In this challenge, students learn about the imperial worldview that fuelled Spain's desire to expand by deciding on five essential items to take on a conquistador voyage and by justifying their choices in a letter or a speech.
A. Select five essential items to take on a conquistador voyage.
Review expansionist worldview
Review with students the expansionist worldview that developed during the Age of Discovery.
For more information on expansionism, see First-hand Accounts (Critical Challenge) and in When Worldviews Meet (Critical Challenge).
Research Spain’s motivations for expansion
Direct students, individually or in groups, to conduct further research on the Spanish imperialist mindset:
- Spain’s motivations for expanding its empire
- how exploration influenced Spanish worldview.
Encourage students to use text and electronic sources to gather this information (see References). Teachers may wish to provide a two-column note-taking chart with the headings Key Ideas and What It Tells Me. This chart will assist students in recording the important elements in Spain’s desire to expand its empire and in drawing conclusions about how this expansionist mindset reflected Spanish worldview.
You may want to adapt one of the charts in Supporting Conclusions (Support Material) to structure this activity.
Create a collective list of motivations
Invite groups to share their research. On the board, make a list of motivations for expansion, including the following:
- "God, Glory and Gold"
- Christianity—the opportunity to spread Christian faith to Indigenous peoples
- competition—among monarchs to gain glory
- commerce—the race to divide the Americas; the opportunity to make money through the trade of valuable resources
- curiosity—the opportunity to learn about the Americas
- personal aggrandizement of the conquistador leaders
- greed—responding to tales of great mineral wealth.
Help students understand that there was seldom a single motivation for the monarchs, the governments or even the conquistadors themselves.
Brainstorm and rate essential items
Ask students to imagine that they are conquistador leaders about to make a journey to the Americas. They must decide which five items would be essential to take with them to fulfill their goals. Tell students to assume that their needs for food, water and other basic goods will be met.
As a class, develop criteria for determining the most essential items:
- historically accurate
- directly relate to the identified motivations
- represent the most important purposes for your country.
Inform students that the items do not have to be described in historical detail but they should be historically accurate; e.g., "muskets and gunpowder" is sufficient description; it is unnecessary to specify the type of matchlock musket.
Based upon their understanding of their roles, invite students to complete the following tasks:
- List the motivations for expansion in order of importance and provide a rationale.
- Brainstorm a number of possible items needed to fulfill the top five motivations.
- Explain why each item would be suitable and how it reflects the key motivations.
- Evaluate each item against the criteria.
- Select the five most essential items.
As illustrated below, you may want to adapt the chart Meeting Specifications in Considering Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.
Meets Criteria? (√/X)
- You need weapons not only to acquire wealth, but also to protect the wealth from others.
- Gifts may be helpful in gaining favour with local people.
B. Write a historical justification for your choice of essential items from the point of view of a member of Cortés’ voyage to the Americas.
Prepare a justification
Invite students to prepare a historical justification for their selection in one of two formats:
- a convincing speech they will deliver to the crew on Cortés’ship
- a persuasive letter to the monarch requesting the five essential items.
In either case, students must explain why their selected items are so important for the success of the voyage. Students need to defend the importance of the five essential items for the trip; e.g., why the motivations are the most important ones and how the items will help fulfill these motivations.
Develop criteria for an effective presentation
You may want students to make their presentation as historically realistic as possible, based upon their understanding of their roles. Care must be taken to ensure that presentations are respectful and do not invite inappropriate generalizations or stereotyping.
Review criteria for an authentic presentation with the class. Suggested criteria may include the following:
- accurate information
- specific details
- first person point of view
- portrayal of the values and worldview of the times.
See Creating Authentic Diaries (Modelling the Tools) for suggestions on how to teach and assess the tools for writing an authentic diary or journal entry about a historical event from the perspective of an individual at the time.
Share finished products
Invite students to deliver their speeches or read their letters to the class. Encourage students to discuss the relative importance of the motivations for Spanish expansionism. Where possible, connect these motivations to what is known about various elements of the Spanish worldview.