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Explorers, Traders & Immigrants


Found in: social studies; 9-12

Explorers, Traders & Immigrants: Tracking the Cultural and Social Effects of the Global Commodity Trade In this unit of case studies, grade 9-12 students of social studies, history, and economics examine eight commodities and their social, cultural, political, and economic effects. The unit provides primary source readings, images, and maps. Each case study is in Document-Based Question (DBQ) format so students can use evidence to develop and support a thesis. Case studies in caviar, chocolate, fur, indigo, rice, rubber, salt, and tea are aligned with TEKS and National Geography Standards. The unit can be downloaded in its entirety ( PDF, 5.3 MB, 186 pgs) or in individual commodity sections:

  • Chocolate: From New World Currency To Global Obsession ( PDF, 813 KB, 36 pgs.) traces cacao from its origin in Mesoamerica to Europe as well as providing information on large-scale production and its widespread popularity today. The case study features a world map, graphs, charts, images, image analysis worksheet, primary sources, and graphic organizers.
  • Indigo: From The Devil’s Dye To Denim ( PDF, 2.4 MB, 44 pgs.) focuses on a variety of indigo believed to be native to Asia and now widely distributed in the tropics. The section examines old world trade and banning of indigo, new world plantations, and the invention of synthetic indigo. All support materials are included.
  • Rubber: From Mesoamerican Ball Game To Modern Transportation  ( PDF 2.5 MB, 34 pgs.) traces the use of rubber back 3,500 years to Mesoamerica where the Maya and Aztecs used rubber balls in games. The section describes the discovery of rubber in South America, European development of it and of the Amazon, and the smuggling of seeds from Brazil to start plantations elsewhere, largely Asia. All support materials are included.

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