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AP(R) World History Teaching Unit C1: Free and Unfree Agrarian Workers: Peasants and Slaves, 1550-1750

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Note: Please be advised that these teaching units were created prior to the course revisions implemented in the 2011-12 academic year. However, the units still address topics central to the revised course. [Electronic Document] This unit focuses on the worlds of peasants and slaves as they evolved in the two centuries from 1550 to 1750. Students will learn that similar forms of work developed in different parts of the world to address (1) immediate needs that peasants and their lords defined for local consumption, (2) revenue needs that peasants or their lords required from a regional market, and (3) the development of a slave-based economy serving a global market for foodstuffs that brought more and more revenue to an ever-smaller group of landlords. These activities collectively will allow students to actively uncover the world of agricultural laborers -- whether in diversified estate systems or cash crop economies. In addition to learning about work, students will also learn about the nature of workers' relationships to those whom they owed obligations, whether they were "free" peasants or whether they were "unfree" serfs or slaves. The unit thus addresses the evolving nature of agrarian work and changes in social structure, as well as economics and politics and the changing life of people in rural communities.

Lessons focus on the mapping of principal agricultural crops, analysis of the nature of agricultural work in various world regions, the nature of life and work for free peasants, the nature of life and work for unfree agriculturists (slaves and serfs), and interpreting the changing patterns of agricultural work. Students will look at two cases from each of the continents. They include Ethiopia and Kongo in Africa, Brazil and Mexico in the Americas, China and Japan in Asia, and France and Russia in Europe. Student activities include creating maps on the production of major crops, analyzing images to identify the character of agricultural work, analyzing primary texts to learn the work of free peasants and then of unfree agricultural laborers, and writing a document-based question.

Length of Document:
46 pages

File Size:
Approximately 550 kb