History Resource Cupboard – lessons and resources for schools

History Resource Cupboard - lessons and resources for schools

6. What did medieval Europeans know of the wider world?

This enquiry builds on the work done in the previous lesson, where students focused on movement/travel within Europe.

Here, the focus is on medieval Europeans’ knowledge of the wider world.

First, some misconceptions about medieval travel are addressed – including the oft-quoted idea that Christopher Columbus was the first European to arrive in the Americas, and the notion that medieval people believed that the earth was flat.

Next, students are given the chance to study a range of sources, including medieval maps and travellers’ accounts.

Here they consider what these sources tell us about medieval people’s knowledge of the world, and their attitudes towards ‘foreign’ people and places.

A final activity sees students produce book reviews for either Marco Polo’s or John Mandeville’s medieval travel accounts, and they are encouraged to make a judgement about the ‘accuracy’ of one of these accounts.

All in all, an enquiry that develops students’ source skills, whilst bringing them face-to-face with the half-men-half-goats, bearded ladies, dragons and phoenixes that were said to exist in the world beyond Europe’s borders!

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  • Lesson presentation: PowerPoint
  • Lesson write-up: PDF
  • Worksheets 1 & 2: PDF
  • Resource 1-5:PDF

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