The Schlieffen Plan in World War 1

The Schlieffen Plan in World War I

Nick Strain

The Schlieffen Plan was an offensive military strategy that contributed to Germany’s defeat in World War I. The purpose of this plan was for Germany to break up a two-front war between France and Russia. Germany produced the idea of the Schlieffen Plan due to Field Marshal Alfred von Schlieffen. Alfred Von Schlieffen was a former Chief and General Staff of the German Army. Schlieffen was successful as a Chief and General Staff. For example, before World War I began, Germany was successful in battles such as “smashing the Danes in 1864, the Austrians in 1866, and the French in 1870-71.” (Bolger, 1). Instead of continuing to run the same plan, Schlieffen was overconfident that he wanted to design a new plan for Germany. The Schlieffen plan according to Schlieffen took inspiration from “Hannibal Barca of Carthage during the Battle of Cannae.” (Bolger, 1). Hannibal during the Battle of Cannae inspired  Schlieffen that Hannibal was known for attacking such as “swinging in both of his flanking contingents, bagging the stunned Roman legionaries.” (Bolger, 1). Germany agreed to an alliance with Austria-Hungary, which led them to a two-front war between France and Russia.

Not only did Germany have to deal with France and Russia, but the plan also failed dramatically in World War I due to them entering through Belgium, not having enough resources, and underestimating France and Russia.

The Schlieffen Plan was designed for Germany to defeat France in six weeks before Russia could mobilize. The reason Schlieffen gave an estimated timeline of six weeks is that Russia suffered considerable damage to Japan during the Russo-Japanese War. While Schlieffen was planning to attack France, he had to think about where he had to send his troops to. Schlieffen decided to send his troops up North instead of South because the Swiss army was “ready for war and the passes through the Jura mountains.” (Foley, 226). So, they decided to enter through Luxembourg and Belgium. His reasoning behind this is that Luxembourg “possesses no army, and through Belgium, which will withdraw its relatively weak army into its fortress.” (Foley, 226). While the Schlieffen Plan initially seemed that it was going to be successful, when the Germans entered Belgium, it violated a treaty forcing Britain to declare World War I. The significance of the Schlieffen Plan was for Germany to “capture Paris before France’s allies could join the battle.” (Reid,1). Due to Britain declaring war, the plan was less likely to be successful because the purpose of the plan was for Germany to conquer Paris without one of their alliances joining them. Not only did Germany incite Britain to declare war by entering Belgium, but they also underestimated Russia and France throughout World War I. This led to the Schlieffen Plan being a failure in World War I. The failure of the Schlieffen Plan illustrates how a lack of planning and respect for the opposition had repercussions that led to the greater conflict of World War I.

The Schlieffen Plan was a failure in World War I due to Kaiser Wilhelm II being overconfident. For example, before World War I began, the French were not successful when it came to wars. Daniel Bolger, a writer for the Army Magazine, discussed “Schlieffen’s Perfect Plan” and “the war of 1870-71 indicated that France could not beat Germany.” (Bolger, 1). The purpose of the Schlieffen Plan was for Germany to “keep France isolated.” (Bolger, 1). Instead, what happened to Germany was that Kaiser Wilhelm II did not keep good relations with the Russians. The reason he did not keep good relations with Russia is that he believed that the Russians were not prepared for war after the outcome of the Russo-Japanese War. Not only did Wilhelm II believe that Russia was not prepared for war, but he was also overconfident and not afraid of a two-front war between France and Russia. Before Wilhelm II took office, Germans such as Chancellor Otto von Bismarck were trying to keep a good relationship with Russia. Since the goal of the Schlieffen Plan was to “isolate France,” “Bismarck wove elaborate diplomatic schemes to ensure good relations with Russia.” (Bolger, 1). Germany had a good relationship with Russia before Wilhelm II took office. The reason Wilhelm II was a major problem for Germany was that he did not agree with Bismarck’s idea of keeping an alliance with the Russians. When Wilhelm II took over, “he dumped Bismarck, while he watched Russia and France create an alliance.” (Bolger, 1). Not only did Wilhelm fire Chancellor Bismarck, but he was also overconfident in World War I, which gave Germany a huge disadvantage. For example, Daniel Bolger on page one emphasizes that “Wilhelm II didn’t fear a two-front war and was confident in Germany’s burgeoning strength, he intended to win it.” Not only was Kaiser Wilhelm II overconfident in World War I, but General Alfred Moltke was also guilty of being overconfident with the Schlieffen Plan.

Moltke’s overconfidence in the Schlieffen Plan resulted in its failure. Since Wilhelm II burned bridges with the Russians, Alfred Von Schlieffen had to produce a plan to defeat a two-front war between France and Russia. Before Wilhelm burned bridges with Russia, the Schlieffen Plan was designed for Germany so that they “must make our right-wing strong and extend it as far west as possible.” (Foley, 225). So, what Schlieffen did with the plan is that he attacked up North through Belgium and Luxembourg. The reason Schlieffen did this was due to the mountainous terrain of Switzerland, as well as their army. In addition, Schlieffen wanted to do this due to the flat terrain of Belgium and Luxembourg helping the Germans send their troops. Another reason Schlieffen attacked through Belgium instead of France was to avoid the strong defended French Border fortifications through the South.” (Reid, 10). On the other hand, the problem with Wilhelm II was that he made things complicated after not setting up good relationships with Russia. This led to General Moltke staying offensive in a two-front war between France and Russia. Due to the German’s overconfidence in World War I, they continued to use the Schlieffen Plan. General Moltke was overconfident in World War I because he continued to use the Schlieffen Plan in 1915 when it was proven to be a failure in 1905. The Schlieffen Plan was a failure since Alfred Von Schlieffen left his own plan. For example, “some surviving military leaders blamed the deceased Moltke, claiming he perversely ignored a plan for sure victory that Schlieffen supposedly left.” (O’Neil, 806). What Moltke did to the Schlieffen Plan is that he changed the plan, which made the plan a failure during World War I. Before World War I even began, General Moltke “weakened the Schlieffen Plan even before the start of World War by Tannenberg worries and had a nervous collapse before the two sides made their race to the Channel.” (Gadfly). The French were not good compared to the Germans but their leaders being incompetent, helped the French defeat the Germans.

Alfred Von Schlieffen was also to blame for the Schlieffen Plan. Even though the Schlieffen Plan was designed for Germany to beat France in six weeks and then defeat Russia, “Schlieffen did not give any instructions for adhering to a precise and imperative timetable; he even allowed for the whole advance to be brought to a temporary halt if it became necessary to deal with a British landing on the northern coast of France.” (Holmes, 514). For example, the reason Schlieffen said six weeks is that it was an estimate. According to Buchholz, “Russian forces were expected to cross the German border by the fortieth day after mobilization.” (Holmes, 514). This quote supports that Schlieffen estimated that it would take six weeks to beat France while Russia would take a long time to mobilize. Schlieffen’s switching to a new plan cost Germany from being successful during World War I. Even though Schlieffen took many years to prepare for the war, it was not successful due to the plan being reckless. For example, the Schlieffen Plan was not “a rational war plan but a reckless adventure: In Herwig’s words, “fourteen years of General Staff work came down to a gambler’s dice.” (Holmes, 514). The reason the Schlieffen Plan is described as a “gamblers dice” is that the plan did not give any timeline on when Russia would mobilize, how long it would take for them to defeat France and they underestimated Belgium, France, and Russia during World War I. For example, some “German commanders like Cluck and Bulow, as well as the royal commanders, were either too old (them) or not fully competent for general reasons (some of the royals).” (Gadfly). Another reason Schlieffen was overconfident about his own plan is that he was confident to switch things up. Historians believed that the Schlieffen Plan was “a sobering reminder of the high price of military arrogance.” (Bolger, 76). Since Schlieffen wanted the Germans to march through Belgium, the Schlieffen Plan became one of the causes of World War I.

Since the Germans were afraid of Switzerland due to its terrain as well as their army, the Germans decided to enter through Belgium. When the Germans marched through Belgium, they violated a treaty that England had with them in 1839. The treaty of London was to make Belgium neutral throughout World War I. The reason Great Britain wanted Belgium to stay neutral throughout World War I is that Great Britain was afraid of the expansion of Germany through Western Europe. Since Schlieffen decided to enter Belgium, Britain decided to join forces with France in World War I. The purpose of the Schlieffen Plan for Germany was for them to capture France without one of their allies joining them. Germany should have done a better job on “geopolitics such as not doing international law violations of Britain’s blockade by extension later in the war.” (Gadfly). Due to the Germans trying to expand through Western Europe through the Schlieffen Plan, caused the plan to fail drastically as well as it made Great Britain join forces with France. Not only did the Schlieffen Plan cause Great Britain to join World War I, but Germany also had a lack of resources that caused the plan to fail dramatically during World War I.

Germany’s lack of resources, including the number of railroads and troops, resulted in the plan’s failure. The Schlieffen Plan was a big project that needed several pieces of equipment. For example, what Schlieffen was trying to do was build a railroad through Luxembourg as well as Belgium. Building a railroad takes a long time and it was difficult for Germany to build one on Belgium territory. The reason it was difficult for the Germans to build a railroad in Belgium is that “Belgium refused Germany’s request to match troops through Belgian territory.” (Reid, 10). When the Germans tried to build railroads, Belgium destroyed them. Another reason General Moltke was overconfident during World War I is that the Germans did not have enough resources such as troops to be sent over to France. According to Schlieffen, “the German army would need at least 48.5 corps to succeed with an attack on France by way of Belgium.” (Holmes, 193). Instead, General Moltke switched up the plan by changing the original plan that Schlieffen had. The difference between what General Moltke did compared to Schlieffen is that Moltke “reduces the strength of the right-wing.” (Holmes, 193). What Holmes is referring to in his book is Moltke having fewer troops compared to Schlieffen. While Schlieffen said that the Germans need “48.5” troops for the plan to be successful, Moltke had different ideas. Instead, General Moltke had only, “34 corps at his disposal in the west.” (Holmes, 193). Not only did Moltke have fewer troops than Schlieffen intended to have, but he also had troops in a different location than Schlieffen such as being in the West rather than the North. Due to Moltke being overconfident, he believed that the Germans would be fine with a lack of troops. For example, Schlieffen believed that “the defensive is the stronger form of war.” (Holmes, 213). Moltke on the other hand believed that “the stronger form of combat lies in the offensive’ because it represents a striving after positive goals.” (Holmes, 213). Moltke later explains that the “offensive could make up for a lack of numbers.” (Holmes, 213). Terrence Holmes is not the only author that highlights Germany’s lack of troops during World War I. Since Germany was suffering from a lack of troops, it made it difficult for them to “invade Belgium, Germany’s advance was slow.” (Reid, 10). Not only did the Germans suffer from a lack of resources, but the Schlieffen Plan also failed due to aerial reconnaissance.

The Germans were superior on land rather than air. The Germans were successful due to aerial reconnaissance, which helped them win the Battle of Tannenberg. For example, “The combined result of German radio intelligence and aerial reconnaissance by both aircraft and Zeppelin dirigibles enabled General von Hindenburg to score a stunning victory over the Russian forces at Tannenberg.” (Hussain). Even though aerial reconnaissance helped the Germans win the Battle of Tannenberg, it gave France and England a huge advantage while the Germans tried to do the Schlieffen Plan. The importance of aerial reconnaissance for the British and French is that it helped them find “the change in orientation of von Kluck’s formation towards the new axis was spotted.” (Hussain). Since the British and French knew where the Germans were going due to aerial reconnaissance, it helped them win the Battle of Marne. For example, “Paris was saved, and the war shifted from the Schlieffen Plan to the bloody trench warfare.” (Hussain). Not only did aerial reconnaissance help the French and British understand where the Germans were, aerial reconnaissance actually “stalled the German offensive at Marne that ground the revolving door at a halt.” (Hussain). As Hussain later says in his article, the Germans were stuck in trench warfare rather than using the Schlieffen Plan. Aerial reconnaissance forced the Germans to stop being offensive as well as it helped stalled them during World War I. Although aerial reconnaissance was a key factor as to why the Schlieffen Plan failed, geography was also a key factor for them.

The geography made it difficult for Germany to deal with a two-front war between Russia and France. Since Kaiser Wilhelm II fired Otto von Bismarck, the Germans did not have good relations with Russia. This made the Schlieffen Plan difficult because the plan was originally designed for the Germans to just capture Paris before an alley joined them. The reason the Germans went through Luxembourg and Belgium was that they were both neutral and flat countries. In addition, the Germans did not go through France because the Germans wanted to “avoid the strongly defended French border fortifications through the South.” (Reid, 10). The reason the French improved their borders was that the French lost to the Germans in 1870- 71 and lost the “provinces of Alsace and Lorraine.” (Bolger, 10). Not only could the Germans not go through France due to their improved borders, but they would also have had a tough time if they had gone through Switzerland.

The reason Schlieffen did not consider Switzerland for the Schlieffen Plan to set his troops to mobilize into France was two things, their army as well as location. Even though Switzerland was neutral during World War I, it had a powerful army. For example, if Schlieffen decided to send his troops down to Switzerland, the Swiss would have been “ready for war.” (Foley, 226). Since the Germans did not want to attack a neutral country, they decided to go through Belgium and Luxembourg. Also, Switzerland is known for its elevation such as the Jura Mountains. The importance of Switzerland’s geography is that it would have been difficult for Germany to mobilize their troops due to the Swiss mountains. Not only would it have been difficult for Germany to mobilize their troops, but it would also have been difficult for them to build railroads on steep mountains.

The significance of the railroad is that it helped Germany mobilize their troops faster rather than taking a car, plane, or walking. For example, after Germany was faced with a two-front war, the railroad was designed in the Schlieffen Plan to help the Germans give them a huge advantage during the war “by rail to deal with the slower arriving Russians.” (Bolger, 10). Even though Germany did not expect Russia to mobilize faster than they expected, the Schlieffen Plan was a clever idea but due to their geographical location, it was difficult for the Schlieffen Plan to work during World War I due to France improving their borders as well as Switzerland’s army and geography. Germany instead had to send their troops through Luxembourg and Belgium. Since Germany sent their troops through Belgium, Great Britain declared World War I. Kaiser Wilhelm II burning bridges with the Russians made geography a disadvantage for Germany during World War I.

Kaiser Wilhelm II made it difficult for the Germans during World War I is that he destroyed the relationship that Germany had with Russia. The Schlieffen Plan was designed to be a one-front war instead of a two-front war. The purpose of the plan was to defeat France before an ally joined them. Things changed when the Germans entered Belgium and Luxembourg as Britain decided to join forces with the French. The reason Britain joined France is that the British had a deal with Belgium in the Treaty of London. The Treaty of London was a treaty that forced Belgium to be neutral during the war but since Germany went through Belgium, it violated the Treaty of London, which forced Great Britain to declare World War I. Not only did the Schlieffen Plan cause World War I, countries also such as Britain and France were afraid of Germany due to them creating an alliance with Austria- Hungary. Germany and Austria-Hungary formed an alliance, which led Britain, France, and Russia to create their own alliance before World War I even started. Wilhelm II, Moltke, and Schlieffen being overconfident in World War I, led the Schlieffen Plan to fail.

The reason Wilhelm II was overconfident is that he created a two-front war after firing Otto von Bismarck. The importance of Otto von Bismarck is that he set up good relationships with Russia so Schlieffen could use his original plan, a one-front war. Moltke throughout World War I was overconfident by “weakening the right flanks.” (Hussain). Not only did Moltke weaken the right flanks, but he also revised the Schlieffen Plan. For example, Schlieffen said that for the plan to work, the Germans needed “48.5 troops.” (Holmes, 193). Instead, General Moltke had different ideas. For example, the Germans only had “34 corps at his disposal in the west.” (Holmes, 193). Moltke continued to run the Schlieffen Plan even though the Germans did not have a lot of resources such as troops. During World War I, the Schlieffen Plan was a failure due to the founder, Alfred von Schlieffen leaving his own plan. The overconfidence from Moltke forced the Germans to continue to run the Schlieffen Plan during World War I. The reason Schlieffen was overconfident in the Schlieffen Plan is that he did not produce the plan. For example, Hannibal in the Battle of Carthage inspired the Schlieffen Plan.

Instead of producing his own plan as he did in battles before World War I, Germany might have been successful during World War I. Looking back at the Schlieffen Plan, historians believed that Schlieffen could have done a better job with the Schlieffen Plan during World War I. For example, the Schlieffen Plan was described as “a sobering reminder of the high price of military arrogance.” (Bolger, 76). The failure of the Schlieffen Plan illustrates how a lack of planning and respect for the opposition had repercussions that led to the greater conflict of World War I and contributed to Germany’s defeat.


Bolger, Daniel P. “Schlieffen’s Perfect Plan.” Army Magazine 64, no. 8 (August 2014): 74–76.

Foley, Robert T. “The Origins of the Schlieffen Plan.” War in History 10, no. 2 (2003): 222-32. Accessed April 9, 2021.

Gadfly. “World War I’s causes”. Socratic Gadfly. February 18, 2016, Thursday.

Holmes, Terence M. “Absolute Numbers: The Schlieffen Plan as a Critique of German Strategy in 1914.” War in History 21, no. 2 (April 2014): 193–213. doi:10.1177/0968344513505499. &AN=95564642&site=ehost-live&scope=site  

Holmes, Terence M. “”One Throw of the Gambler’s Dice”: A Comment on Holger Herwig’s View of the Schlieffen Plan.” The Journal of Military History 67, no. 2 (2003): 513-16. Accessed April 13, 2021.

Jamal Hussain. “Development of Air Power Strategy – A Historical Perspective”. Defense Journal. June 30, 2011, Thursday.

O’Neil, William D. 2016. “The Schlieffen Plan: International Perspectives on the German Strategy for World War I.” Historian 78 (4): 805–7. doi:10.1111/hisn.12390. &AN=119881270&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Reid, Mark Collin. “A War of Attrition.” Canada’s History 98, no. 5 (October 2018): 10–11. &AN=131803385&site=ehost-live&scope=sit

The Revolt That Changed Everything: The Haitian Revolution’s Immediate Effect on the United States

The Revolt that Changed Everything: The Haitian Revolution’s Immediate Effect on the United States

Noah Phayre

The year is 1804, and the New World is functioning as it had for the past thirty years since the American Revolution. After the war, a new constitution, and three presidential administrations, America had begun to find its footing as a new nation. With this, many Americans began to get used to their existence as a small democratic nation. However, whether the American people knew it or not, their world was about to drastically change. 1,888 miles south of the US, another revolution had been fought and won on the island of Saint-Domingue. The rebels, much like the US patriots, were able to cast off the yoke of a powerful European empire and establish the second democracy in the Western Hemisphere. However, this rebellion was much different than the one that occurred back in 1776. Unlike the US driving out the British and establishing a new government, the rebels of 1804 were living under much harsher oppression. These rebels were slaves who were living on Saint-Domingue under French colonial rule. In 1791, the slaves revolted against the French starting a twelve year bloodbath that would end in the abolition of slavery on the island and the establishment of the Empire of Haiti.

The United States, though in theory should be very pleased with another democracy emerging nearby, were none too happy about this development. This mostly stemmed from the fact that the Haitian government were all freed slaves. This idea of a successful African rebellion was so foreign to the American government. The success of a slave revolt also flew in the face of the then legal practice of slavery in the United States. This caused the US to avoid recognizing Haiti as a nation until the start of the Civil War. However, despite all of this, the US was greatly affected by the Haitian Revolution as well as their early interactions with the new nation. First, the Louisiana Purchase, which was caused due to the French needing money after the war’s economic devastation on the nation. This exchange doubled the US’ size and allowed it to begin expanding as a nation, taking its first steps to becoming a world power. But even beyond the Louisiana Purchase, the Haitian Revolution and its aftermath still affected the US greatly in terms of trade, foreign policy, and thoughts on how to deal with the issue of slavery.

Sadly, the Haitian Revolution as well as its profound impact on the United States is often not talked about when discussing how America became what it is today. It is very important that these effects be discussed and understood by a broader audience. There is a lack of awareness in terms of the connections between the Haitian Revolution and the growth of America. This proposal aims to answer the question of just how the Haitian Revolution impacted the United States in its immediate aftermath. Ultimately, through qualitative research this paper attempts to explain that the Haitian Revolution affected the United States in a way that caused it to grow into a far more powerful nation.

Teaching this event is an undertaking, as there are many ins and outs in regards to this revolution. Educating students based on the historiographic data found in this paper can actually prove to be a superior style as opposed to an ordinary lesson. With the information gleaned from the historians that are cited in this essay, students can achieve a much deeper understanding of the Haitian Revolution as well as its impact that it had on the United States.


Beyond just simply understanding the events, impact, and significance of certain episodes in history, there is a much deeper understanding one can acquire when studying certain key events. In the craft of historiography, a deeper analysis of history is made, where instead of reading for the information about a topic, the purpose is to understand how historians wrote and by extension, felt about said topic. In the case of the Haitian Revolution and its immediate effect of the United States, scholars range in their specific takes on the topic. Scholarship on the topic also has numerous areas of interest that different authors focus on. While some focus on the economic implications, others focus on the racial statements that the revolution made to the US. Other scholars fixate on the level of coverage the Haitian Revolution receives and how it reflects a larger issue with how history is written. These numerous points of focus often shed light on the historians who are behind them, as educators it is important to look past what the author is saying and think about why they are saying it.

However, all of these scholars touch on specifics that merely scrape the surface in regards to correlation of the Haitian Revolution to the US. But what is not touched on is how these numerous aspects and results of the conflict helped jumpstart the US into becoming the powerhouse it is today. This fact is often overlooked in classrooms, hence why many teachers breeze through the Revolution during lessons or just omit it from their courses entirely. Upon deeper inspection, many sources about the Haitian Revolution fail to elaborate on just how significant the slave insurrection was when it comes to paving the way for America to expand. While many authors like to praise and critique many aspects of the Revolution’s significance they often ignore how their many points of interest come together to reveal a much grander impact on America. A plethora of sources that has been compiled helps shed light on the absence of scholarship on this matter. Moreover, this will show why further research into how the Haitian Revolution molded America is certainly necessary and lastly how more teaching on this subject is also important.

Most scholars see the Haitian Revolution as a landmark event in terms of the fight against slavery. However, certain authors tend to lean more towards how the fight against racism was affected by the revolution. For example, Philippe Girard notes how after only two years into the Haitian Revolution, the First French Republic declared slavery an abolished practice. Girard discusses this in his piece, “Making Freedom Work: The Long Transition from Slavery to Freedom during the Haitian Revolution.” and goes on to explain how racism was talked about much more after the revolution. He backs this up by going through the long history of the fight against different forms of slavery and racism that were seen during the years during and after the revolution.[1]

Mitch Katchun builds off of Girard’s focus on racism in his own work, “Antebellum African Americans, Public Commemoration, and the Haitian Revolution: A Problem of Historical Mythmaking.”. In Katchun’s piece, he elaborates on how the revolution had an effect on the fight against slavery and racism, but specifically in Antebellum America. Katchun complements the ideas of Girard but goes deeper when discussing how the revolution specifically started conversations about racism in enslaved African American circles. Citing the 1811 slave march in Louisiana led by Charles Deslondes, the author puts a lot of emphasis on how the events in Haiti inspired the fight against slavery to be expanded but in a more tangible way, such as another revolution.[2] This facet of the impact of the revolution is one of the most widely discussed, however it can be expanded upon in numerous ways as shown by other scholars. It must also be noted that accounts such as this are valuable for teachers. This showcases how the Haitian Revolution influenced the slaves in the southern United States and was an early seed that was planted in their minds that would eventually grow into slave revolts within the US.

Numerous other authors chime in on the discussion of the Haitian Revolution’s impact (racially speaking) on the US. Tim Matthewson dives into this racial layer with his piece “Abraham Bishop, ‘The Rights of Black Men,’ and the American Reaction to the Haitian Revolution.”. In his writing, Matthewson discusses Abraham Bishop, an American man who wrote three pieces regarding the Haitian Revolution in the 1790s. Bishop supported the revolution and urged America as a whole to get behind the rebel’s cause. He stated how the US supported the French Revolution and also staged their very own revolution as well. With that said, Bishop argued that the US should support the similar cause in Haiti, but stated that it was due to the issue of slavery that prevented the US from doing that.[3] Unlike the previous two scholars, Matthewson uses Bishop’s writings to showcase how white people were affected by the events in Haiti and started to defend the black people in the US. Overall, this subset of scholarship on the Haitian Revolution’s impact on the US was heavily focused on race which played a large role in the narrative of the event. However, other scholars attempt to break away from the ever prominent racial aspect and focus on other areas such as economic and political effects.

When looking at how the Haitian Revolution changed the US economically and politically, certain authors touch on a bevy of policy changes, and repercussions during and after the war. An example of this comes in the form of Robin Blackburn, a scholar who in her piece “Haiti, Slavery, and the Age of the Democratic Revolution.” touches on how the US had to begin forming its own international policies. One such policy was its refusal to recognize Haiti. This included an embargo on the new nation, despite it being a massive trading partner when under French control. This changed the US’s treatment of other nations when it came to trade as it set a precedent with Haiti that essentially states that the US will not trade with another nation and ignore what’s beneficial for itself if it does not support the government of that nation. This stems from the statement made by the success of the slave rebels.

This is focused on by Blackburn who infuses the issue of race and slavery but adds an economic/political spin to it. She notes how the US put itself in a bizarre situation by supporting other democratic revolutions (Like the French) but not ones such as Haiti. This is due to the fact that the US would be forced to admit (in a sense) that the black slaves were capable trading partners, which flies in the face of the notion that black people were sub-human and deserved to be nothing more than slaves. And as Blackburn points out, it only became worse when Haiti survived for decades after the revolution. So the US opted to simply not recognize the island nation, something that would continue up until 1862.[4] This is interesting for educators as it can be used by teachers to explain two layers of the issue that the US was faced with during this time. The US’ problem was not just a racial one, it was an economic one as well. Author Tim Matthewson brings up how the US immediately reacted to the revolution and what he states is very telling. In his piece “George Washington’s Policy Towards the Haitian Revolution ” the author states that under the first presidential administration in the US, American merchants actually were allowed to aid the French with supplies and even men. This was in hopes to defeat the slaves, showing that the US had been willing to help squash all slave revolts in the name of maintaining the practice.[5] Matthewson uses this little known fact to highlight the idea that the US was very much a pro slavery nation, and that even before the revolution had been won, the US had already been trying to put it down.

Another scholar adds to the discussion by way of citing the particular benefits and unintentional problems that the rebellion had on America. This scholar is Jim Thomson, author of “The Haitian Revolution and the Forging of America.”

 In his piece, Thompson adds to the discussion of the Haitian Revolution’s effect on the US by highlighting a few results of the conflict. One was how France had to sell the Louisiana Territory to the US to get money to fund Napoleon’s conquest of Europe. This important moment for the US, a moment that doubled its size was caused by the Haitian Revolution’s economic impact on France. This dent in the already fragile economy of France caused Napoleon to work with the US which resulted in the monumental Louisiana Purchase.[6]

These particular scholars prefer to highlight why Haiti changed the United States’ political and economic status in the world. Whereas previous authors focused on race, this group, specifically Thompson who really hones in on that aspect of the relationship between Haiti and America. Blackburn is different as she focuses on the impacts politically and economically, however she infuses a bit of race into her point of study. Citing how the political relationship between the two nations was tense due to the issues of race and slavery, Blackburn connects what the previous scholars have noted about the revolution with her own part of the conversation. This blends the two areas of study together and actually shows how these different impacts (racial, political, economic) did not exist apart from each other but rather built off each other to make a much larger impact on the United States.

The final area of study that scholars seem to focus on, is the historiography of this tense relationship between Haiti and the United States. Many scholars often go into why the revolution has not been noted as a larger event historically and why the aforementioned impacts it had on other nations (specifically the US) have often been downplayed. John E. Baur makes mention of this in his piece “International Repercussions of the Haitian Revolution.”. In it Baur states that there has never been a full scale study of the impacts of the Revolution and just rather numerous articles and pieces about certain aspects of it and its impact.[7] This gets at exactly what this proposal aims to achieve, putting those pieces together to create a full scale study on the topic of Haiti’s impact on the US. With more study into this topic, teachers can better utilize this monumental moment from history by implementing it into their curriculums.

This historiographical aspect to the topic is unique as it explains why the topic of the revolution and its effects has not been given the recognition it deserves. Thomas Reinhardt answers this question in his piece “200 Years of Forgetting: Hushing up the Haitian Revolution.”. In his work, Reinhardt states that the authors who wrote about the revolution spoke of it in a demeaning manner. The brutality of the insurrection was what most scholars used as their rationale for why black people are barbaric and without Western guidance they will act savagely as they did back in Africa. Reinhardt notes how the success of the rebellion and establishment of the Haitian nation was completely undercut by these writers who simply wanted to discredit black people.[8] Reinhardt asserts that writings like those were why many people did not pay much attention to the Haitian Revolution and its significance.

Adding to the idea that there was a concerted effort to diminish the importance of the Haitian Revolution is author Manuel Barcia. Barcia agrees with the ideas of Reinhardt in that white historians were made uncomfortable by the success of the uprising. In his piece “Comment: From Revolution to Recognition: Haiti’s Place in the Post-1804 Atlantic World.” Barcia particularly takes note of what the success of black people meant for the rest of the world. Barcia notes that acknowledging the fact that the Haitian rebels won and were able to run a sustainable nation would mean that one would have to acknowledge the fact that black people were just as skilled as anyone else. This of course threatened the status quo of white people dominating black people in society, which Barcia says is why it has not been touched upon by mainstream history. One interesting point made by the author is how the US in particular would trade with Haiti (covertly) but still not recognize them as a nation. This, according to Barcia, helped justify the lack of coverage writers gave Haiti as it was not recognized by the US until decades after the revolution.[9]

The final historian being examined is Shannon Marie Peck-Bartle. In her piece “Toussaint L’Ouver-Who? An Anthropological Approach to Infusing the African Diaspora into Caribbean History.” Peck-Bartle adds to the discussion on the lack of recognition the rebellion has received. The piece pushes that the reason why the impact of Haiti has not fully been appreciated is because the Western world has spun a Eurocentric narrative of the events since 1804. This is to say that the West essentially took credit for Haiti’s success by asserting that without their European philosophies and culture, the Haitians could never have been able to successfully stage an insurrection and maintain a stable society for as long as they did. Peck-Bartle challenges this notion by pushing that rather than European culture creating the revolution, it was African culture that actually helped unite the Haitian rebels to be able to succeed.[10] This information is valuable for teachers as it offers the opportunity to look at what is being taught in schools and see how culturally imbalanced the material is. The Eurocentric nature of most classes is unfortunate but also a very real thing and topics like the Haitian Revolution and its historiography help show teachers that there is not a lot of representation for numerous cultures around the world.

This third subsection of scholarship on the Haitian Revolution is unique as it focuses on the historiography of the event. Different scholars discuss different avenues of why this topic isn’t explored as often as it should. While people like Baur point out how there has been no full scale look into this event and its impact, people like Reinhardt and Barcia provide the reasons why. With Reinhardt asserting that the West simply went out of its way to paint the revolution in a bad light and Barcia explaining that this was because the alternative was to acknowledge the fact that black people were capable of both freeing and governing themselves. Peck-Bartle actually veers from this and states that actually the West chose to take credit for the Haitian’s success instead of outright ignoring or demonizing it. Overall, these scholars helped explain why the revolution doesn’t get as much attention and just why its impact on the US is not highlighted as often as it should.


Upon review of all ten sources it is quite clear that they all have their merits and add to the discussion about Haiti’s revolution and its impact on the US. The sources focusing on race helped explain why the US had such an awkward relationship with the new nation. Girard and Katchun particularly provided strong arguments that supported their theses. The economic/politically based scholars helped pinpoint what changes occurred in the US because of the revolution. Blackburn is the most prominent of these scholars as she mixes both the racial component previously discussed along with the political components. She successfully adds to the discussion and links two different areas of study. The final section is the historiographical section that hones in on why the impacts of the Haitian Revolution aren’t discussed as much as they should be. Again, these scholars connect the two other areas of study, the racial and economic/political by explaining why racism and Eurocentrism created a historiography that neglects the Haitian Revolution’s impact. This section seems to have the most debate over the truth behind why Haiti has been neglected. While Reinhardt and Barcia seem to agree with Peck-Bartle that race plays a major role in the downplaying of Haiti’s significance, they disagree with her when she says the West took credit for Haiti’s success and impact.

With the exception of the historiographical section, the scholarship on Haiti and its impact on the US is rather cohesive. The scholars mostly agree with each other and some of the different subsets actually blend well with each other, creating a clearer image of what the effects the Haitian Revolution had on the US were. The biggest issue these authors have is that they do not go deeper with their claims. They state that the revolution impacted the United States and list examples of how it did so. They also explain why there hasn’t been much research done on the topic. But the scholarship lacks one major point of focus, and that is how all of these subsets come together. What this proposal attempts to explore is how the Haitian Revolution immediately affected the United States. Furthermore, upon answering that question, this proposal aims to show how this impact absolutely molded the US into the world power that it is today. By infusing the three most prominent areas of study in regards to the revolution, this proposal will expand upon what has already been stated. The large scale implications for the United States brought on because of the Haitian Revolution and its success will be uncovered and ultimately show how a seemingly insignificant slave revolt changed the trajectory of a country that would become one of the most powerful nations on Earth. 

Educational value

The Haitian Revolution serves as a historic reminder of the triumphs of African people. It also serves as an interesting point of study when examining its relationship with the United States. The revolution’s mere existence shed light on the US’ own issues with slavery as well as early signs of the nation’s hypocrisy. The issues of racism and slavery are interconnected to the revolution; these two topics envelop the history of the modern west and cannot be ignored. With this said, these topics can be showcased through lessons about the Haitian Revolution as well as the island nation’s relationship with the United States.

The beauty of this topic is that it goes even deeper than that as it can also be used as a way to examine the historiography of the subject, something that is often overlooked in classes today. Examining how people have written history helps show students how people viewed a certain topic back then as well as how they view it now. These are valuable for both students and educators alike. Lastly, the study into the Haitian Revolution helps show how the US became the nation that it is today. Looking at the success of the US through the lens of the Haitian Revolution can help expand students’ understanding of the success of other people outside of the US. It can also showcase some of the inspiration for change in the US, namely the fight to end slavery. Overall, the educational value of the Haitian Revolution stretches far beyond its use as a fun and exciting historic episode. Through its links to race relations, slavery, economics and historiography, the Haitian Revolution truly makes for a great area of focus for educators who want to make their students better and more well-rounded scholars in the field of history. 


Barcia, Manuel. “Comment: From Revolution to Recognition: Haiti’s Place in the Post-1804 Atlantic World.” American Historical Review 125, no. 3 (June 2020): 899–905. doi:10.1093/ahr/rhaa240.

Baur, John E. “International Repercussions of the Haitian Revolution.” The Americas 26, no. 4 (1970): 394–418.

Blackburn, Robin. “Haiti, Slavery, and the Age of the Democratic Revolution.” The William and Mary Quarterly 63, no. 4 (2006): 643–74.

Girard, Philippe. “Making Freedom Work: The Long Transition from Slavery to Freedom during the Haitian Revolution.” Slavery & Abolition 40, no. 1 (March 2019): 87–108. doi:10.1080/0144039X.2018.1452683.

Kachun, Mitch. “Antebellum African Americans, Public Commemoration, and the Haitian Revolution: A Problem of Historical Mythmaking.” Journal of the Early Republic 26, no. 2 (2006): 249–73.

Matthewson, Tim. “Abraham Bishop, ‘The Rights of Black Men,’ and the American Reaction to the Haitian Revolution.” The Journal of Negro History 67, no. 2 (1982): 148–54.

Matthewson, Timothy M. “George Washington’s Policy Toward the Haitian Revolution.” Diplomatic History 3, no. 3 (1979): 321–36.

Peck-Bartle, Shannon Marie. “Toussaint L’Ouver-Who? An Anthropological Approach to Infusing the African Diaspora into Caribbean History.” Social Studies 111, no. 3 (January 1, 2020): 155–62.

Reinhardt, Thomas. “200 Years of Forgetting: Hushing up the Haitian Revolution.” Journal of Black Studies 35, no. 4 (2005): 246–61.

Thomson, Jim. “The Haitian Revolution and the Forging of America.” History Teacher 34, no. 1 (January 1, 2000): 76–94.

[1] Girard, Philippe. “Making Freedom Work: The Long Transition from Slavery to Freedom during the Haitian Revolution.” Slavery & Abolition 40, no. 1 (March 2019): 87–108.

[2] Kachun, Mitch. “Antebellum African Americans, Public Commemoration, and the Haitian Revolution: A Problem of Historical Mythmaking.” Journal of the Early Republic 26, no. 2 (2006): 249–73.

[3] Matthewson, Tim. “Abraham Bishop, ‘The Rights of Black Men,’ and the American Reaction to the Haitian Revolution.” The Journal of Negro History 67, no. 2 (1982): 148–54.

[4] Blackburn, Robin. “Haiti, Slavery, and the Age of the Democratic Revolution.” The William and Mary Quarterly 63, no. 4 (2006): 643–74.

[5] Matthewson, Timothy M. “George Washington’s Policy Toward the Haitian Revolution.” Diplomatic History 3, no. 3 (1979): 321–36.

[6] Thomson, Jim. “The Haitian Revolution and the Forging of America.” History Teacher 34, no. 1 (January 1, 2000): 76–94.

[7] Baur, John E. “International Repercussions of the Haitian Revolution.” The Americas 26, no. 4 (1970): 394–418.

[8] Reinhardt, Thomas. “200 Years of Forgetting: Hushing up the Haitian Revolution.” Journal of Black Studies 35, no. 4 (2005): 246–61.

[9] Barcia, Manuel. “Comment: From Revolution to Recognition: Haiti’s Place in the Post-1804 Atlantic World.” American Historical Review 125, no. 3 (June 2020): 899–905.

[10] Peck-Bartle, Shannon Marie. “Toussaint L’Ouver-Who? An Anthropological Approach to Infusing the African Diaspora into Caribbean History.” Social Studies 111, no. 3 (January 1, 2020): 155–62.

Midwifery and Abortion in the Modern Curriculum

Midwifery and Abortion in the Modern Curriculum

Nora Sayed

Teaching sensitive topics in the classroom is difficult no matter the subject material. Especially when incorporating political ideologies and scientific disagreements. The science of childbirth has been a tumultuous one. The impact of women in the field of childbirth, and medicine in general, has often been overlooked due to the mostly male presence in the medical narrative. When doctors began to control the practice of childbirth and hospital births became more common, the history of midwifery took a downward turn. However, midwifery has been the central practice for childbirth for thousands of years. The definition of a midwife is a person (typically) a woman who is trained to assist in childbirth and has been a central figure in history in every culture globally. Midwifery is centrally important because it was the original practice of childbirth and pioneered the obstetric field. Not only did midwifery pioneer the obstetric field, but the ideology of a woman’s right to her own body. Midwives were often seen assisting, in some capacity, with women seeking abortions. When combining secondary education and specifically sensitive topics such as childbirth, and more specifically midwifery, the teacher should present the information, facts, history, and current events to the student and then guide them in making their decision. Due to the recent political activity regarding the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, allowing students to understand more about the medical history regarding midwifery as well as abortion could assist in them making a well-informed opinion.

Research regarding early modern midwifery states that despite it being the most common practice with regards to childbirth in human history, it only became a licensed medical profession in the 16th century. Comparatively to today’s standards, midwives played the role of multiple healthcare professionals and even social workers. The role of the midwife was to assist the new mother in any   way possible. Meaning she would visit the mother during pregnancy, assist with the labor and delivery process, and then return post-labor to teach the mother about her newborn and best care practices. Not only did midwives do all of these things, but they would also check on mothers to see if they were fit to care for their newborn child. Samuel Thomas has a Ph.D. in history with a focus on Early Modern England and taught history at the college level for ten years. He currently teaches at a high school in Cleveland Ohio and is an author of a series about Midwives in 17th century London. Thomas wrote an essay about the social importance of midwives in society as well as the lack of historical credit given to them.[1] This historical lack of credit accounts for the later shift in care in the obstetric field during the 17th century when childbirth became hospitalized. Along with this shift towards childbirth and obstetric care in general taking place in a hospital, the entire fundamental practice changed from constant care with the expecting mother to check ups and generalized advice. “Trained midwives delivered superb medical care and gave birthing women personal attention that physicians were too rushed to provide. It is suggested that the elimination of midwifery in the United States slowed the decline in infant and maternal mortality.”[2] Not only did this shift impact childbirth, it also stimulated the drastic change in the perception of abortion.

 In the 17th century abortion was seen as a mother’s choice with drugs being sold in drug stores that would induce miscarriage. After childbirth, and consequently OB/GYN care, was taken over my male practitioners in hospitals this viewpoint drastically changed. Which eventually led us to the modern debate over abortion in the United States. According to historian Leslie Regan, “At conception and the earliest stage of pregnancy, before quickening, no one believed that a human life existed; not even the Catholic Church took this view. Rather, the popular ethic regarding abortion and common law were grounded in the female experience of their own bodies.”[3] Contrary to popular belief, abortion was not banned by the Catholic Church canonically until 1869[4]. Midwives would often help women gain access to an abortion and would allow them the choice to do so. However, at the turn of the Progressive Era this practice became ‘taboo’ and was restricted; “The combined campaign to control abortion and midwifery took the form of a classic Progressive Era reform movement”[5].  This campaign to control abortion continues today with peaks and troughs such as the recent ban on legal abortion in Texas as of 2021.

When considering how these topics should be brought into the classroom it is important to consider the parameters of the subject. For instance during my field experience at Ewing High School in New Jersey this past fall I was able to observe a women’s studies class. This experience was very eye opening as it allowed me to see how different, less common topics, were tackled in the classroom. The teacher had Pro-Choice posters in her class, along with abortion on her curriculum as a discussion topic not be overlooked. Ground rules I have observed both in and out of the classroom when bringing up sensitive topics include: placing parameters and clear goals for the discussion topic; giving the students objective background information to prepare them; going through the topic with respect for opposing viewpoints or possible emotions; as well as allowing them time to summarize, reflect and ask questions. This basic framework works with any sensitive topic or current events issue. According to the National Education Association’s article on teaching sensitive topics in history, “One of the greatest challenges facing teachers right now is teaching our students to engage with hard histories in this specific historical moment,” says Rich, a director of research at the university’s Rowan Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. “Currently, everything feels particularly fraught, and we are unsure of where students and families fall across the highly polarized political spectrum.”[6] Despite the complicated political climate and sensitivity of the topics, these histories should not be left out of the classroom. Allowing students to analyze and learn about uncomfortable historical topics allows for more informed decision making in their future.

Although abortion and childbirth are somewhat obscure topics when it comes to the traditional curricula of the public school system there are ways to integrate them into the classroom. For World History classes, when discussing the Medieval Period and the Black Plague it is important to also touch on the overall medical sphere of the time period, and midwives were a huge character of that. Not only did midwives deliver babies and care for mothers, they continued to care for the delivered baby well into childhood acting almost as a family practitioner. The importance of midwifery can continue into US History 1 and 2 by integrating nurse-midwifery that gained its roots in the Civil War with the rising popularity of nursing, and later officially began in 1925.[7] These are some more abstract and creative ideas regarding midwifery in the classroom, whereas the famous 1973 Roe v Wade case can be touched on in both Civics and American History curriculums for its monumental impact on both second wave feminism and medical history.

The importance of history cannot be overlooked when the topic becomes unsavory. Despite abortion and midwifery being more high-level or sensitive issues to be debating in the classroom, there are tools and ways to allow for their discussion with students. Without teaching students about more thought-provoking topics they will never have the opportunity to make informed decisions thus creating uninformed citizens who will continue to misinterpret history. A teacher’s place is not one to force opinions or political standings on their students but to open their minds to new things that they might not have previously understood or heard of. The debate over legal abortion access will continue, and by informing our students of the history regarding it we will be able to have pride in their future decisions.


Devitt N. The statistical case for elimination of the midwife: fact versus prejudice, 1890-1935 (Part I). Women Health. 1979 Spring;4(1):81-96. PMID: 10297450.

Dawley K. Origins of nurse-midwifery in the United States and its expansion in the 1940s. J Midwifery Women’s Health. 2003 Mar-Apr;48(2):86-95. doi: 10.1016/s1526-9523(03)00002-3. PMID: 12686940.

Hovey G. Abortion: a history. Plan Parent Rev. 1985 Summer; 5(2):18-21. PMID: 12340403.

Reagan, Leslie J. When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973. University of California Press, 1998.

Reagan LJ. Linking midwives and abortion in the Progressive Era. Bull Hist Med. 1995 Winter;69(4):569-98. PMID: 8563453.

Rosales, John. “Teaching the ‘Hard History’ behind Today’s News.” NEA. NEA Today, August 29, 2018.

Thomas, Samuel S. “EARLY MODERN MIDWIFERY: SPLITTING THE PROFESSION, CONNECTING THE HISTORY.” Journal of Social History 43, no. 1 (2009): 115–38.

[1] Thomas, Samuel S. “EARLY MODERN MIDWIFERY: SPLITTING THE PROFESSION, CONNECTING THE HISTORY.” Journal of Social History 43, no. 1 (2009): 115–38.

[2] Devitt N. The statistical case for elimination of the midwife: fact versus prejudice, 1890-1935 (Part I). Women Health. 1979 Spring;4(1):81-96. PMID: 10297450.

[3] Reagan, Leslie J. When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973. University of California Press, 1998.

[4] Hovey G. Abortion: a history. Plan Parent Rev. 1985 Summer;5(2):18-21. PMID: 12340403.

[5] Reagan LJ. Linking midwives and abortion in the Progressive Era. Bull Hist Med. 1995 Winter;69(4):569-98. PMID: 8563453.

[6] Rosales, John. “Teaching the ‘Hard History’ behind Today’s News.” NEA. NEA Today , August 29, 2018.

[7] Dawley K. Origins of nurse-midwifery in the United States and its expansion in the 1940s. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2003 Mar-Apr;48(2):86-95. doi: 10.1016/s1526-9523(03)00002-3. PMID: 12686940.

Through a Critical Race Theory Lens: “How Enlightened was the Enlightenment in Europe?”

Through a Critical Race Theory Lens:

“How Enlightened was the European Enlightenment?”

by Alan Singer

            School districts across the United States are racing to report that they teach critical thinking, not Critical Race Theory. The Florida State Board of Education banned the teaching of Critical Race Theory because all topics taught in Florida schools must be “factual and objective” and Critical Race Theory argues “racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, an early contender for the 2024 Republican Party Presidential nomination denounced CRT for teaching children “the country is rotten and that our institutions are illegitimate.” Teaching CRT is also banned in Tennessee and Idaho.

The controversy erupted in Commack, New York when members of a group called the Loud Majority disrupted two public meetings, interrupting school board members and speakers from the audience, including students who were trying to explain how they felt slighted in a curriculum that ignored who they were. Instead of silencing the disrupters or requiring them to leave, board members and district officials kept trying to explain the curriculum to people who were not interested in listening.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, who teaches law at UCLA and Columbia University and was an early proponent of Critical Race Theory, describes it as “an approach to grappling with a history of White supremacy that rejects the belief that what’s in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it.” It has roots in legal efforts during the 1970s to challenge segregation deeply entrenched in American law. In the 1990s, social scientists and educational researchers began to employ CRT as a lens to understand the persistence of race and racism. It became controversial when former President Trump denounced CRT as part of his response to the New York Times 1619 Project. In an effort to rally his supporters during his campaign for reelection, Trump declared, “Critical race theory is being forced into our children’s schools, it’s being imposed into workplace trainings, and it’s being deployed to rip apart friends, neighbors and families.”

As a teacher educator and former high school social studies teacher, I embrace the National Council for the Social Studies’ promotion of critical thinking based on an evaluation of evidence as a core component of social studies curriculum. I found Critical Race Theory is an important lens for engaging students as critical thinkers and helps teachers involve students in broader discussion.

For example, the European Enlightenment is often known as the Age of Reason because Enlightenment thinkers tried to apply scientific principles to understand human behavior and how societies work. Many of the earliest Enlightenment thinkers were from England, Scotland, and France but the idea of using reason and a scientific approach spread to other European countries and their colonies. In the United States, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are considered Enlightenment thinkers. While there are no firm dates, most historians argue that the European Enlightenment started in the mid-17th century building on the Scientific Revolution and continued until the mid-19th century. However, some historians, including me, point out that the Age of Reason in Europe was also the peak years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade when millions of Africans were transporting to the Americans as unfree labor on plantations. In the British North America colonies that became the United States, leading founders of the new nation that declared the “self-evident truth” and human equality, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry, were plantation owners and slaveholders.

When teachers introduce the European Enlightenment they have to decide which thinkers and documents to include. John Locke, Baron de Montesquieu and Jean-Jacques Rousseau are pretty standard, but if we want students to understand and critically examine the limitations of Enlightenment thought we also should include Mary Wollstonecraft, who demanded human rights for women, and Immanuel Kant, who promoted a scientific basis for racism. Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was part of the European Enlightenment, but so were Jefferson’s racist comments in his Notes on the State of Virginia.

This lesson builds on earlier lessons on the Scientific Revolution and the trans-Atlantic slave trade establishes themes that reemerge in units on European Imperialism in Africa and Asia and lessons on Social Darwinism.

AIM: How enlightened was the European Enlightenment?

John Locke (1632-1704)

Do Now: The European Enlightenment is often known as the Age of Reason because Enlightenment thinkers tried to apply scientific principles to understand human behavior and how societies work. Many of the earliest Enlightenment thinkers were from England, Scotland, and France but the idea of using reason and a scientific approach spread to other European countries and their colonies. In the United States, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are considered Enlightenment thinkers. While there are no firm dates, most historians argue that the European Enlightenment started in the mid-17th century building on the Scientific Revolution and continued until the mid-19th century. Some historians have pointed out that the Age of Reason in Europe was also the peak years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade when millions of Africans were transporting to the Americans as unfree labor on plantations.

One of the first major European Enlightenment thinkers was John Locke of England. Read the excerpt from Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government, written in 1690, and answer questions 1-4.

John Locke: “Liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others . . . Good and evil, reward and punishment, are the only motives to a rational creature: these are the spur and reins whereby all mankind are set on work, and guided . . . Man . . . hath by nature a power . . . to preserve his property – that is, his life, liberty, and estate – against the injuries and attempts of other men . . . The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom . . . All mankind . . . being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.


  1. According to Locke, what is the most important human value?
  2. How does Locke believe this value is preserved?
  3. What document in United States history draws from Locke? Why do you select that document?
  4. In your opinion, why is John Locke considered a European Enlightenment thinker?

Activity: You will work with a team analyzing a quote from one of these European Enlightenment thinkers and answer the following questions. Select a representative to present your views to class. After presentations and discussion, you will complete an exit ticket answering the question, “How enlightened was the European Enlightenment?”


  1. Where is the author from? What year did they write this piece?
  2. What is the main topic of the excerpt?
  3. What does the author argue about the topic?
  4. Why is this author considered a European Enlightenment thinker?
  5. In your opinion, what do we learn about the European Enlightenment from this except?
  1. David Hume (Scotland, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, 1779): “What truth so obvious, so certain, as the being of a God, which the most ignorant ages have acknowledged, for which the most refined geniuses have ambitiously striven to produce new proofs and arguments? What truth so important as this, which is the ground of all our hopes, the surest foundation of morality, the firmest support of society, and the only principle which ought never to be a moment absent from our thoughts and meditations? . . . Throw several pieces of steel together, without shape or form; they will never arrange themselves so as to compose a watch. Stone, and mortar, and wood, without an architect, never erect a house.
  2. Baron de Montesquieu (France, The Spirit of the Laws, 1748): “Political liberty in a citizen is that tranquility of spirit which comes from the opinion each one has of his security, and in order for him to have this liberty the government must be such that one citizen cannot fear another citizen. When the legislative power is united with the executive power in a single person or in a single body of the magistracy, there is no liberty, because one can fear that the same monarch or senate that makes tyrannical laws will execute them tyrannically. Nor is there liberty if the power of judging is not separate from legislative power and from executive power. If it were joined to legislative power, the power over life and liberty of the citizens would be arbitrary, for the judge would be the legislator. If it were joined to executive power, the judge could have the force of an oppressor. All would be lost if the same man or the same body of principal men, either of nobles or of the people exercised these three powers: that of making the laws, that of executing public resolutions, and that of judging the crimes or disputes of individuals.”
  3. Marquis de Lafayette (France, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1789): “Therefore the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and of the citizen:
  4. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
  5. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
  6. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.”
  1. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (France, Emile, or Education, 1762): “Women have ready tongues; they talk earlier, more easily, and more pleasantly than men. They are also said to talk more; this may be true, but I am prepared to reckon it to their credit; eyes and mouth are equally busy and for the same cause. A man says what he knows, a woman says what will please; the one needs knowledge, the other taste; utility should be the man’s object; the woman speaks to give pleasure. There should be nothing in common but truth . . . The earliest education is most important and it undoubtedly is woman’s work. If the author of nature had meant to assign it to men he would have given them milk to feed the child. Address your treatises on education to the women, for not only are they able to watch over it more closely than men, not only is their influence always predominant in education, its success concerns them more nearly, for most widows are at the mercy of their children, who show them very plainly whether their education was good or bad.
  2. Mary Wollstonecraft (England, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792): “Till women are more rationally educated, the progress in human virtue and improvement in knowledge must receive continual checks . . . The divine right of husbands, like the divine right of kings, may, it is to be hoped, in this enlightened age, be contested without danger . . . It would be an endless task to trace the variety of meannesses, cares, and sorrows, into which women are plunged by the prevailing opinion that they were created rather to feel than reason, and that all the power they obtain, must be obtained by their charms and weakness . . . It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world. . . . How many women thus waste life away the prey of discontent, who might have practiced as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop, and stood erect, supported by their own industry, instead of hanging their heads surcharged with the dew of sensibility, that consumes the beauty to which it at first gave lustre.
  3. Immanuel Kant (Germany, 1761, quoted in Achieving Our Humanity): “All inhabitants of the hottest zones are, without exceptions, idle . . . In the hot countries the human being matures earlier in all ways but does not reach the perfection of the temperate zones. Humanity exists in its greatest perfection in the white race. The yellow Indians have a smaller amount of Talent. The Negroes are lower and the lowest are a part of the American peoples . . . The race of the Negroes, one could say, is completely the opposite of the Americans; they are full of affect and passion, very lively, talkative and vain. They can be educated but only as servants (slaves), that is they allow themselves to be trained. They have many motivating forces, are also sensitive, are afraid of blows and do much out of a sense of honor.”
  4. Thomas Jefferson (British North America, Preamble, Declaration of Independence, 1776): “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
  5. Thomas Jefferson (Virginia, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785): “The first difference which strikes us is that of colour. Whether the black of the negro resides in the reticular membrane between the skin and scarf-skin, or in the scarf-skin itself; whether it proceeds from the colour of the blood, the colour of the bile, or from that of some other secretion, the difference is fixed in nature, and is as real as if its seat and cause were better known to us. And is this difference of no importance? Is it not the foundation of a greater or less share of beauty in the two races? Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expressions of every passion by greater or less suffusions of colour in the one, preferable to that eternal monotony, which reigns in the countenances, that immovable veil of black which covers all the emotions of the other race? . . . Their griefs are transient. Those numberless afflictions, which render it doubtful whether heaven has given life to us in mercy or in wrath, are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them. In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection . . . Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.”

Exit ticket: “How enlightened was the European Enlightenment?”

Integrating Climate History into the Global History Curriculum

Kristen Bradle, Jessica Hermann and Dean Bacigalupo

Rationale: This package was created as a resource to assist educators who are teaching the 9th grade New Jersey World History or 9th and 10th grade New York State Global History and Geography curriculum. The resources and guiding questions are
aligned with the New Jersey and New York Learning Standards and the academic skills required on the New York State Global History and Geography Regents examination. The resources highlight the impact of climate change on human
societies as an enduring issue that reemerged at different points in history. These resources contain strong transdisciplinary connections between Social Studies, Science, and STEM/STEAM.

The impact of climate change on human societies is one of the most pressing topics affecting the world today. Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is demanding government and corporate action to prevent a climate catastrophe. Goals in designing these materials were to interest students in the past and to engage them as active citizens in the present empowered with historical knowledge.

The question of how to respond to climate change has been contentious as some political leaders in the United States and other countries have challenged the science that explains the threat of climate change to human civilization. Some have dismissed proposals to restrict the emission of greenhouse gases claiming it would injure economies and because “We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem.” In reference to the Corona virus, Donald Trump tweeted in all caps, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.” Students will have to respond to this assertion as educated citizens, future parents, and community leaders.

Enduring Issues: The activities in this packet engage students in exploring a number of Enduring Issues in human history.

Human Impact on the Environment: Includes environmental degradation, deforestation, desertification, global warming, destruction of ozone layer, pollution, extinction of species/loss of species, loss of biodiversity, diversion of rivers/water sources, use of alternative energy sources, impact of policies on sustainability, and
spread of disease.

Impact of Environment on Humans: Includes impact of climate, impact of natural disasters, and impact of policies designed to deal with natural disasters.

Impact of Technology: Includes consequences of technology use for people and consequences of technology use for the environment.
Impact of Industrialization: Includes consequences of industrialization.

Impact of Globalization: Includes consequences of interdependence.

Social Studies Frameworks: The following New York State Frameworks are addressed in this series of climate activity sheets:

civilizations in Eurasia and Mesoamerica employed a variety of methods to expand and maintain control over vast territories. They developed lasting cultural
achievements. Both internal and external forces led to the eventual decline of these empires. Geographic factors encouraged and hindered a state’s/empire’s expansion and interactions. Students will investigate how geographic factors encouraged or hindered expansion and interactions within the Greek, Roman, and Mayan civilizations.

SOCIAL AND CULTURAL GROWTH AND CONFLICT: During the postclassical era, the
growth of transregional empires and the use of trade networks influenced religions and spread disease. These cross-cultural interactions also led to conflict and affected demographic development. Networks of exchange facilitated the spread of disease, which affected social, cultural, economic, and demographic development. Students will map the spread of the Black Death (Bubonic Plague) as it was carried westward from Asia to Africa and Europe. Students will evaluate the effects of the
Black Death on these regions

CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: Innovations in agriculture, production, and transportation led to the Industrial Revolution, which originated in Western Europe and spread over time to Japan and other regions.
This led to major population shifts and transformed economic and social systems.

Technological changes have resulted in a more interconnected world, affecting economic and political relations and in some cases leading to conflict and in others to efforts to cooperate. Globalization and population pressures have led to strains on the environment. Technological changes in communication and transportation systems allow for instantaneous interconnections and new networks of exchange between people and places that have lessened the effects of time and distance. Students will investigate the causes and effects of, and responses to, one infectious disease (e.g., malaria, HIV/AIDS). Population pressures, industrialization, and urbanization have increased demands for limited natural resources and food
resources, often straining the environment. Students will examine strains on the environment, such as threats to wildlife and degradation of the physical environment (i.e., desertification, deforestation and pollution) due to population growth, industrialization, and urbanization.

Science and STEM/STEAM Transdisciplinary Connections: The NYS P-12 Science Learning Standards with STEM/STEAM practices and crosscutting concepts guidance document that was referenced to inform connections with middle and high social studies can be found at:

 Transdisciplinary connections for middle school include 3 inquiries: Earth’s Systems, Weather and Climate, and Human Impacts can be found on pages 48-50.
 Transdisciplinary connections for high school include the inquiry focused on
Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems and can be found on pages 67-68.

Sample Lesson Introduction
Below is a visual Do Now activity that displays the impact and affect climate change has had on the world. This provides students with the evidence and visual understanding that the climate change has resulted drastic changes to our ecosystems. The website below, created by NASA, displays a series of before and after pictures of different climate change “hot spots” around the world. Within these pictures, visible changes, such as rising levels of water can be seen.

DO NOW: You will examine a series of images on the board, while viewing these images fill out the chart below.

Topic: Old Kingdom Egypt
AIM: What environmental change caused the downfall of Old Kingdom Egypt? These documents explore the effect of desertification in the past.

Map of Old Kingdom, Egypt
Statue of Pharaoh Menkaure (center)
Pyramid of Djoser
Temple of Djoser

Document 1: Desertification of Egypt
“Tomb paintings and inscriptions hint that the environment became more arid toward the end of the Old Kingdom, as some plants disappeared and sand dunes crept close to river settlements. Data drawn from cores in the Nile basin confirm that the climate began to dry around 2200 B.C.”
Source: Did Egypt’s Old Kingdom Die—or Simply Fade Away?

Document 2: “During the last 10,000 years or so, desertification, punctuated by temporary reversals, has driven people out of what was once a well-watered savannah covering vast areas of the present Sahara into smaller areas fed by rivers and near surface groundwaters.”
Source:(PDF) The Desertification of the Egyptian Sahara during the Holocene (the Last 10,000 years) and Its Influence on the Rise of Egyptian Civilization

Document 3: Desertification of the Sahara
“7,300 to 5,500 years ago: Retreating monsoonal rains initiated desiccation in the Egyptian Sahara, prompting humans to move to remaining habitable
niches in Sudanese Sahara. The end of the rains and return of desert conditions throughout the Sahara after 5,500 coincides with population return to the Nile Valley and the beginning of pharaonic society . . . The climate change at [10,500 years
ago] which turned most of the [3.8 million square mile] large Sahara into a savannah-type environment happened within a few hundred years
only, certainly within less than 500 years,” said study team member Stefan Kroepelin of the University of Cologne in Germany.”

Document 4: Effects of Drought and Desertification on the Egyptian Empire
“When a drought brought famine to the land, there was no longer any meaningful central government to respond to it. The Old Kingdom ended with the 6th Dynasty as no strong ruler came to the throne to lead the people. Local officials took care of their own communities and had no resources, nor felt the responsibility, to help the rest of the country. As the 6th Dynasty passed away, Egypt slowly tumbled into the era now classified by scholars as the First Intermediate Period . . . At the end of the 6th Dynasty, there was no longer a central government of note and Egypt entered a period of social unrest and reformation known as The Frist Intermediate Period (2181-2040 BCE) during which Egypt was ruled regionally by local magistrates who made and enforced their own laws. The rise of these local officials and the power of the priesthood were not the only causes of the collapse of the Old Kingdom, however, in that a severe drought toward the end of the 6th Dynasty brought famine which the government could do nothing to alleviate. Scholars have also pointed to the exceptionally long reign of Pepi II of the 6th Dynasty as a contributing factor
because he outlived his successors and left no heir to the throne.” Source:

Questions: The civilizations you examined today made advances in their societies.

  1. How have environmental factors impacted the societies you examined today?
  2. How did the advances civilizations made contribute to environmental consequences?
  3. How have these advances caused a long-lasting impact that is negatively affecting societies today?
  4. Identify a similarity or a difference between the events, ideas, or historical developments presented in documents 1 and 2.
  5. Explain a similarity or a difference in the events, ideas, or historical developments
    presented in these documents. Be sure to use evidence from both documents 1 and 2 in your response.

Topic: Collapse of Akkadian Empire
Aim: What did the Curse of Akkad teach us about the impact of climate on society?
These documents examine the effect of drought caused by a changing local environment.

“For some time, researchers attributed the collapse to political disintegration and invasion by hostile groups. Some paleoclimate records indicate that a catastrophic drought also occurred around this time and suggest that climate factors beyond the control of the empire played a role in its demise.” Source: Drought and the Akkadian Empire

“Instead of rain, the Akkadians and their subjects were baked by dry, hot winds from the north. Precipitation fell by 30 percent, and crops withered in the field; the raw wind picked up the topsoil and blew it south. With their surplus dwindling, the fields barren, and laborers consuming what was left, at some point the Akkadians decided the game was up. Many of the Akkadians moved south, likely as word filtered back that the Euphrates, though diminished, continued to flow, supplying irrigation
water to the fields there. Some refugees became pastoral nomads, moving with their herds in search of fodder.

Those who remained at Tell Leilan left no trace. As the decades went by, sand and dust gradually entombed the acropolis. When the winds and drought finally abated, some three hundred years later, new settlers moved in.” -Eugene Linden, The Winds of Change


  1. What was “The Curse of Akkad”?
  2. Use specific quotes from the text to explain what happened as a result of the climate change the Akkadian Empire experienced.
  3. How did Akkadians adapt/respond to the changing climate?

Topic: Mayan Civilization
Aim: Did consequences of climate change play a significant role in the downfall of the Mayan Civilization? Climate change played a critical role on the collapse of the Mayan Civilization.

Document #1: Chart of Evaporation: Scientists have reconstructed climate at the time of the Mayan civilization by studying lake sediment cores from the Yucatan Peninsula (Hodell et al. 1995; Curtis et al. 1996; Hodell et al. 2005). It is possible to
reconstruct changes in the balance between precipitation and evaporation (P−E), a common indicator of drought, by measuring oxygen isotope data from the shells of gastropods and ostracods. Lake H2O molecules containing the isotope 18O evaporate less easily than H2O molecules with 16O. Thus, during periods of strong evaporation, the lake water becomes enriched in 18O (values of δ18O are high). These isotopic values are incorporated into the growing shells of gastropods and ostracods that
live in the lake.

Another proxy for P−E is the percent of sulfur in the lake sediments. Evaporation concentrates sulfur in the lake water. If the sulfur concentration becomes high enough, salts such as gypsum (CaSO4) will start to precipitate from the lake water
and add sulfur to the lake sediments. The variations of sulfur percentage match the variations in oxygen isotopes closely. Corroborating one paleoclimate proxy with another is an important check on proxy records and gives us more confidence in them.

Scientists reconstructed changes in the balance between precipitation and evaporation using the percent of sulfur in sediments and the oxygen isotopes of shells of gastropods and ostracods from Lake Chichancanab on the Yucatan Peninsula (Hodell et al. 1995)

Document 2: Effects of Deforestation on Mayan Civilization: “Results from simulations with a regional climate model demonstrate that deforestation by the Maya also likely induced warmer, drier, drought‐like conditions. It is therefore hypothesized that the drought conditions devastating the Maya resulted from a combination of natural variability and human activities. Neither the natural drought or the human‐induced effects alone were sufficient to cause the collapse, but the
combination created a situation the Maya could not recover from. These results may have sobering implications for the present and future state of climate and water resources in Mesoamerica as ongoing massive deforestation is again occurring.”
Source: Oglesby, R. J., T. L. Sever, W. Saturno, D. J. Erickson III, and J. Srikishen (2010). “Collapse of the Maya: Could deforestation have contributed?” J. Geophys. Res., 115, D12106, doi:10.1029/2009JD011942.

“Deforestation led to lower rainfall and higher temperatures; both factors would have been detrimental to Mayan life. The reduction in rainfall means it would have been more difficult for the Maya to store enough water to survive the dry season, while the warmer conditions put more stress on evaporation, vegetation, livestock, and people. These effects occurred during both the wet and dry seasons but were much larger during the wet season, when they were also arguably more
important. This is because the Maya societal structure depended on storage of water during the wet season, which in turn provided for them during the dry season.” Source: AGU Journal

Document 3: Effects of Drought on Mayan Civilization: “Recent data indicate that a major drought at this time may have been a key factor in the collapse. Research along the Holmul River, which runs through several bajos and connects 10 major Maya cities, indicates that between A.D. 750 and 850 the river either dried up or became swampy, perhaps as a result of a long period of drought” [Sever and Irwin, 2003; T. P. Culbert, personal communication, 2002].

Document 4: Reduction of Rainfall and Wetland Formation: Researchers from Arizona State University analyzed archaeological data from across the Yucatan to reach a better understanding of the environmental conditions when the area was
abandoned. Around this time, they found, severe reductions in rainfall were coupled with a rapid rate of deforestation, as the Mayans burned and chopped down more and more forest to clear land for agriculture. Interestingly, they also required massive amounts of wood to fuel the fires that cooked the lime plaster for their elaborate constructions—experts estimate it would have taken 20 trees to produce a single square meter of cityscape. Smithsonian magazine Accelerator mass spectrometry dates chart and conceptual model of wetland formation. (Credit: T. Beach et al., University of Texas at Austin)

Document 5: Lake Bottom Sediment Core from Yucatan Peninsula: Bands located on sediment core help indicate periods of drought and periods of rainfall based on the coloring of the bands. Below, is a piece of lake bottom sediment core from the Yucatan Peninsula, displaying periods of drought during the time of the Mayan

Picture source: The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations by Eugene Linden.

Questions for Mayan Document Series:

  1. How did deforestation and drought play a critical role in the decline and eventual collapse of the Mayan Civilization?
  2. How does science aid historians in understanding important changes in climate that have affected civilizations?
  3. Based on the research presented in this document series, did consequences of climate change play a significant role in the downfall of the Mayan Civilization?

Topic: Roman Empire (27 BC-476 AD)
Aim: How did shifts in climate lead to the decline of the Roman Empire?
During the establishment and peak of the Roman empire Europe was enduring a period of climate stability. When Rome began experiencing colder, unstable weather, deadly epidemics led to a decline in civilization.

Document 1: Climate Change Background
“Climate change did not begin with the exhaust fumes of industrialization, but has been a permanent feature of human existence. Orbital mechanics (small variations in the tilt, spin and eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit) and solar cycles alter the amount
and distribution of energy received from the Sun. And volcanic eruptions spew reflective sulphates into the atmosphere, sometimes with long-reaching effects. Modern, anthropogenic climate change is so perilous because it is happening quickly and in conjunction with so many other irreversible changes in the Earth’s biosphere. But climate change per seis nothing new.” Source: Smithsonian

Document 2: How Favorable Climate Led To The Rise of the Roman Empire
“It turns out that climate had a major role in the rise and fall of Roman civilization. The empire-builders benefitted from impeccable timing: the characteristic warm, wet and stable weather was conducive to economic productivity in an agrarian
society. The benefits of economic growth supported the political and social bargains by which the Roman empire controlled its vast territory. The favorable climate, in ways subtle and profound, was baked into the empire’s innermost structure.”
Source: Smithsonian

Document 3: Climate and The Fall of The Roman Empire
“The end of this lucky climate regime did not immediately, or in any simple deterministic sense, spell the doom of Rome. Rather, a less favorable climate undermined its power just when the empire was imperiled by more dangerous enemies— Germans, Persians—from without. Climate instability peaked in the sixth century, during the reign of Justinian. Work by dendro-chronologists and ice-core experts points to an enormous spasm of volcanic activity in the 530s and 540s CE, unlike anything else in the past few thousand years. This violent sequence of eruptions triggered what is now called the ‘Late Antique Little Ice Age,’ when much colder temperatures endured for at least 150 years. This phase of climate deterioration had decisive effects in Rome’s unravelling. It was also intimately
linked to a catastrophe of even greater moment: the outbreak of the first pandemic of bubonic plague.” Source: Smithsonian

Document 4: Levels of Precipitation in the Roman Empire
The Fall of the Roman Empire was affected by a period of cooling, known as the Little Ice Age. This period of cooling greatly affected the way people lived. Source: US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

Source: US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (

Document 5 and 6: Favorable Flooding of the Nile Creating Stable Conditions
Source: The Journal of Interdisciplinary History
“Finally, unnoticed until not, Egypt, the Roman Empire’s breadbasket, spears to have enjoyed exceptionally favorable conditions for cereal production during this period . Nile river levels reflect precipitation over Ethiopia and East and Central Africa. Precious study has clarified the history of Nile floods down to 299 A.D., but that abundant evidence has never been exploited for climate history or economic performance. Before Rome annexed Egypt, all seven of nine securely recorded Nile floods in the earlier years of the first century B.C. were below average. For the next 329 years, from the annexation in 30 B.C. to 299 S.D., reliable documents allow an estimate of the annual flood in 199 different years, after which the available data become more scarce until 642 A.D. They show a subtle but significant pattern: The most favorable floods occurred when contrasted with those of the following period.”

Note: Dead Sea: Fluctuating sea levels reflect overall precipitation in the Levant. Although the chronology is fluid, recent work clearly confirms earlier findings of an early and late period of humid conditions, separated and followed by dry conditions
Note: Lake Van: Oxygen isotopes within our period indicate most humid conditions c. the first centuries B.C. and A.D. and c. the fifth and sixth centuries A.D., and dry conditions c. the third and seventh centuries.

Document 7: Favorable Conditions During the Roman Empire
Source: The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, The Roman Optimum: Stability from C. 100 B.C. to 200 A.D.
Exceptional climate stability characterizes the centuries of the Roman Empire’s rise; certain regions enjoyed unusually favorable conditions. In the western Roman Empire, the first century B.C. through the first and possibly second century A.D. were warmer than later centuries. Archaeological evidence from Britain, ice-core date from Greenland, and dendrodata about summer temperature.

Document 8: The Fall of the Roman Empire
Source: The Journal of Interdisciplinary History
We synthesize the results for the entire sweep of Roman imperial history in four multi-century phases, distinguishing between the western (approximately -9.34 to 22 degrees) and the eastern (22 degrees to 38.96 degrees) regions of the Empire. The written, archeological, and natural-scientific proxy evidence independently but consistently indicates that climate conditions changed during the period of the Roman Empire’s maximum expansion and final crisis. Rates of change shifted dramatically over time, from apparent near stasis under the early Empire to rapid fluctuations later in the Empire’s history.
Changes affected different parts of the Empire in different ways and at different times. Even though the different data sets are not in perfect agreement about absolute dating, they impressively converge about the sequence of events. In each case, the discussion moves from west to east.


  1. Why might an unprecedented period of chilling have major consequences on the Roman Empire?
  2. Why is it important river levels and flooding remain on a set schedule and stay predictable? If they do not, what effects might it have on society?
  3. Was the Roman Empire able to adapt to climate change?

Topic: Collapse of the Norse North Atlantic Network
Aim: How did climate change cause the Inuit civilization to prosper and the downfall of the Norse?
Climate change can cause one civilization to flourish while it causes another to collapse. Civilizations that are able adapt to climate change may prevail.

Medieval Warming Period 900-1250 A.D. created wealth and prosperity in Europe. During this time the peak expansion of Viking Influence occurred. This warming period caused the growing season to lengthen as population and trade expanded
throughout Europe. The Norse first ventured to Iceland starting in 874 when trees were plentiful. From Iceland they traveled to Greenland which had “better land for growing barley than Iceland, as well as birch and willow trees, and meadows to support livestock.” In an attempt to expand their influence some “Norse traders ventured to North America during the 350-year span of the Western Settlement
in Greenland” but “Norse ventures in the New World petered out” and the Norse were forced to return to Greenland and Iceland. The weather turning colder due to the Little Ice Age “eliminated the possibility that the Norse would colonize North

“Climate changes, and when it does, it favors some and penalizes others. This is what happened during the Viking Age. Starting between 1343 and 1345, Greenland suffered through ten cold years, culminating in the worst winter in five hundred
years in 1355. This led to the collapse of the western colony.” The Norse civilization slowly collapsed and starved as “short cold summers gave the Norse no opportunity to rebuild their flocks and grain supplies. For food, they relied on hunting and
gathering as well as farming…and relied on meat and milk to get them through the winter.”

“The Inuit flourished during this same period. The Norse could have survived the bad weather too if they had learned from the Inuit, who love it when the weather turns frigid because it gives them an ice platform from which to hunt ringed seals with harpoons when the mammals surface at breathing holes in the sea ice. Christian Norse likely regarded the shamanistic Inuit as unenlightened and beneath
them. The Norse could have adapted Inuit hunting methods and survived the Little Ice Age. Greenland colonies prospered during the warm years and became uninhabitable by agrarian people during the cold years. The Little Ice Age proved absolutely fatal to the Greenland colonies.” – Linden, The Winds of Change


  1. Would the world be different today if the Medieval Warm Period had continued and
    Greenland settlers had endured? Explain your answer.
  2. Why did the Inuit civilization survive the Little Ice Age while it caused the collapse of the Norse civilization?

Topic: The Fall of the Ancient Khmer Empire 802 CE-1431CE
Aim: What does Ancient Khmer infrastructure reveal about their collapse?
Through innovation the Khmer Empire tried to decrease the effects of climate instability but ultimately climate change prevailed and led to the fall of the Empire.

“The cause of the Angkor empire’s demise in the early 15th century long remained a mystery. But researchers have now shown that intense monsoon rains that followed a prolonged drought in the region caused widespread damage to the city’s infrastructure, leading to its collapse. From the beginning, water was central to the development of Angkor, which is often described as a “hydraulic city.” Channels and reservoirs were constructed to collect and store water coming from the hills, both for flood control and for distribution for agriculture. A system of overflows and bypasses carried surplus water to the Tonle Sap Lake to the
south of the city.

In the mid to late 1300s, Angkor began suffering from a persistent drought. This was followed by several years of unusually strong monsoon rains, producing extensive flooding with which the city’s infrastructure seemed to have been unable to cope.
The flooding caused serious erosion in the system, with links in it being systematically severed. To the south of the city, canals were choked with material
eroded from the center of Angkor.

The bridge at Angkor Thom was built from reused stone blocks from temples, with many of them carved in intricate ways. That they would take apart a temple and use it for something as mundane as a bridge suggests there is something seriously going
wrong. It has long been thought that the damage to the water management system put an end to a long period of decline at Angkor. As the flooding destroyed the infrastructure, the city of Angkor collapsed. In 1431, it was taken by the Siamese

The medieval Khmer were confronted with a period of climatic instability that they had no experience of, and which fully changed the rules of the game that they had been playing for hundreds of years. A similar scale of challenge is now confronting
contemporary communities, as the climate begins to change.”
Show video for architecture and river:
Source: Angkor Wat’s Collapse From Climate Change Has Lessons for Today


  1. How did infrastructure innovations created by the Angkor civilization help their civilization flourish and then aid in the collapse?
  2. What advantages do societies have today for surviving climate change that the Ancient Khmer Empire did not?

Document 1: The Rise of Genghis Khan and The Mongols. “On a research trip to Mongolia in 2010, Pederson, Hessl and their colleagues discovered a stand of stunted Siberian pine trees in the Khangai Mountains. The trees—some of which were still alive—were ancient, some more than 1,100 years old. Old trees provide a living history book of the climate. During warm, wet years, the trees grow more, and the rings inside the trunk that mark those years are wider. The opposite happens during dry years, when the rings would be narrow. Counting back to the late 1100s, just before the rise of Genghis Khan, the tree-ring data indicated that the Mongol steppes had been in the grip of an intense drought, one that could have helped drive the years of division among the Mongol tribes as they competed for scarce resources. But the tree-rings showed that the years between 1211 and 1225—a period of time that coincided with the meteoric rise of Genghis Khan, who died in 1227—were marked by unusually heavy rainfall and mild temperatures.” Source: Time Magazine

Document 2: “The transition from extreme drought to extreme moisture right then strongly suggests that climate played a role in human events. It wasn’t the only thing, but it must have created the ideal conditions for a charismatic leader to emerge out of the chaos, develop an army and concentrate power. Where it’s arid, unusual moisture creates unusual plant productivity, and that translates into horsepower. Genghis was literally able to ride that wave.” Source: PNAS Study, Amy Hessl

Document 3: Tree Ring Moisture: Tree ring moisture indicated the Mongols suffered severe drought and began dealing with a period of moisture when Genghis Khan was able to rise to power. Tree-ring drought reconstruction site (green cross) and inferred temperature site (white cross) are 50 km apart. Map of the Mongol Empire near its zenith (aqua) in 1260 CE. The ancient capital city of Karakorum (black triangle) and current capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar (black star). Source: PNAS


  1. How could change in climate lead to the emergence of a new leader?
  2. Why would climate altering from dry to damp help foster conditions where a civilization is able to thrive?
  3. Do we see a similar trend of unfavorable climate conditions, followed by favorable climate conditions leading to the emergence of powerful leaders elsewhere in history?

Topic: Bubonic Plague
Aim: Was the Bubonic Plague pandemic driven by climate change?
The Bubonic Plague (1346-1353) was a result of weather effects due to climate change during the Little Ice Age (1303-1860)

Document 1: The Spread of the Black Plague
“From 1347 to 1353, a second plague pandemic called the Black Death swept across Europe, killing some 25 million people there and another 25 million in Asia and Africa. But plague is not naturally found in Europe. The disease is endemic to Asia, where the bacterium is found among small animals (rodents) and their fleas. It’s possible the disease was reintroduced to Europe multiple times following Asian climate events. The world was suffering through a second plague pandemic as
effects of quick succession of floods and droughts. The rodents likely played a role in moving the disease between harbors. Instances of quarantining ships—a practice developed in the late 14th century in response to the Black Death—could have saved
at least a few port towns during the centuries of the second pandemic.” Source: Plague Pandemic May Have Been Driven by Climate, Not Rats

Document 2: The climate causes of the Black Plague
“Rapid shifts between warm and cool throw ecosystems out of balance, unleashing pests and microbes, and ruining crops. During the Little Ice Age global temperatures dropped between 0.5 and 1 degree centigrade. Flooding in China’s river valleys “one of the greatest weather-related disasters ever known,” since the floods led to the deaths of roughly 7 million people…made Asia a petri dish for the next iteration of the plague in 1332. The years following saw severe drought, setting up the climate seesaw that would cause the rapid increase and collapse of various rodent populations, both of which could have brought the plague into contact with humans.
Weather played a role in releasing the Black Death from China and Mongolia, where it had been bottled up in rodent populations. Before it made its way down the Silk Road to Crimea, the plague killed an estimated 35 million people in China.
Then, in about 1346, it began to move west. The plague and other epidemics made several return visits over the next few centuries. All these traumas were direct and indirect effects of the Little Ice Age.” Source: Linden, The Winds of Change


  1. Would the world be different today if the Medieval Warm Period had continued and
    Greenland settlers had endured? Explain your answer.
  2. Why did the Inuit civilization survive the Little Ice Age while it caused the collapse of the Norse civilization?

Topic: Medieval Europe
AIM: How did building Cathedrals during the Middle Ages impact the environment?
Deforestation places strains on the environment with major consequences.

Document 1: The Notre Dame Cathedral: The Notre Dame Cathedral was built in Paris, France in 1163. On April 15, 2019 a structure fire broke out under the roof in the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Document 2: “The trees that made up the roof’s wooden structure were cut down around 1160, and some sources estimate that the beams accounted for 13,000 trees, or about 21 hectares of medieval forest, many of which had been growing since the
800s or 900s. “You have a stage in France where deforestation was a problem; these buildings consumed huge amounts of wood.” That’s according to Columbia University art historian Stephen Murray, who spoke with Ars Technica. All that
wood, he said, supported an outer roof of lead— until the wood burned and the roof collapsed.” Source: Notre Dame Cathedral will never be the same, but it can be rebuilt

Document 3: “The wooden roof, which burned in the fire, was built with beams over 850 years old, comes from secular forests. Most of the large 12thcentury trees were cut for construction, making them a deciding factor in the current state of the trees on French territory. Another major problem is the large-scale deforestation that was taking place at that time. Many trees have grown since the 7th century, which means that much of the wood destroyed in Dombrand was destroyed 1,300 years ago. For the construction of churches castles and ships needed large quantities of wood, leaving a large part of the wood in French forests as felled.”Source: SUMBER projections for the reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral. What the
architects say about the lack of a crucial element


  1. Is it possible to rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral roof today replicating its original structure using the same original materials? Explain your answer.
  2. What environmental impact did the construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral have on the environment at the time of its original construction? How did it impact the environment?

Topic: Industrial Revolution
AIM: How did the advancements made during the Industrial Revolution impact the environment?
The Industrial Revolution started mid-18th century in England. and has had a lasting impact on climate. These documents focus on how new industries produced new problems with pollution, problems that continue today.

Document 1:

Document 2: Political Cartoons

Document 3:
“Fog everywhere. Fog up the river… fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollution of a great (and dirty) city.” – Charles Dickens, BLEAK HOUSE. The towns surrounding Manchester . . . re badly and irregularly built with foul courts, lanes, and back alleys, reeking of coal smoke, and especially dingy from the originally bright red brick, turned black with time. These east and north-east sides of Manchester are the only ones on which the bourgeoisie has not built, because ten or eleven months of the year the west and south-west wind
drives the smoke of all the factories hither, and that the working-people alone may breathe . . . Along both sides of the stream, which is coal-black, stagnant and foul, stretches a broad belt of factories and working-men’s dwellings . . . The cottages are
old, dirty, and of the smallest sort, the streets uneven, fallen into ruts and in part without drains or pavement; masses of refuse, offal and sickening filth lie among standing pools in all directions; the atmosphere is poisoned by the effluvia from these, and laden and darkened by the smoke of a dozen tall factory chimneys. – Condition of the Working Class in England, by Engels, 1845.

Document 4: “And what cities! … smoke hung over them and filth impregnated them, the elementary public services – water supply, sanitation, street-cleaning, open spaces, and so on – could not keep pace with the mass migration of men into the cities, thus producing, especially after 1830, epidemics of cholera, typhoid and an appalling constant toll of the two great groups of nineteenth century urban killers – air pollution and water pollution or respiratory and intestinal disease.” –
Hobsbawm, 1969, p. 86.

Document 5: Audio clip explaining how carbobased pollution causes glacial melting.


  1. What environmental effect did the Industrial Revolution have on England’s environment? Note one environmental effect from political cartoons
    and one from the excerpts.
  2. What aspect of the Industrial Revolution caused these environmental effects? Explain your answer.
  3. Explain the historical circumstances that caused the environmental effects?
  4. Identify and explain a cause and effect relationship associated with the ideas or events in documents 1 and 2. Be sure to use evidence from both documents 1 and 2 in your response.

Topic: Climate Change and Disease
Aim: How did the eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia lead to a global pandemic?
Natural catastrophic events like a volcanic eruption can had long term widespread consequences.

Tambora is located in Indonesia. It erupted on April 9, 1815 causing lasting global effects; including a year without a summer in 1816.

Environmental Effects
“A powerful volcanic eruption in 1815 set off a chain of events, from extreme weather and crop failures to a global cholera pandemic. Mount Tambora erupted on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa. It belched millions of tonnes of rock, ash
and gas in April 1815, set off a tsunami, and killed about 100,000 people in the immediate aftermath. Then, as sulphur dioxide rose with the ash into the
stratosphere and circled the globe, the world was plunged into a volcanic winter that lasted three years. Crops failed in China, Europe and, eventually, America. In New York, it snowed in June. In the Alps, glaciers fingered out at unprecedented speed. Weird as it may seem, the Tambora explosion, unnoticed outside Java, not only unleashed devastating weather, destroying crops and communities around the globe. It also transformed cholera from a local nuisance in Bengal into one of the world’s most virulent and feared diseases.” Source: Relevant lessons from climate
change and a global pandemic in the 19th century

“The onset of volcanic winters jeopardized global food security and had climate effects that lasted years. It created a global pandemic that lasted years
and hurt the global economy.”

Rise of a New Disease
“In 1817, a global cholera pandemic suddenly erupted, a “phantom agent of death that was brutal, unknowable, and potentially limitless in its reach.” From India, a newly virulent strain of cholera spread to Myanmar and Thailand in 1819 and 1820
and Iran in 1822 before reaching France in 1830 and eventually the United States in 1832.”
Source: Relevant lessons from climate change and a global pandemic in the 19th century

“From India, a newly virulent strain of cholera spread to Myanmar and Thailand in 1819 and 1820 and Iran in 1822 before reaching France in 1830
and eventually the United States in 1832.”
Source: Relevant lessons from climate change and a global pandemic in the 19th century

“Drought brought on by the eruption devastated crop yields across the Indian subcontinent, but more disastrously gave rise to a new and deadly strain of
cholera. Cholera had always been endemic to Bengal, but the bizarre weather of 1816–17 triggered by Tambora’s eruption—first drought, then late, unseasonal flooding—altered the microbial ecology of the Bay of Bengal. The cholera bacterium, which has an unusually adaptive genetic structure highly sensitive to changes in its
aquatic environment, mutated into a new strain. This was met with no resistance among the local population, and it spread across Asia and eventually the globe. By the century’s end, the death toll from Bengal cholera stood in the tens of millions.”
Source: Tambora eruption caused the year without a summer: Cholera, opium, famine, and Arctic exploration.


  1. What climate reactions occurred as a result of the eruption of Mount Tambora?
  2. How did the eruption of Mount Tambora cause the cholera pandemic?
  3. How did the eruption of Mount Tambora affect the world economy

Topic: Water Resources
Aim: What will the United States do when the water in the Great Plains is gone?
Changing climate is affecting a vast area of the United States. The droughts and shorter growing season taking place in the Great Plains will have dire effects on the population. The main source of water in this area, the Ogallala Aquifer, is being
drained and dried. The unstable climate will affect water resources and agriculture in the United States.

“The Plains are made up of a broad range of ecosystems, including forests, rangelands, marshes, and desert. Climate change related impacts, including heat waves and extreme weather events, have disproportionate effects on vulnerable groups, including young, elderly, ill, and low income populations. In the Great Plains, remotely located populations, face greater challenges in responding to climate change because of a lack of development, public health resources, and access to other public services and communication systems. Language barriers for indigenous groups can also impact the ability to respond to climate extremes.”
Source: Climate Impacts in the Great Plains | US

“This is the breadbasket of America—the region that supplies at least one fifth of the total annual U.S. agricultural harvest. If the aquifer goes dry, more than $20 billion worth of food and fiber will vanish from the world’s markets. And scientists say
it will take natural processes 6,000 years to refill the reservoir.” Source: The Ogallala Aquifer: Saving a Vital U.S. Water Source

Impacts on Water Resources
“As patterns of temperature and precipitation change, the Great Plains region is expected to face increased competition for water supplies for use by homes, business, agriculture, and energy production. Water in this region comes largely from the High Plains Aquifer system, made up largely of the Ogallala aquifer. The High Plains Aquifer system is one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world and underlies approximately 111 million acres in parts of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. Nearly 30% of all irrigated lands in the United States reside above this aquifer, making it
one of the primary agricultural regions in the nation.
The High Plains Aquifer also provides drinking water for more than 80% of the residents living over the aquifer and is key to the region’s energy production. Long-term declines in the water level within the High Plains Aquifer have resulted from
greater water discharge than recharge. Discharge (or withdrawal) occurs largely by irrigation, which has resulted in an average water level decline of 14.2 feet since irrigation began around 1950. This translates to an 80 trillion gallon reduction in water storage within the aquifer. Recharge (or replenishing) comes primarily from precipitation. In the northern portion of the Great Plains, rain can recharge the aquifer quickly. However, with climate change, precipitation in the winter and spring is projected to increasingly fall in the form of very heavy precipitation events, which can increase flooding and runoff that reduce water quality and cause soil erosion. In the southern portion of the region, little recharge occurs, so declines in the aquifer’s water level are much greater (see figure of High Plains Aquifer). Climate change will worsen this situation by causing drier conditions and
increasing the need for irrigation.”

Topic: Natural Disasters
Aim: Can climate change trigger volcanic eruptions?
Researchers believe record rainfall attributed to climate change triggered the 2018 Kīlauea volcano eruptions in Hawaii.

Do Now: Read about the relationship between climate change and rainfall and answer question:
How does “human-caused climate change” lead to more intense rainfall?
“Human-caused climate change intensifies the heaviest downpours. More than 70% of the planet’s surface is water, and as the world warms, more water evaporates from oceans, lakes, and soils. Every 1°F rise also allows the atmosphere to hold 4% more water vapor. So when weather patterns lead to heavy rain, there is even more
moisture available for stronger downpours, increasing the risk and severity of flooding.
“– Climate Central,

Map of Hawaiian Islands
Location of Kīlauea volcano

Instructions: Examine Document A, the abstract from a scientific report in the journal Nature, and Document B, an excerpt from a report on the study
published in the British newspaper The Guardian. An important role of the press is to translate technical language into conventional speech. After reading the two documents answer the guiding questions and discuss with our team whether The
report adequately explained the scientific study.


  1. Where is the Kīlauea volcano and when did it erupt?
  2. According to the scientific report, what triggered the eruption?
  3. The scientific report cites “anthropogenic climate change” as a cause of the eruption. Based on context clues, what is “anthropogenic climate change”?
  4. What other evidence is there of volcanic eruptions triggered by intense rainfall?
  5. The headline in The Guardian article is “Record rain triggered 2018 Kīlauea volcano eruptions, says study.” In your opinion, are the headline and article an accurate summary of the scientific report?

Document A: Extreme rainfall triggered the 2018 rift eruption at Kīlauea Volcano
Source: 020-2172-5
The May 2018 rift intrusion and eruption of Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai‘i, represented one of its most extraordinary eruptive sequences in at least 200 years, yet the trigger mechanism remains elusive. The event was preceded by several months of
anomalously high precipitation. It has been proposed that rainfall can modulate shallow volcanic activity, but it remains unknown whether it can have impacts at the greater depths associated with magma transport. Here we show that immediately before and during the eruption, infiltration of rainfall into Kīlauea Volcano’s subsurface increased pore pressure at depths of 1 to 3 kilometres by 0.1 to 1 kilopascals, to its highest pressure in almost 50 years. We propose that weakening and mechanical failure of the edifice was driven by changes in pore pressure within the rift zone, prompting opportunistic dyke intrusion and ultimately facilitating the eruption. A precipitation-induced eruption trigger is consistent with the lack of precursory summit inflation, showing that this intrusion—unlike others—was not
caused by the forceful intrusion of new magma into the rift zone. Moreover, statistical analysis of historic eruption occurrence suggests that rainfall patterns contribute substantially to the timing and frequency of Kīlauea’s eruptions and intrusions.
Thus, volcanic activity can be modulated by extreme rainfall triggering edifice rock failure — a factor that should be considered when assessing volcanic hazards. Notably, the increasingly extreme weather patterns associated with ongoing anthropogenic climate change could increase the potential for rainfall-triggered volcanic phenomena worldwide.

Document B: Record rain triggered 2018 Kīlauea volcano eruptions, says study
The spectacular eruptions of the Kīlauea volcano in Hawaii in 2018 were triggered by extreme rainfall in the preceding months, research suggests. Scientists say the finding raises the possibility that climate breakdown, which is causing more extreme
weather, could lead to an increase in eruptions around the world. The 2018 Kīlauea eruptions were one of the most extraordinary sequences in at least 200 years, according to the scientists, with rifts opening, summit explosions and collapses, and a magnitude 6.9 earthquake. But the trigger was not known. However, several months of unusually high rainfall preceded the eruption, with one 24-hour
period setting a record for the entire US. This flood of water would have percolated down into fissures and pores in the rocks of the volcano, as far as 1.8 miles (2.9km) below the surface. The scientists calculated this pushed up the pore pressure inside
the rocks to the highest level in almost 50 years, weakening them and allowing magma to push up from below. The scientists also looked at eruptions of Kīlauea since 1790 and found that these historical events were twice as likely to happen in
the rainy season. Such a link has long been thought possible – JD Dana, one of the first geologists to visit Hawaii in the late 1800s, suggested the idea.
They also ruled out magma pressure from below triggering the eruption, because the surface had barely deformed, and the gravitational pull of the sun and moon, which can trigger eruptions. “All the circumstantial evidence points in the same direction,” said Jamie Farquharson, at the University of Miami, whose research is published in
the journal Nature. Rain has been linked to shallow eruptions in the past, such as at Mount St Helens in 1980, but this is the first time an impact at depth has been found.

Topic: Impact of Current Climate Change
Aim: How does climate change threaten the future of Kenya?
Climate change severely impacts Kenya. Kenya is dealing with erratic rainfall, extreme drought, and an increase in temperatures. Kenya is in extreme need of global action to help combat the challenges climate change brings to their everyday life.

Document 1: Projections of Kenya’s Future
Source: United States Agency of International Development

Document 2: Kenya Annual Average Precipitation Low
Source: United States Agency of International Development

Document 3: Historic Climate vs. Future Climate Projections (U.S. Agency of International Development)

Document 4: Effect of all Aspects of Life (U.S. Agency of International Development

Document 5: Primary Source Information: The Children of Kenya (Source: UNICEF)
“Our home was destroyed by the floods and we have nothing left. My parents cannot even afford to pay my older siblings’ school fees since we have no cows left to sell.”-Nixon Bwire, age 13, Tana River.

“Climate change is affecting us and, in the future if we are not involved, we will live in a desert. The rivers have dried up and sand mining has increased, this has caused many children to drop out of school to work loading vehicles for mines”-Samuel, age 14, Machakos

Idhila Mohammed carries her child on her back as she searches for food and water for her surviving cattle. “We had 180 cattle last year, but since the drought only 40 are left,” she said.
“In the few years that I’ve been here, the climate has really changed. Temperatures have gone up. The rainfall has dropped. As time goes by, things are getting worse and worse … It rains once in three months, that’s not normal. This has led to shortage of food and water, which has led to the death of animals. People lose their livestock and other people die due to starvation and hunger.” Lourine Oyodah, age 15, Lodwar

Document 6: Projection for Mombasa, an area in Kenya hit hard by climate change
Source: UNICEF

Document 7: Documented Changes from 1967- 2012 (Source: Human Rights Watch)
Between 1967 and 2012, maximum and minimum average temperatures in Turkana County, in Kenya’s northwest corner near the border with Ethiopia, rose between 2 and 3°C (3.6 to 5.4°F), according to data from the meteorological station in Turkana’s capital. Rainfall patterns seem to have changed, with the long rainy season becoming
shorter and drier and the short rainy season becoming longer and wetter. Insecurity and conflict in the region are expected to get worse as grazing lands decrease.

At the same time, hydroelectric projects and irrigated sugar plantations in Ethiopia’s lower Omo River Valley threaten to vastly reduce the water levels in Lake Turkana, the world largest desert lake, and the source of livelihood for 300,000 Turkana residents. Some experts forecast that the lake may recede into two small pools, devastating fish stocks.

Document 8: Conditions in Kenya (Source: Kenya Climate Innovation)
For instance, the flooding in Naivasha, Kenya after the Karati River burst its banks caused 172 fatalities, displaced 283,290 people and left 84 people with severe injuries. Government data also shows that in the Tana River alone, 150,000 people
have been displaced and 16 killed due to flooding.
Furthermore, flooding is related to food scarcity fueled by decreased yields. The drought has also lead to decreased power and water supply to cities
in Kenya, including Nairobi.
One of the areas that has negatively been impacted by climate change is agriculture, which supports 75% of Kenya’s population and contributes to 21% of the country’s GDP. Given its high reliance on rainfall, it is adversely impacted by drought. For
instance, prolonged drought in 2016/2017 yielded low agricultural productivity that resulted in food prices increasing by a third.


  1. What major changes in climate has Kenya had to deal with?
  2. How has climate change affected Kenya?
  3. Have climate conditions improved and are conditions projected to improve? What do the climate projections suggest?
  4. Do the United States and other economically advanced nations have a responsibility to provide aid to Kenya? Explain.

Topic: Climate Change Impact on Sub-Sahara Desert
Aim: How is climate change affecting regions bordering the Sahara Desert?
Climate change in sub-Sahara arid regions has led to an increase in temperature, changes in rainfall levels, an increase in sea level, desertification, deforestation and the emergence of new diseases that will seriously impact human life, both in the
area and globally.

Document 1: Climate Changes and Impacts
Source: Climate change impacts in Sub-Saharan Africa: from physical changes to their social repercussions.

Document 2: Rising Sea Levels
Source: Climate change impacts in Sub-Saharan
Africa: from physical changes to their social repercussions

Document 3: Is Africa sleepwalking into a potential catastrophe?
Source: BBC. The African continent will be hardest hit by climate change. There are four key reasons for this:
 First, African society is very closely coupled with the climate system; hundreds of millions of people depend on rainfall to grow their food
 Second, the African climate system is controlled by an extremely complex mix of large-scale weather systems, many from distant parts of the planet and, in comparison with almost all other inhabited regions, is vastly understudied. It is
therefore capable of all sorts of surprises
 Third, the degree of expected climate change is large. The two most extensive land-based end of-century projected decreases in rainfall anywhere on the planet occur over Africa; one over North Africa and the other over southern Africa
 Finally, the capacity for adaptation to climate change is low; poverty equates to reduced choice at the individual level while governance generally fails to prioritize and act on climate change

Document 4: Deforestation in Sub-Saharan Africa: At the end of 1990, Africa had an estimated 528 million hectares, or 30 percent of the world’s tropical forests. In several Sub-Saharan African countries, the rate of deforestation exceeded the
global annual average of 0.8 percent. While deforestation in other parts of the world is mainly caused by commercial logging or cattle ranching the leading causes in Africa are associated with human activity. Developing countries rely heavily on wood fuel, the major energy source for cooking and heating. In Africa, the statistics are striking: an estimated 90 percent of the entire continent’s population uses fuelwood for cooking, and in SubSaharan Africa, firewood and brush supply
approximately 52 percent of all energy sources. Source: African Technology Forum

Document 5: Deforestation: It is difficult to imagine that such vast ancient woodlands are at risk of extinction. But they are disappearing at an alarming rate. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), indigenous (also
known as “old-growth”) forests in Africa are being cut down at a rate of more than 4 mn hectares per year — twice the world’s deforestation average.
According to the FAO, losses totalled more than 10 percent of the continent’s total forest cover between 1980 and 1995 alone. Source: “Saving Africa’s
Forests, ‘The Lungs of The World’
by Michael Fleshman.

Document 6: Desertification: Desertification is defined as the persistent degradation of dryland ecosystems by climatic variations and human activities. Simply put, desertification is the process by which fertile lands become deserts, typically because of drought, deforestation or inappropriate agriculture. Desertification affects up to 30 percent of land worldwide, and 1.5 billion people around the world depend on land at risk from desertification for their main source of food or income. Seventy-four percent of these people already live in poverty.

In sub-Saharan Africa, desertification may force up to 50 million people to flee their homes by 2020. Since 1923, the Sahara Desert has expanded by 10 percent, especially affecting people living in the Sahel region. Dryland covers 65 percent of the African continent, and 70 to 80 percent of people in Ethiopia and Kenya are threatened by
desertification. Source: The Borgen Project

Document 7: Desertification: Desertification is most severe in Africa. Arid lands account for two-thirds of the African continent, and three-quarters of the continent’s drylands that are used for agriculture have already begun to lose productivity. A total of 45 percent of Africa’s population lives in drylands that are susceptible to desertification, according to the United Nations Development Program’s Drylands Population Assessment II. In Kenya, a three-year drought has withered crops and killed livestock, leaving thousands of people without adequate food supplies. Two-thirds of the country’s land has been severely affected by the drought, and over 40 percent of Kenya’s cattle and up to 20 percent of its sheep and goats have perished,
according to the Arid Lands Resource Management Project, a government initiative. In neighboring Tanzania, widespread tree felling threatens to transform much of the country’s forest into desert. In early January, Vice President Omar Ali Juma called attention to the worsening problem, noting that the country is losing between 320,000 and 1.2 million acres of forest land each year to the expansion of agricultural lands and to increased demand for fuelwood. Livestock herders also contribute to the deterioration of Tanzania’s forests by moving their herds from arid areas in the north to the vegetation- and water-rich forests of the south.


  1. What climate problems are affecting Africa?
  2. Why are deforestation and desertification threatening the survival of sub-Saharan Africa?
  3. How can deforestation and desertification in Africa be prevented

Topic: Pandemics
Aim: How does the world’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic illustrate about the possibilities for responding to climate change? The response to the Corona Virus pandemic led to an unintended decrease in human causes of climate change.

“Levels of air pollutants and warming gases over some cities and regions are showing significant drops as coronavirus impacts work and travel.

With global economic activity ramping down as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it is hardly surprising that emissions of a variety of gases related to energy and transport would be reduced.”
Source: Coronavirus: Air pollution and CO2 fall rapidly as virus spreads

“Traffic levels in the [New York] city were estimated to be down 35% compared with a year ago. Emissions of carbon monoxide, mainly due to cars and trucks, have fallen by around 50% for a couple of days this week according to researchers at Columbia University. They have also found that there was a 5-10% drop in CO2 over New York and a solid drop in methane as well.”

In Los Angeles, New York, Manila and Milan, the skies clear as air pollution drops. In Venice, the canal water is clear enough to see fish, and dolphins are returning. What would the world be like if we decided to pursue this trend?

Less asthma and cancer, fewer lung and heart diseases, fewer deaths. More beauty in our lives. A slowing of global emissions.” Source: Opinion |Does Coronavirus Bring a New Perspective on Climate Change?

“People in the northern Indian state of Punjab are reacting with awe at the sight of the Himalayan mountain range, which is now visible from more than 100 miles away due to the reduction in air pollution caused by the country’s coronavirus
lockdown.” Source:
Video: Coronavirus lockdown: What Impact on the Planet?


  1. What response to climate change did the coronavirus cause globally?
  2. How did this pandemic lessen the effects of climate change?
  3. As countries plan to restart their economies, what are some changes they should consider in light of unintended consequences of quarantine?

East Africa Confronts New Climate Change Plague
Aim: How has climate change caused the worst Desert Locust in over seventy years in the Horn of Africa?
Rising numbers of Desert Locusts in East Africa are a threat to food security and livelihood. Kenya is experiencing the worst Desert Locust infestation in over seventy years.

Document 1: Desert Locusts. “The eighth plague that the Judaic God launched against the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun in the Old Testament story of Exodus was swarms of locust. The locust covered the sun and devoured everything green in
the fields. This immense locust swarm is a direct result of global warming and climate change. Warming of the Indian Ocean produced record heavy rainfall in the region from October through December, accelerating the breeding and growth of
the desert locust.

Document 2: Effects of Desert Locusts. “Kenya is battling its worst desert locust outbreak in 70 years, and the infestation has spread through much of the eastern part of the continent and the Horn of Africa, razing pasture and croplands in Somalia and Ethiopia and sweeping into South Sudan, Djibouti, Uganda and Tanzania. The highly mobile creatures can travel over 80 miles a day. Their swarms, which can contain as many as 80 million locust adults in each square kilometer, eat the same amount of food daily as about 35,000 people.”

Document 3: “Rising numbers of Desert Locusts present an extremely alarming and unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in the Horn of Africa. It is the worst outbreak of Desert Locusts seen in the region for decades. Tens of thousands of
hectares of croplands and pasture have been damaged in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia with potentially severe consequences in a region where 11.9 million people are already food insecure. The potential for destruction is enormous.” Rising
temperatures also mean locusts can mature more quickly and spread to higher elevation environments. Given that many locusts are adapted to arid regions, if climate change expands the geographic extent of these lands, locusts could
expand their range as well. “Therefore, in general, locust outbreaks are expected to become more frequent and severe under climate change,” said Arianne Cease, director of the Global Locust Initiative at Arizona State University. Source:


  1. How has climate changed caused faster breeding and growth of Desert Locust?
  2. How have increased swarms of Desert Locust devastated life in Kenya?

Topic: Climate Change
Aim: Can the world reverse global warming?
“Socratic Seminar CRQ “Task: Have students seating arranged to participate in a Socratic Seminar Using specific details from each document, students should discuss:

  1. What is the goal of each author?
  2. How do youth become important in affecting change?
  3. If you had Theodore Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., and Greta Thunberg over for a dinner party- what would they say to each other? What would they say to you? (Think about each person’s goals, methods, areas of agreement, areas of disagreement, etc.)

Informed Action/Extension activities: Donald Trump (Republican) and Joseph Biden (Democrat) will need to present a plan to address climate change as they try to appeal to American voters. Research each candidate’s
policy proposals/actions on climate change and prepare a graphic organizer to illustrate these with you class. What policy proposals and decisions do you agree with? Disagree with?

“My message is that we’ll be watching you.”
“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side
of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m
one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are
collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is
money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!
“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and
solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

Who is Greta addressing in this speech?
Who are “us” that Greta is referring to?

You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the
situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to
“The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50%
chance of staying below 1.5 degrees [Celsius], and the risk of setting off irreversible
chain reactions beyond human control.
“Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping
points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the
aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking
hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely
“So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the
“To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise – the
best odds given by the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] – the world had
420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on Jan. 1st, 2018. Today that figure is already
down to less than 350 gigatons.
“How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just ‘business as usual’ and some
technical solutions? With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be
entirely gone within less than 8 1/2 years.
“There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here
today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature
enough to tell it like it is.
“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.
“We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the
line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.

Why does Greta think current climate change initiatives will fail?
“And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is” What is ironic about
this statement?
What “change” is Greta alluding to?

Document I: Climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, addressed the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit in New York City on September 23, 2019. Here’s the full transcript of Thunberg’s speech, beginning with her response to a question about the message she has for world leaders.

1) In your opinion, was Greta Thunberg’s speech effective in moving young people to take action against climate change?
2) What part(s) of Greta’s speech had the strongest impact? Why?
3) Greta Thunberg was 16 years old when she delivered this speech to the United Nations. Does this fact make her speech more or less powerful?

Document 2: Statement by Martin Luther King Jr. at the Youth Leadership Conference, April 15, 1960
Background: Over two hundred student and adult activists gathered at Shaw University for an Easter weekend youth conference to discuss the growing
sit-in movement. King issued this statement at a press conference on the opening day of the meeting. The following day, King addressed a mass meeting at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. During the three-day conference, youth leaders voted to create the Temporary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

This is an era of offensive on the part of oppressed people. All peoples deprived of dignity and freedom are on the march on every continent throughout the world. The student sit-in movement represents just such an offensive in the history of the Negro
peoples’ struggle for freedom. The students have taken the struggle for justice into their own strong hands. In less than two months more Negro freedom fighters have revealed to the nation and the world their determination and courage than has occurred in many years. They have embraced a philosophy of mass direct nonviolent action. They are moving away from tactics which are suitable merely for gradual and long-term change.

Today the leaders of the sit-in movement are assembled here from ten states and some forty communities to evaluate these recent sit-ins and to chart future goals. They realize that they must now evolve a strategy for victory. Some elements which
suggest themselves for discussion are:

1) The need for some type of continuing organization. Those who oppose justice are
well organized. To win out the student movement must be organized.
2) The students must consider calling for a nation-wide campaign of “selective buying.” Such a program is a moral act. It is a moral necessity to select, to buy from these agencies, these stores, and businesses where one can buy with dignity and self-respect. It is immoral to spend one’s money where one cannot be treated with respect.
3) The students must seriously consider training a group of volunteers who will
willingly go to jail rather than pay bail or fines. This courageous willingness to go to
jail may well be the thing to awaken the dozing conscience of many of our white
brothers. We are in an era in which a prison term for a freedom struggle is a badge of honor.
4) The youth must take the freedom struggle into every community in the South without exception. The struggle must be spread into every nook and cranny. Inevitably this broadening of the struggle and the determination which it represents will arouse vocal and vigorous support and place pressures on the federal government that will compel its intervention.
5) The students will certainly want to delve deeper into the philosophy of nonviolence. It must be made palpably clear that resistance and nonviolence are not in themselves good. There is another element that must be present in our struggle that then makes our resistance and nonviolence truly meaningful. That element is reconciliation. Our ultimate end must be the creation of the beloved community. The tactics of nonviolence without the spirit of nonviolence may indeed become a new kind of violence.


  1. What was the purpose of “sit-ins” of the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement? Why was it important for students to become involved?
  2. What is a climate strike?
  3. What are similarities and differences between the climate strikes of today and the sit-ins of the 1960’s?

Document 3: American Antiquities Act of 1906, 16 USC 431-433
Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That any person who shall appropriate, excavate, injure, or destroy any historic or prehistoric ruin or monument, or any object of
antiquity, situated on lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States, without the permission of the Secretary of the Department of the Government having jurisdiction over the lands on which said antiquities are situated, shall, upon
conviction, be fined in a sum of not more than five hundred dollars or be imprisoned for a period of not more than ninety days, or shall suffer both fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court.
Sec. 2. That the President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits
of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.
Sec. 3. That permits for the examination of ruins, the excavation of archaeological sites, and the gathering of objects of antiquity upon the lands under their respective jurisdictions may be granted by the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, and War to institutions which the may deem properly qualified to conduct such examination, excavation, or gathering, subject to such rules and regulation as they may prescribe.
Sec. 4. That the Secretaries of the Departments aforesaid shall make and publish from time to time uniform rules and regulations for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this Act. Approved, June 8, 1906.
President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law on June 8, 1906.

Read the following quotes from President Theodore Roosevelt. Choose one of these quotes. For this quote:

  1. Define the historical context behind President Roosevelt’s words.
  2. Explain and give examples of how the Antiquities Act (1906) could be used to improve the situation(s) Roosevelt brings attention to.

Quote #1: “We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the
time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still
further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding
the fields and obstructing navigation.”

Quote #2: “But we are, as a whole, still in that low state of civilization where we do
not understand that it is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the
destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals— not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements. But at last it looks as if our people were awakening.”

Socratic Seminar CRQ “Task: Have students seating arranged to participate in a Socratic Seminar. Using specific details from each document, students should discuss:
1) What is the goal of each author?
2) How do youth become important in affecting change?
If you had Theodore Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., and Greta Thunberg over for a dinner party what would they say to each other? What would they say to you? (Think about each person’s goals, methods, areas of agreement, areas of disagreement, etc.)

Informed Action/Extension activities:
1) Donald Trump (Republican) and Joseph Biden (Democrat) will need to present a plan to address climate change as they try to appeal to American voters. Research each candidate’s policy proposals/actions on climate change and prepare a graphic organizer to illustrate these with your class.
What policy proposals and decisions do you agree with? Disagree with?

2) A great project is launching a Climate Emergency Campaign in your community. The Climate Emergency Campaign asks local governments to declare a climate emergency. Students can lobby school boards to mandate teaching how climate change threatens local communities and human civilization. In 2017, Hoboken, New Jersey was the first city in the United States and the third city in the world to
declare a Climate Emergency. Hoboken is located on the Hudson River flood plain and suffered serious damage during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The Climate Mobilization website has a sample Climate Emergency resolution.