Columbus: Hero or Villain Debate

  1. Bullet Introduction -- Christopher Columbus and the Spanish explorers who arrived first in the New World sought Gold and God.  Both unintentionally and intentionally, the European explorers spread disease and perpetrated acts of violence against the Native populations that resulted in the enslavement and death of untold millions.  You will explore some competing ideas on Columbus, his motives, and debate his legacy.

  2. Bullet Process:

  3. 1. Get into groups of 2-3 (or do for homework outside of class)

  4. 2. Click here to download the Columbus Debate Worksheet (if you did not already receive one in class).  **As you complete this activity, take notes on the front of this worksheet of both the positives and negatives of Columbus’ legacy and the Columbian Exchange**

  5. 3. Click here to download and read a chapter about Columbus from America:  The Last Best Hope

  6. 4. Click here to read a set of documents that will help you decide is Columbus is a Hero or Villain

  7. 5. Click here to read a section from Columbus’ diary

  8. 6. Click here to download and read Bartolome de las Casas’ account of the devastation of Hispaniola (he traveled to the New World and witnessed many of the events described)

  9. 7. Click on this link to view the video about some of the effects of Columbus’ first expeditions

  10. 8. Click here to read a summary of the Columbian Exchange, its meaning and importance

  11. 9. Answer the summary questions on the back of your worksheet (listed below as well):


  1. Bullet Summary Questions:

  2. 1. What were Columbus’ initial motives?

  3. 2. What has been his legacy (how history remembers him) as a result of his exploration and “discovery” of the New World?

  4. 3. According to Barolome de las Casas, what happened in the New World as a result of the European arrival?  Describe examples.

  5. 4. How does Bartolome de las Casas’ account shed new light on what happened after Columbus’ arrival in the New World?

  6. 5. Does this collision of two worlds (between Europe and Native Americans) make it so that conflict between Europeans and Native Americans would be inevitable?  Why or why not?

  7. 6. What are the positive benefits to the “Columbian Exchange”?


  1. Bullet In Class Debate:  

  2.      We will debate Columbus’ legacy in class.  You will be divided into groups of 2-3 individuals and prepare an argument in response to the following debate prompt:


  3.         RESOLVED:  Columbus Day should remain a national holiday in the United States.

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