BHH In College Classrooms Using Maps POST

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BHH in College ClassroomsUsing MapsUSING MAPSDesigned by Catherine DenialAssistant Professor of History Knox College, Galesburg ILMost college-level textbooks contain numerous maps related to key historical events –westward expansion; sectional tensions; population changes; war. Such maps are useful tostudents, especially for those individuals unfamiliar with the way historical boundariesbetween states and nations change over time. Still, left alone, maps are largely passivereference points. The following exercises encourage students to actively engage with mapsand to transform their understanding of primary and secondary sources throughtransformative mapping.1. Maps as Primary SourcesWhile most students are used to examining maps to glean basic geographic knowledge,historical maps contain a wealth of other information about cartography, politics, and thesociety within which a map was made and used. For example:a) Project the following map of the world – created by Martin Waldesmüller in 1507, basedon the voyages of Americi Vespucci – onto a screen or whiteboard:copyright 2010 Bringing History Home. All Rights Reserved.Page 1

BHH in College ClassroomsUsing Mapsb) Have students list everything they can see – familiar land masses, human figures, oceans,names, and decorative elements.c) Ask students to hypothesize as to why things look different from the way they mightappear on a contemporary global map. Think about who made the piece, whose voyagesinformed the cartography, and what the nationalities of those two figures might mean for theway the visual information on the map was shaped. Consider the orientation of the world –with the Middle East in the center of the map – and why that would be a cartographer'schoice in 1507. Try and figure out which parts of the North and South American continentsappear to the left of the map, and what that suggests about European understandings of thewestern hemisphere.Depending on the amount of time you have to process this map in class, you might want togive students some answers after a short discussion. If you have the opportunity, however,it's always productive to make students the architects of their own learning, and ask them todo research to find the answers. Students can report back on their findings in the next class.The Wadesmüller map reflects religious belief, geographic knowledge, political influence,trade realities, and cartographic skill. But maps can communicate even more. For example:a) Project Diego Gutiérrez's 1562 map of the Americas onto your classroom screen orwhiteboard (an image of the map is on page 3 )copyright 2010 Bringing History Home. All Rights Reserved.Page 2

BHH in College ClassroomsUsing Mapsb) While the difference in geographic knowledge expressed in this map, as compared toWadesmüller's 1507 map, is striking, concentrate not only on land mass, but also on whatappear to be decorative elements:copyright 2010 Bringing History Home. All Rights Reserved.Page 3

BHH in College ClassroomsUsing MapsClose-up images from Diego Gutiérrez's 1562 map of the Americasmonstersbattlesand giantscopyright 2010 Bringing History Home. All Rights Reserved.Page 4

BHH in College ClassroomsUsing MapsDiscuss with your students what each of these images might represent in terms of thechallenges European nations faced in navigating open ocean, colonizing new territories, andfending off competition from rival governments. (It's too easy to dismiss each element asmere fancy – even fanciful images communicate real worries, dangers, and ideas.) Havestudents imagine – and even draw – what this map might look like if Gutiérrez had sought tocapture the perspective of indigenous peoples toward such massive, continental change.Would we see areas peopled by figures with their swords drawn? How would conflict andthe ramifications of disease be represented?2. Maps as Expressions of Prior KnowledgeStudents carry with them beliefs about the way the North American continent looks and thegeographic processes that have unfolded upon it – but since those beliefs are often theproduct of the culture that surrounds them, they may not be conscious of how those mentalimages shape their understanding of place. Asking students to communicate ideas aboutgeography and history on maps can help make cultural knowledge transparent. For example:a) Take a line drawing of North America that does not show modern state borders, and copyit onto multiple transparencies.Map available at http://www.eduplace.com/ss/maps/pdf/n america nl.pdfcopyright 2010 Bringing History Home. All Rights Reserved.Page 5

BHH in College ClassroomsUsing Mapsb) Provide your students with erasable marker pens, and ask them to mark the borders of theAmerican West.c) After everyone has marked borders, set the maps one on top of each other on the overheadprojector, discussing the differences between maps as you go. Why did different studentsdefine the West in different ways? What influenced their decision-making? When do theythink 'The West' came into existence? Do the boundaries they drew apply to thecontemporary land? Where can they identify learning these ideas?d) You can adapt this to different moments and ideas in history – consider doing somethingsimilar with the concept of 'North' and 'South' prior to the Civil War, or to show the extentof United States territory at the end of the American Revolution.3. Maps as Visual OrganizersMaps are a great way to have students transform secondary source information into visualform. For example:a) Have your students read about the trade networks that proliferated between NorthAmerica and other parts of the world in the period 1700-1750.b) Provide several line maps of the world. (Line maps are easily located through Google, andyou can find multiple orientations of the globe to share with your students.)c) Have your students render the information about trade on the maps. How can they use themaps to explain changes in world trade to someone who is unfamiliar with the subject? (Thiscan be done on an individual basis, or as a small group project.)d) Discuss the maps – what was challenging? What was easy to express through this visualmedium? What are the benefits and drawbacks of visual organization as opposed to textualorganization?e) Compare the maps to those in the course text(s). Are they similar? Different? Why?Which map is more useful to the students, in their opinion? Ask for their reasoning.copyright 2010 Bringing History Home. All Rights Reserved.Page 6