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Aztecs and Conquistadors: Was Cortes a Hero, or a Villain?

The Silk Roads connected the Roman Empire in Europe to Asia and Africa in the Ancient World. When these routes were disrupted following the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Portuguese pioneered new Spice Routes. The Spanish, in an attempt to find a new route to the spice islands in the Indies, headed Westwards and landed on the coastline of the American content, where they encountered the Aztecs, the Incas and the Mayans.

In this study, students will focus on the conquest of the Aztecs by the Spanish Conquistador, Hernan Cortes.

Written Sources: Who were the Aztecs?

"The Aztec people were based around modern-day Mexico. Completely isolated from the cultures of Africa, Asia and Europe, they developed a unique civilisation. In this unit of study you will investigate the ways in which they were similar to, and different from, European societies in the 16th century. You will also consider whether the Spaniards were right to describe the Aztec Empire as an evil regime that deserved to be conquered.
Read through each of the following points, and then find an appropriate image on the web to paste into the right-hand column".

Visual Sourcework Exercise: Who were the Aztecs? | Images for Students | Teacher Slideshow

"The Aztec people were based around modern-day Mexico. Completely isolated from the cultures of Africa, Asia and Europe, they developed a unique civilisation. In this unit of study you will investigate the ways in which they were similar to, and different from, European societies in the 16th century. You will also consider whether the Spaniards were right to describe the Aztec Empire as an evil regime that deserved to be conquered. In this first exercise, you will be given a series of original images about the Aztecs. For each, you will consider what it shows, and whether it creates a positive or negative interpretation of the Aztecs. You will later use these findings to write a letter from Cortes".

Letter-Writing Exercise: Who was Cortes, and why did he want to conquer the Aztecs?

"You are Hernan Cortes, the famous Spanish Conquistador. Your task is to write a letter to the governor of Cuba to persuade him to let you sail from Cuba on an expedition to conquer the Aztec Empire. The letter should be in two parts, making full use of your notes from the pictures you have analysed.

Extension Task: If you finish your letter before the end of the available lesson time, develop it further with additional information from one or more of the sources at the bottom of this web page.

Computer Simulation: Was Cortes a Hero, or a Villain? | Student Worksheet

A major simulation complete with multimedia and a leaderboard, designed to take students up to two hours to complete. The accompanying worksheet helps students to build up evidence to decide whether Cortes was a hero, or a villain:

"In 1519, Hernan Cortes marched into deepest Mexico with 500 hundred men. Two years later he had conquered the mighty Aztec Empire, which ruled over 5 million people. Ever since, historians have debated how he did this and whether he was right to do so. There are two main interpretations of Cortes and the Aztecs.

In this simulation, you will learn about each key moment in this dramatic story. At each point, you will be asked to consider how you think Cortes should react. This will help you decide if he was a hero, or a villain"


Revision / End of Unit Quizzes


 


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1998-2021 Russel Tarr, ActiveHistory.co.uk Limited (Reg. 6111680)

High Park Lodge, Edstaston Wem, Shropshire, England, SY4 5RD. Telephone/Fax: 01939 233909

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