United States History

Columbus: Hero or Villain Debate

           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.


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

     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**

     3.      Click here to download and read a chapter about Columbus from

               America:  The Last Best Hope

     4.      Click here to read a set of documents that will help you decide is

               Columbus is a Hero or Villain

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

     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)

     7.      Click on this link to view the video about some of the effects of

               Columbus’ first expeditions

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

               and importance

     9.      Answer the summary questions on the back of your worksheet (listed

               below as well):

      Summary Questions:

     1.      What were Columbus’ initial motives?

     2.      What has been his legacy (how history remembers him) as a result of his

               exploration and “discovery” of the New World?

     3.      According to Barolome de las Casas, what happened in the New World

               as a result of the European arrival?  Describe examples.

     4.      How does Bartolome de las Casas’ account shed new light on what

               happened after Columbus’ arrival in the New World?

     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?

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

           In Class Debate:  

     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:

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