Charles C. Mann on the European Conquest of the Americas

“Cultures are like books, the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss once remarked, each a volume in the great library of humankind. In the sixteenth century, more books were burned than ever before or since. How many Homers vanished? How many Hesiods? What great works of painting, sculpture, architecture, and music vanished or never were created? Languages, prayers, dreams, habits, and hopes—all gone. And not just once, but over and over again. In our antibiotic era, how can we imagine what it means to have entire ways of life hiss away like steam? How can one assay the total impact of the unprecedented calamity that gave rise to the world we live in? It seems important to try.” – Charles C. Mann, author of 1491.

Openendsocialstudies.org is bringing the remnants of these vibrant cultures to life in your classroom – check out our library of free readings, lessons, and activities on precolumbian American civilizations.

 

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Great Reading on the Ancient Maya

 

I recently took trip to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.  Forgoing the usual tourist center of Cancun and the Riviera Maya, I headed inland to Mérida.  From this, a Maya city turned Spanish colonial center turned Mexican provincial capital, one of the oldest inhabited places in the Western Hemisphere, I undertook a short series of day trips to the great Maya ruins of the Yucatan, including Chichen Izta, Uxmal, and Ek’ Balam

To maximize my time – to make the most sense of my all too brief visit to this incredible region – I did my homework before I left the States.  Of particular use to me – and to anyone looking to learn more about the Maya and their Mesoamerican neighbors – is The Maya (People and Places) by Michael Coe.  While certain passages were somewhat esoteric in their detailed account of the history of Maya archaeology, the book itself was eminently readable – a great resource for anyone looking to cut through the hype and 2012 sensationalism that soaks the usual Amazon search results.

Aimed at younger readers – but still rich and directly written, with lush illustrations – Ancient Maya by Barbara Somervill is a book that paints a nuanced portrait of this complex society.  Suitable for a middle or high school library, and I can honestly say that as an educator I took a lot away from this book myself.  It never speaks down to its audience, which is the sign that a book is truly accessible to all ages.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann is a perennial favorite of mine.  While its scope is far wider than the Maya – encompassing Teotihuacan, the Aztec, the Inca, and many more Pre-Columbian societies that deserve more attention from the general public, Mann’s masterpiece is a true revelation – an inspiration that started me down the path that eventually led to the creation of Openendedsocialstudies.org.

If you know of any other relevant books I should be looking at – especially if they might help to inform future travel and lessons here at Openendedsocialstudies – please leave a comment in the section below!

The Inca: The Highest Achievements of Andean Civilization

Continue reading “The Inca: The Highest Achievements of Andean Civilization”

Bartolomé de Las Casas and the Atrocities of the Spanish Conquistadors

Continue reading “Bartolomé de Las Casas and the Atrocities of the Spanish Conquistadors”

The Americas: A Free, Open Textbook in Progress

Continue reading “The Americas: A Free, Open Textbook in Progress”

Open Ended Social Studies has the chapters that your world history textbook is missing

What is the root cause of our world’s troubles?  

If you ask me, it’s not a trade imbalance or a terrorist threat.  If we’re talking about the problem that lies at the heart of everything, it’s got to be a severe, devastating lack of empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Continue reading “Open Ended Social Studies has the chapters that your world history textbook is missing”