to the United Nations, December 4, 1972,” The Marxist Internet Archive, (
Photograph: Marchers for Allende, photographed by James N. Wallace, 1964, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, U.S. News & World Report Magazine Collection, reproduction number LC-USZ62-134154,

Integrating Visual and Written Sources of Information (Common Core Reading Standard RH 7): An Activity on the Marshall Plan

The teacher leaders who are designing lessons for our History Blueprint Cold War unit have sent in the first drafts of their lessons for our review. I want to share an activity designed by Gena Arriola-Salas for Lesson 1, The Causes of the Cold War. It supports Common Core Reading Standard for Literacy in History/Social Studies RH7: Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem. The historical investigation question of the lesson is: “How did geostrategic interests coincide with and /or override ideological aims in determining the policies of the US and the USSR?”

Gena’s activity has students read an excerpt from a speech by Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the author of the Marshall Plan, given in 1947. Focusing on the devastation of the European countries after World War II, the excerpt provided a rationale for the Marshall Plan by directly connecting the economic problems of those nations to the fate of the world economy. As Marshall said, “Thus a very serious situation is rapidly developing which bodes no good for the world. The modern system of the division of labor upon which the exchange of products is based is in danger of breaking down.” What Marshall did NOT say was that the U.S. also wanted to prevent those countries from turning to communism.

Nevertheless, those who heard the speech, and indeed Stalin in the Kremlin, understood that “good for the world” meant a capitalist world economy. Americans also understood that the Marshall Plan was intended to support Truman’s policy of containment, as the cartoon drawn by Edwin Marcus makes clear. The Soviets did not allow their client states in Eastern Europe to accept Marshall Plan funds.

First, the activity has students read the speech excerpt and identify the referrers (that is, identify the person or thing to which each pronoun refers.) Gena also breaks up the text into 7 smaller blocks and guides students’ comprehension by posing a content question for each. This literacy activity (supporting Common Core Reading Standards RH2 and RH4) serves two purposes: 1) It slows student readers down and focuses their attention on critical details that they might miss in skimming; and 2) it helps English Learners and students who read below grade level to understand the text. [Literacy Strategy 2 Referrers Lesson.]

After students read the text, they analyze the Edwin Marcus cartoon and answer these questions:

1. Who is the bear representing? Why does the bear look so menacing?

2. Why does the man representing Western Europe look so scared?

3. Look back at the Marshall Plan speech and find evidence in the speech that shows the urgency in getting the plan approved.

At the end of the analysis, the teacher should return to the historical investigation question of the lesson: How did geostrategic interests coincide with and /or override ideological aims in determining the policies of the US and the USSR?

The teacher might ask the students: What do these sources reveal about geostrategic interests? What do these sources reveal about ideological aims? Did they coincide or did one override the other? What Why didn’t Marshall directly state something about communism? How would the Soviets react to this plan? The teacher should have students cite evidence from the text or the cartoon to support their answers.

In the coming weeks, I’ll share more from the Cold War unit lessons as they develop.

George C. Marshall, photographer unknown, Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, Accession number: 2000-5. (Nov. 27, 2012).
Edwin Marcus, “While the shadow lengthens,” published in the New York Times on March 14th, 1948. Used by permission of the Marcus family.