L’état, c’est moi – Absolutism and the State

Target Student Group: I will be using these some of these sources in my tenth grade World History classes.

Lesson context – My students are currently studying the age of Absolutist European monarchies. During the past week, students have learned the context of significant absolutist rulers in France, England, and Russia and completed a compare and contrast activity. This week, students will engage in a review of key ideas from the unit and complete an ABC book of Absolutism. This lesson will serve as a review of why some governments would pursue an absolutist ideology.

The four main content areas we will address include:  (1) understand the concept of absolutism (2) compare and contrast absolutism in France, Russia, and England, (3) articulate the role of absolutist policies in European expansion and colonization, (4) compare and contrast pros and cons of different government types.

Document 1 – Source: Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, 1513
…For all men in general this observation may be made: they are ungrateful, fickle, and deceitful, eager to avoid dangers, and avid for gain, and while you are useful to them they are all with you, but when it [danger] approaches they turn on you. Any prince, trusting only in their works and having no other preparations made, will fall to ruin, for friendships that are bought at a price and not by greatness and nobility of soul are paid for indeed, but they are not owned and cannot be called upon in time of need. Men have less hesitation in offending a man who is loved than one who is feared, for love is held by a bond of obligation which, as men are wicked, is broken whenever personal advantage suggests it, but fear is accompanied by the dread of punishment, which never relaxes.

Close reading prompt
Who wrote this? What claims does the author make about how a prince should rule? How does the language indicate the authors perspective?

Document 2 – Source: King Louis XIV of France in 1660
The head alone has the right to deliberate and decide, and the functions of all the other members consist only in carrying out the commands given to them… The more you grant… [to the assembled people], the more it claims.. The interest of the state must come first.

Close reading prompt
Who wrote this? What is the author’s perspective? What claims does the author make about the government? How does the document’s language indicate the author’s perspective? Is it reliable?

Document 3 – Source Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, 1748.
Although the forms of state—monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy—were united in English government, the powers of government were separated from one another. There can be no liberty where the executive, legislative, and judicial powers are united in one person or body of persons, such concentration is bound to result in tyranny and oppression.

Close reading prompt
Who wrote this? What is the author’s perspective?  Do the documents agree? If not, why? What claims does the author make? Which document is the most reliable?

Teachers guide
Document 1: This document was written by Niccoló Machiavelli. The author claim that princes cannot be trusting of others and must instead instill fear over their subjects. Machiavelli claims that loyalty through love turns in the face of danger, however, loyalty earned through fear of punishment never relaxes. In order for a prince to be respected, they must be feared rather than loved. The author uses language to describe people like ‘wicked,’ ‘deceitful,’ and ‘ungrateful,’ to indicate their disdain for people.

Document 2: King Louis XIV wrote this. The author believes that the head of the state should make all of the decisions in government, reinforcing the idea of absolute power of the monarchy. They believe that the more power you grant to the people, the more they demand. The author uses language, such as referring to the head as making deliberate decisions and other members ‘only carrying out commands given to them,’ to indicate their perspective on how government should function. The author is not reliable because they are the king, and it is in their best interest to hold the power.

Document 3: The author is Montesquieu. Montesquieu believes that a government without a separation of powers is tyranny. This document does not agree with Machiavelli or Louis XIV, who believe in ruling through fear, and through absolute power, respectively. Montesquieu argues that the executive, legislative and judicial powers cannot be concentrated under one person or body, clashing with both the other two documents. Document three is the most reliable because it argues for a system of government closer to what we strive for in a democratic society today, including a division of powers to prevent tyranny.

Following reading these documents and responding to the close reading questions, students will be asked to compare the advantages and disadvantages of each system of government the above authors are arguing for.

Title image source: Louis XIV Rigaud Condé Chantilly, liscenced on Wikimedia Commons

Document source: Noonan, T. C. (1999). Document-Based Assessment for Global History. Portland, Maine: J. Weston, Walch. https://www.bridgeportedu.net/cms/lib/CT02210097/Centricity/Domain/3754/Scully_Absolutism_WesternCiv.pdf

Create An Interactive Presentation With Nearpod

Learn how to create a Nearpod Presentation

The intended audience for this video is students to demonstrate how they can use Nearpod to create interactive presentations for potential class assignments. However, this video also could be used by other teachers for them to learn a new classroom resource. As both students and teachers adjust to remote teaching, tools like Nearpod can be helpful to rethink how we conduct classroom assessments. Nearpod allows for collaborative and interactive presentations and easily plugs into Google Slides, making it highly intuitive for students already using Google Classrooms.

These factors make Nearpod another excellent tool in the arsenal of remote teachers and students.

If you would like to experience the student side of the asynchronous presentation, click this link: https://share.nearpod.com/ZORR5hvQPab

Featured Image: https://www.canva.com/media/MADGv96A6pc

The Middle Passage: Confronting Our Dark History

Title image source: link

Target Audience and Setting:
10th grade World History Class in a distance learning setting

As part of an ongoing unit on the explorers and European colonization of the Americas, we will be discussing one of the major consequences of this era, the start of the Atlantic Slave trade. It is estimated that over 12.5 million enslaved people were taken from Africa over a four-hundred-year span, drastically changing world history and inflicting untold horrors on people. Students may have studied U.S. slavery in the past, but many may not have the full scope of the Atlantic slave trade, of which only 400,000 arrived in the modern-day United States. Students will have previously studied the colonization and enslavement of various indigenous peoples’ in the Americas and will be able to understand this period as a larger piece in the story of European colonization.

To introduce this lesson, I will have students engage in a short interactive presentation that will help gauge what they already know about the Atlantic slave trade using Nearpod. Students will have already seen a short video that provides some basic background information about this topic that should allow them to share some key details. Students will then go into breakout groups to analyze one of three primary source documents with their groups and take notes on what they learn about the conditions of enslaved people on the Middle Passage from these documents. Students will then complete a Google Form exit ticket to demonstrate their understanding of the lesson.

Resources for learning:
The Atlantic slave trade: What too few textbooks told you – Anthony Hazard
Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database: Timelapse
The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes
Atlantic Slave Trade Documents

Delivery Considerations:
Using Nearpod will allow me to do direct instruction ad solicit engagement to see what my students already know. It will take time for students to log into the Nearpod class sessions, which is why I will instruct them to watch the YouTube video before class to allow for this transition. This will also allow enough time to get the breakout room situation sorted out for students, giving them enough time to read and analyze their short documents. Google Forms will serve as an exit ticket strategy to know how effective the lesson was in a remote setting.

Google Form Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Slave_ship_diagram.png

Studying Non-Western Explorers: Studying Zheng He’s Voyages through Images

Target audience and setting
The target group for these lessons is a 10th grade World History class during their unit focusing on the Age of Exploration


Our history classrooms give a lot of airtime for the well-known European explorers, Columbus, Pizzaro, Henry the Navigator, Ferdinand Magellan, and others. However, another notable explorer who often receives less attention is China’s Zheng He. He sailed throughout Southeast Asia, Arabia, and the Middle East for Ming Dynasty China with an enormous fleet of 300 ships (some over 400 feet long) and 28,000 people. This impressive voyage took place nearly 100 years before Columbus’ three ships stumbled upon the shores of the America’s.

This voyage is interesting to contrast with the later European explorers by looking at the sheer size of Zheng He’s fleet and how the nature of his voyages were both similar and different from European colonizers. The goal of this lesson will be for students to analyze the expedition of Zheng He and interpret images to determine the significance of Zheng He’s fleet.


To introduce this lesson, I will show a short presentation and providing background information on the voyages of Zheng He. Following the video, I will present students with a few primary source image documents and divide them into breakout rooms. Students will be able to analyze the images to answer questions about them in a Google Form about their significance.

Resources for learning
Zheng He PBS World Explorers: Link
Google form: Link

Delivery considerations
This lesson will be delivered remotely using Google Slides featuring Nearpod add-ons and Google Forms. This strategy will allow the lesson to be interactive in a remote setting.

Image Sources: