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Big Era Seven: Landscape Unit 7.4

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Humans in a Hurry: Nineteenth-Century Migrations
1830 - 1914 CE

Why This Unit?

Big Era Seven is about the immense changes brought about by vastly expanded interconnections around the globe. This unit, the study of human movement from around 1830 through the early twentieth century, gives students an understanding of how these revolutions in science and communications affected individual lives.

The revolutions that occurred in Big Era Seven had a significant impact on how humans interacted with each other, with ideas, and with the environment. The increasingly efficient use of fossil fuels made transportation (shipping, railways) over long distances far faster and more convenient than had ever been available. As people moved, they carried information. As the era progressed, new methods of communicating via electronic wires moved ideas to still wider audiences at still faster rates. This created an atmosphere in which news and information became available on a previously unknown scale.

The availability of news informed people about new opportunities far from home—or new threats at home—that led to massive human migration. In some cases, they were drawn to new opportunities. In others, factors such as disease or oppression pushed people from their homes. In some ways, migration offered people the chance to improve their lives, but there were negative aspects as well. The concentration of workers in industrial centers offered employment and housing. However, the burning of fossil fuels in those centers and the crowding of people into cramped, often filthy homes created an unhealthy setting. Also, urban expansion to accommodate more industry and people led to the destruction of surrounding ecosystems. The very factors that may have initially drawn people to a region could become the factors that subsequently pushed them away.

For students, a study of human movement during Big Era Seven provides a number of useful tools. In studying this unit, students will come to understand how the world was transformed into a tighter global community than ever before. They will learn how to take historical data from varied sources to create a hypothesis about human responses to various pressures. Perhaps more importantly, they will develop an understanding of the factors which led the world to the tremendous conflicts that took place during Big Era Eight, and they will gain a sense of historical continuity connecting what may appear to be very diverse events.

Unit Objectives

Upon completing this unit, students will be able to:

1.) Describe the chronological movements which set the stage for Big Era Eight.

2.) Explain the communications innovations of the period.

3.) Explain factors which contribute to human migration.

4.) Analyze a given context and create a hypothesis regarding the potential for human movement in that context.

Time and Materials

This Teaching Unit is presented in five lessons, each designed to take approximately 45 minutes. Lessons 2 and 3 can be completed within this time, though it may be advisable to break each one over two class periods to allow for a more complete discussion and exposition of related information. Any of the lessons can be shortened as necessary or augmented with additional activities.

Materials required include: white board/markers, an overhead or computer projector, transparency (world map), and Internet connection.

Table of Contents

Why this unit?


Unit objectives


Time and materials




The historical context


This unit in the Big Era time line


Lesson 1: An Introduction to Human Movement

Lesson 2: The Communications Revolution
Lesson 3: Pressures to Migrate
Lesson 4: Forms of Migration
Lesson 5: Wrap-Up
This unit and the Three Essential Questions
This unit and the Seven Key Themes
This unit and the Standards in Historical Thinking
Correlations to National and State Standards
Conceptual links to other lessons

Complete Teaching Unit in PDF format

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