Invasion: Reading Strategies


The First Crusade, 1096-1099

Pre-Reading Strategies
Recollections of European History

What images and memories come to mind from your previous study of Europe and Spain around the end of the Middle Ages? From recollections of art, literature, history, write down your impressions of everyday life, work, and social conditions at the time?

  • Who had power?

  • What were the main kinds of political structures?

  • How did governments work?

  • Who dominated in Spain and what had transpired there for the last millennium?


Recalling Images of Columbus

Write a portrait of Columbus from your study of history, from pictures and movies you have seen. Describe him and his compatriots as you recall them. Write what you think were his intentions in sailing west from Europe.


Identifying the Source

After doing either or both of the above tasks, identify and discuss the source of your memories and viewpoints. Where did you get these ideas? How accurate do you think your images are?

Post-Reading Strategies
The End of the World: Questions for Discussion

  • How would you describe everyday life in Europe and/or Spain after reading the chapter?  How does this image agree or contrast with the image you had of Columbus’s time before your reading?

  • Fifteen-century Spain had a heavy emphasis on military advancements.  How does that emphasis compare with current priorities in the United States?

Getting Inside the Minds of the Colonizers: Cartooning

Draw a cartoon which presents in “imagination bubbles” the mindsets of the merchant and ruling classes of Europe which prepared them for a “conquest” over the people they were about to encounter across the Atlantic.  Draw a contrasting cartoon which sho9ws the mind-sets of other groups of people who also sailed the Atlantic and Pacific, landed on the coasts of the Americas, and did not proceed to conquer its inhabitants.

The First to Land or the First to Conquer?: A Role-Play

(Refer to the requerimento information in the chapter and the section on European views of the natural world.)

Divide into three groups.  The first group represents a part of the world with the following characteristics:

  • Government with a high degree of participation of the people
  • Equitable distribution o f land, goods, and benefits
  • Development of sophisticated navigation techniques
  • Widespread curiosity and interest in exploration
  • No expansionist warfare over neighboring populations


The second group represents another part of the world, which has:

  • An autocratic pattern of government, with power and goods in the hands of a few
  • Sophisticated navigation techniques and also highly advanced weapons
  • A long history of engagement in military battles for power and territory


The third group represents the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean.

The first two groups take turns “landing” in the Americas, pretending to be sailors from the vessels which have sailed long distances and are now meeting natives for the first time. 

  • How do the sailors talk with the natives?
  • What are their goals?
  • What arrangements do they make, out of what worldviews and assumptions?
  • How are the two experiences different?

Charting Key Connections

Several “isms” are mentioned in this chapter as influential ideas and movements at the time of Columbus.  On a large piece of paper write these terms, spacing them all over the page.  In a discussion group draw lines which connect terms and discuss any connections you can make between those “isms.”  Write notes on each “connecting” line which summarize your thoughts on how these terms are connected.

  • Inquisition
  • Nationalism
  • Rationalism
  • Catholicism
  • Humanism
  • Capitalism
  • Feudalism
  • Materialism
  • Judaism
  • Islam Militarism

Impact of the “isms”

Sketch a map of Europe and one of the Western Hemisphere.  Fill in the “isms’ listed above on the European map and draw lines to the Western Hemisphere showing transference of these notions beginning with the arrival of Columbus and the subsequent Spanish conquest.  Again write notes on each “connecting” line which summarize your thoughts on how these ideas were key factors in the conquest of the indigenous people on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Expansionism and Militarism

Study the maps below and discuss the questions presented here:

  • What group controlled the major portion of the Iberian Peninsula in the tenth century?  How do you know?
  • By the end of the eleventh century what had happened to the political control of the Iberian Peninsula?  From y our reading of this section, explain what had transpired in the politics of Spain.
  • Identify the political powers which controlled the peninsula at the time of Columbus’s first voyage.  Describe the importance of the reconquest of Granada for Spain.

Explain why Portugal’s position was better suited for Atlantic conquest and why Columbus’s journey would be perceived by the world as one of conquest and colonization rather than exploration.



Iberian Peninsula, 10th century



Iberian Peninsula at the time of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella

Pre-Reading Strategies
The Western Hemisphere Before the Conquest

Civilizations for Centuries

Draw up a timeline from your memory which indicates how far back indigenous people lived on the continent now known as America. Show as much as you can remember of the different civilizations which existed throughout the centuries before Columbus. As you read the chapter, correct any misconceptions you may have had and add any new information you gain to your timeline.


The Power of the Word

The terms (below) have all been used in reference to the people who were on this continent when Columbus arrived and the space they inhibited. Discuss in writing or in a group what you know about the meaning of these terms, how they originated, and what they conveyed about the people who used them. Discuss in a group how such language was (and is) used to oppress people.


Native Americans, First Americans, indigenous, Indians, primitive, civilized, uncivilized, savage, wilderness, the "wild"

Myriads of People 

Brainstorm a list of as many groups of Native American peoples (nations) that you can. Don't consult any books to do this. Rely on your memory. Compare your list with a comprehensive list in an encyclopedia. Discuss how well you did and how limited our knowledge is of the people who inhabited this continent first. Why do we not know more about the people who lived here in the millions when Columbus landed? 

Post-Reading Strategies
Geographic Regions and Peoples

On a blank of American, label the regions identified in this section of Dangerous Memories and show what groups resided where at about the time Columbus arrived. You will need to obtain a list of names of the hundreds of groups and nations that existed and develop a wall-sized map in order to make the names readable. This is the best done as a group task. If you do this an individual, it would be best to choose one region to research and map only the groups in that regions (e.g., Meso-America or your own region of the United States).

Languages and Cultures’ That Far Outdistance the Conquerors

Linguists and anthropologists have shown that more than three thousand languages were once spoken in the Americas and about two thousand were in existence at the time the Europeans invaded the continent. On the map shown on the following page, Native American languages of North and Central America have been divided into families. Locate the “family” of languages which once was spoken in the area of the United States where you live. Research in an encyclopedia what specific languages belong to this family. Chart these languages on the language map shown here or a map shown here of a map of your own region.

Indigenous Identity and the Land

Read the following thoughts of the indigenous people about their relationship to the land. As you read

  • Take note of the ways in which people feel linked or connected to land;
  • Consider reasons why they may not feel that anyone can own the land;
  • Think about how their ideas of sharing the goods of the earth might stem from their ideas about their relationship to the land: 
  • consider how they felt seeing the land exploited by the Europeans;
  • try to imagine whether Columbus and the Europeans could have understood the natives' perspectives about the land. Could they have understood this radically different perspective if they had been more observant and less driven by the search for material wealth? 
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