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Richard Hakluyt and the Case for Undertaking Sea Voyages

75 min
  • Students will be able to identify the challenges and risks explorers faced while undertaking these voyages.
  • Students will be able to identify and analyze the motivations of European explorers that justified these dangerous voyages.

1. Students should respond individually to the following question: When is a time that you have taken a risk? Why did you commit to this action, as opposed to deciding that it was too risky?

2. Lead students in a discussion about risks and rewards. Follow-up questions to their responses to the warm-up question might include:

  1. What was the risk? What did you have to lose?
  2. What motivated you?
  3. What was there to gain?
  4. Was it worth it?
  5. Were you always successful? What challenges did you face?

3. Ask students to connect this to the sea voyages undertaken by Europeans in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. On the board, create a modified pros and cons list using “Rewards” and “Risks” as column heads. For each category, ask students to volunteer responses relevant to English sea voyages, in particular those in the 1500s. Here, you can solicit some global context. Sample responses include:

  1. Rewards:
    1. colonies (more people or subjects for the crown)
    2. more resources = more money
    3. showing power and dominance
    4. fame, glory, prestige
    5. proving destiny or divine right globally
    6. keeping up with the Spanish
  2. Risks:
    1. poor maps, poor navigation tools, poor knowledge of the oceans and world
    2. natural dangers, disease, weather, unknown geography
    3. pirates
    4. no certainty of what will be there
    5. separation from family and government
    6. financial backers may not see a return on their investment
    7. explorers may die, be humiliated, be punished for failing, or need to pay back investment

1. Distribute Handout A: Hakluyt Primary Source Packet to students.

2. Read the document introduction aloud and answer the sourcing questions as a class.

3. Divide the source into passages and assign each to small groups.

4. Each group should answer the questions about their passage and prepare a short summary of the main ideas or gist of their assigned passage to share with the class.

5. Have all groups share their summary.

6. Once all groups have shared, students should individually choose one of the three assessment options (below) to complete.

Students will choose one the options below as their conclusion to the lesson:

  1. Write a letter to parliament as the king or queen of England justifying the expense of these voyages and your hopes for their return. Convince parliament to support your decision to send or perhaps continue to send voyages to the New World.
  2. In your memoirs, as the king or queen of England, you are reflecting on your decision to spend great amounts of money and risk dangerous seas and pirates for what you got in return. Think about the changes that were revolutionary to England as a result of these voyages, and what England and your reign would look like had they not been made.

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