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Big Era Six: Landscape Unit 6.7


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The Long Reach of the Major Religions
1500 - 1800 CE

Why This Unit?

This unit presents several case studies regarding the extension of Christianity and Islam and their interactions with the societies of the new areas where they traveled. These two faiths have been called “universal” because membership in them is open to anyone who wants to accept their teachings and follow their instructions. In fact, both faiths actively seek to attract new members.

This unit seeks to describe the spread of Islam and Christianity into new areas and to see religion generally as an integral factor of change during the period 1500-1800. One of the major challenges facing those who wished to spread their faith was determining what its relationships should be with the various states and societies where it took root. The carriers of these two universal faiths had to figure out how much to insist on the purity and orthodoxy of each of their faiths and how much they should adapt and broaden their religion’s beliefs and practices to include many local cultural elements. This tension is the underlying theme of this unit.

Unit Objectives

Upon completing this unit, students will be able to:

1.) Explain the major reasons for the Protestant Reformation and discuss the main differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism after 1530.

2.) Analyze the various options that Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims took in their missionary efforts in different areas of the world (e.g. impose orthodoxy or allow for local variations).

3.) Compare and contrast the record of conversion efforts in Europe and the Western Hemisphere with conversion history in Asia (both Christian and Muslim) during this era.

4.) Describe the changing relationship of religion and the state in Europe and Asia during this era.

5.) Evaluate the success of Christian and Muslim expansion and conversions as of 1800.

Time and Materials

Completion of this unit will take ten class periods. However, the teacher may select from among the lessons and choose among the Student Handouts in order to shorten the time required.

Materials required: Overhead projector, maps of the world and Europe, world history textbook, student notebooks, and pens. Photocopies are needed of Student Handouts.

Table of Contents

Why this unit?


Time and materials


Unit objectives




The historical context


This unit in the Big Era timeline


Lesson 1: The Protestant Reformation


Lesson 2: The Counter Reformation and Religious Struggles in Europe


Lesson 3: The Spread of Christianity in the Western Hemisphere


Lesson 4: Hindus and Muslims and the Development of the Sikh Religion in India


Lesson 5: Islam Spreads in Southeast Asia




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


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