History Lessons
Linked to Students’ Lives

History Across the Curriculum

NEXUS brings the past back to life by emphasizing the “story” in history. Powerful narrative engines drive each history chapter of our interdisciplinary books (see samples below). Fascinating anecdotes gleaned from primary sources appear in almost every paragraph. If the anecdote is unforgettable, the associated learning material will be unforgettable as well.

NEXUS chapters do not merely inform, they inspire and stimulate critical and creative thinking. Instructional strategies and teaching/learning tools are embedded in the text itself. These strategies are expanded upon in the FREE guidelines and history lesson plans.

Before students begin to think on high levels, they must be highly engaged.

History Connections and Common Core Lesson Plans

NEXUS NOT ONLY ENGAGES, IT INSPIRES. The chapters and chapter exercises link history to literature, theater, art and music in a multitude of ways. For example, the Great Migration (of African Americans) is the historical backbone of The Harlem Renaissance volume. The African-American short stories, poetry, theater, art and music explored in the volume reflect various aspects of the Migration (see Harlem Renaissance – Black History Lessons below).  Understanding the Great Migration is a prerequisite for a full understanding of the literature, art and music; and studying the latter deepens and broadens students’ grasp of the former.

Harlem Renaissance – Black History Lessons Linked to Literature, Art, and Music

The Jazz Age in Harlem – The Arts Interacting

In the 1920s, when the sun went down on New York City, Harlem’s cafes, cabarets, dance halls and theaters awoke. The black metropolis became a land of magic where dreams sizzled in the night air, where African Americans became stars, fell in love, or just forgot their troubles, dancing till dawn to hot jazz, stride piano or the classic blues. [For more see “When Harlem was Heaven,” The Harlem Renaissance, NEXUS]

The Great Migration and History-Infused Lessons in Literature, Art and Music
We explore Black history from the end of the Civil War to The Great Migration.
NEXUS Harlem Renaissance Text Sample:
“A young black man on a moonless night in the late 19th century watches from behind the drapery of tangled wisteria vines in a copse on the outskirts of a rural village in Georgia or Mississippi or Texas, while members of the local white community prepare to administer that particular brand of retribution known as the justice of ‘Judge Lynch.’ The youth knows simply by being there his life is in danger. But the curiosity that accompanies his natural intelligence keeps him from turning away and disappearing into the night. He recognizes the accused: a black sharecropper and his young wife, known in the colored community as honest, hardworking folk. What they are accused of is unclear. The husband may have been mistaken for someone who somehow offended a white woman. The wife’s crime seems nothing more than being married to him. The youth in the shadows recalls that there was talk in town recently that the husband had muttered a weak protest when the planter whose land he worked blatantly cheated him. There was also talk that this black man, against all odds, was on the verge of purchasing his own small parcel of property…” [For more see “The Great Migration,” The Harlem Renaissance, NEXUS]
Stories of the Migration – History-Literature Activities and Lesson Plans
NEXUS Harlem Renaissance Text Sample:
“After World War I, hundreds of thousands of African Americans headed north to the Promised Land, a land flowing, not with milk and honey, but with wider opportunity and better wages. Many saw the Great Migration as a second emancipation. They would turn their backs forever on the cotton and cane fields, the sprawling oak trees draped with moss, the magnolias that sweetened springtime, the banjo strumming of summer evenings – and the prejudice and segregation that hemmed them in on all sides. But upon reaching the great northern cities, many discovered that moving from field to factory didn’t necessarily increase their prosperity or elevate their social status. Some felt homesick for the South, in spite of Jim Crow…At the end of Zora Neale Hurston’s “Story in Harlem Slang,” Jelly feels nostalgia for Alabama, a feeling that starts as a hunger pang in the pit of his belly…” [For more see “Up from ‘Bam – Stories of the Migration,” The Harlem Renaissance, NEXUS.
SAMPLE MINI HISTORY LESSON from NEXUS Harlem Renaissance Guidelines, History Section: “For a view of post-migration life in northern cities have students read and compare the following: 1) Richard Wright’s “The One-Room Kitchenette” in Twelve Million Black Voices, by Wright and Edwin Rosskam, Viking Press, 1941. 2) “Harlem: the Cultural Capital,” by James Weldon Johnson in The New Negro. Also, students can investigate employment challenges migrating blacks faced in northern cities in the following Opportunity magazine articles: “Labor,” Oct. 1928, p. 311 and Charles S. Johnson’s article ‘Present Trends in the Employment of Negro Labor,’ Opportunity, May 1929, pp. 146-148.” This lesson is aligned with Common Core History Standard CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.8 and 9 (for 9-10 and 11-12).
The Black History in Art
Students learn to read murals by Aaron Douglas that chronicle and interpret Black History and helped to define subsequent black culture.
History of the Blues and a Lesson Plan for Linking Blues, Poetry, Art and History.
Students explore the migration of the blues from the South to the North and its influences on subsequent American music and culture. NEXUS also provides extensive lesson plans for an interdisciplinary blues-poetry-art-history project.

The History of the Great Depression Linked to Literature, WPA Art, Theater and Music

The Grapes of Wrath and the American Dream – Lesson Plans for Connecting History and Culture

Students explore how the literature, art, music, and theater of the 1930s impacted one another and how they influenced and were influenced by FDR’s New Deal.

FDR and the ABC’s of the New Deal
NEXUS Grapes of Wrath and the American Dream Text Samples:
“The stock market crashed in October 1929, and the Great Depression gradually set in. By the time the 1932 elections rolled in most Americans were deeply disappointed with their government. President Hoover, who firmly believed government shouldn’t interfere with business and that Americans should be self-reliant, did little to help. In response to his seeming indifference, Americans nicknamed the ramshackle shantytowns of evicted poor, which sprang up all across the country, ‘Hoovervilles.’ The newspapers the homeless wrapped themselves in on cold nights were called ‘Hoover blankets,’ and an empty pocket was a ‘Hoover dollar.’…One of the primary causes of the Depression was that….
“When the Depression failed to go away, Roosevelt and his team of ‘New Dealers’ realized welfare or relief checks wouldn’t be enough. In the long run, they believed relief was psychologically damaging; it implied adults couldn’t make it on their own and needed handouts. So on November 9, 1934, the CWA (Civil Works Administration) was created to put four million Americans back to work on a temporary basis and to get the country through the winter of ’34. The tireless and idealistic Harry Hopkins directed the program. He vowed to move 2,000,000 people from relief to work in ten days and to add another two million in two more weeks. Hopkins let nothing get in the way of helping hungry and destitute Americans. When a Senator recommended an alternative plan that would help people ‘in the long run,’ Hopkins angrily replied, ‘People don’t eat in the long run – they eat every day.’ For Hopkins, ‘hunger [wasn’t] negotiable…’” [For more see “FDR and the Great Depression, the ABC’s of the New Deal,” The Grapes of Wrath and the American Dream, NEXUS
Dust Bowl
“A great wall of blackness appeared to the north of the town, late on an unseasonably hot Sunday afternoon…The wall was actually thousands of tons of dust from as far away as the Dakotas and Nebraska, dark topsoil and red clay, carried on winds of 45 to 70 miles per hour, and it was chewing up the countryside. Flocks of birds flew ahead of the storm; smaller animals caught in it choked to death. The sky blackened for about 45 minutes, Woody and Mary [Guthrie] could barely see inside their house. The bare light bulb in the parlor glowed like a cigarette in the dark; they covered their faces with wet washcloths and hoped…” [For more see “When the Land Blew Away, the Dust Bowl Crisis,” The Grapes of Wrath and the American Dream, NEXUS
SAMPLE MINI HISTORY PROJECT from The Grapes of Wrath and the American Dream Guidelines: “Part 1) Research the labor practices of the Associated Farmers of California in the 1930s. What newspaper affiliations or connections did the Associated Farmers have? How did they utilize these connections? Why did members of AF view The Grapes of Wrath as a threat? Part 2) Investigate charges the Senate Committees on Education and Labor made against the Associated Farmers. Write a critique of the charges. Based on your research, were the charges too lenient, too severe, valid or invalid? DO NOT RELY ON ONE OR TWO SOURCES. EXPLORE ALL SIDES OF THE ISSUE.” This project meets Common Core History Standard CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.4, 6, 8 and 9 (for 9-10 and 11-12).
WPA – Project Ideas and Lesson Plans for Studying the WPA
New Deal Art – Reading the History Lessons in Art
NEXUS Grapes of Wrath and the American Dream Text Sample:
“New Deal art was public art, art for the people and by the people. It wasn’t found in museums and galleries, but in post offices and government buildings, housing projects and hospitals, on posters, at a world’s fair, and in travelling exhibitions that toured major cities and small towns, including many that never had an art exhibit before. There were four New Deal art programs, three sponsored by the Treasury Department and one by the Works Progress Administration (WPA)….Though a lot of New Deal art is mediocre, some of it is outstanding. Overall, the government art programs did help to transform American art by launching the careers of many great artists and by taking art directly to the people….Let’s look at and interpret four of the best New Deal murals. Umberto Roman’s History of Springfield, painted in the former Springfield, Massachusetts Post Office, is inhabited by early Massachusetts settlers on our right and 19th-century politicians on the left. Between them is a man tied to a cross who appears to be part of the present and the past. He seems to thrust out of the mural into the viewer’s space; but the cross anchors him in the past – to Christian history and to Christ. At his feet lie two war victims, one turned toward the viewer, the other wearing a gas mask. An American flag is draped over their chests. Why are they and the flag laying at the feet of the crucified man?…” [For more see “New Deal Art, For the People, By the People,” The Grapes of Wrath and the American Dream, NEXUS.
Uncle Sam in the Limelight and Lesson Plans for Creating Historical Newspapers
NEXUS Grapes of Wrath and the American Dream Text Sample:
“The Federal Theater Project wasn’t launched because Uncle Sam suddenly got ‘stage struck’ or because Congressmen were closet actors (though many of them were closet critics and some did wind up as characters on Federal Theater stages!). The Government stepped into the limelight to help unemployed theater people – actors, directors, stage managers, designers, technicians, puppeteers, vaudevillians, even circus performers, many of who were destitute. The Project (FTP) began in the summer of 1935. Years of Depression and technological advances, like radio and talkies, had thrown hundreds of thousands of actors, musicians, writers, and technicians into the streets. Movie houses no longer needed orchestras or piano players, and a popular radio play – or even a radio soap opera – could shut down a hundred theaters. Half of the theaters in New York were dark during the Depression. Besides, who could afford to see a play or even a circus in the 30s – until Uncle Sam went into show biz?”
“Another reason the FTP was created is because WPA director Harry Hopkins and the President and First Lady believed theater and the other arts were part of America’s wealth, a cultural resource the country couldn’t afford to neglect. That was a novel idea in 1935 – to many it still is today.”
“In addition, Harry Hopkins observed that the American government had always acknowledged its responsibility to the people, by giving away free land to settlers and veterans, by subsidizing infant industries with a protective tariff, and by awarding franchises to public utilities. So why not subsidize the arts – visual, written, musical and dramatic?” [For more see “Uncle Sam in the Limelight,” The Grapes of Wrath and the American Dream, NEXUS
“American Transformed, the WPA and the Arts,” The Grapes of Wrath and the American Dream, NEXUS

Ancient Greece Unit Plan, Exercises and Teaching Strategies

Antigone – Lesson Plans for Linking Literature to History, Art, Science and Music

In Antigone & the Greek World students learn how the Persian Wars and birth of democracy in Athens helped shape Sophocles’ themes in Antigone and Oedipus Rex.

                Creon:  Then am I to rule for the many

                                And not for myself?

Unit lessons and the text examine how ancient Greek theater taught Athenians to run a democracy, to be responsible citizens, and to consider and weigh conflicting points of view in the Assembly (useful skills today as well).  At Orestes’ trial in Aeschylus’ The Eumenides, Athena tells the biased jurors “Here are two sides and only half the argument.”  No one wants to attend to the Furies’ (Eumenides) version of justice, until the goddess of wisdom prods them to do so.

Persian and Peloponnesian Wars
300 Spartans – What We Can Learn from the Past

NEXUS Antigone and the Greek World Text Sample:
“When the Persian army arrived in Greece in 480 B.C., the Spartans voted to fight – but not until the Olympic Games were over. In Greece, wars were postponed during the games. But the Persians weren’t about to wait. So Sparta sent a detachment of 300 infantrymen to stop Xerxes’ million-man army at the mountain pass of Thermopylae in central Greece. The Spartan contingent was led by King Leonidas, who was reputed to be a descendent of Herakles (Hercules). The main army would join Leonidas after the games. 5000 allied troops from other city-states also skipped the Olympics to back the Spartan force…”
“Thermopyae is a narrow pass between the Aegean Sea and the cliffs that rise sharply above the shoreline in the district of Locris. The narrowness of the passage and the long spears of the Greeks gave them the advantage in hand-to-hand combat…”
“King Leonidas went to Thermopylae to die for Sparta. Before leaving Laconia, he made sure his 300 soldiers were all fathers with living sons. On the last day of their lives, the Spartans ventured out from the protective cliffs of the pass, where they’d withstood Xerxes’ million-man army for two days, and carved their way with spear and sword into the mass of Persian troops, slaughtering as many as they could. Herodotus describes the battle:
“The barbarians fell in heaps. Behind them the captains of the [Persian] squadrons, armed with whips, urged their men forward with continual blows…For the Greeks, reckless of their own safety and desperate, since they knew that, as the mountain had been crossed, their destruction was nigh at hand, exerted themselves with the most furious valor against the barbarians.”
“When the Spartans’ spears splintered they fought on with their swords. Those whose swords were beaten away waged war with their bare hands and teeth. When they saw the Persian cohort approaching from the opposite direction, the Spartans raced up a small hill to make their last stand. But rather than risk losing more men, Xerxes turned his archers on them. The Persians launched so many missiles that one observer said ‘their arrows darkened the sun.’” [For more see “The History of the 5th-Century Greece,” Antigone and the Greek World, NEXUS and the interdisciplinary guidelines and ONLINE lessons and supplements.]
The Birth of Democracy
We explore the roots of democracy.
Solon –Lessons in Neutrality
NEXUS Antigone and the Greek World Text Samples Below:
“The seeds of democracy were sown by Solon, the ‘lawgiver,’ in 594 B.C., almost a 100 years before the Battle of Marathon. Before and during Solon’s time, the wealthy ruled. The system was either a tyranny (unconstitutional rule by one) or an oligarchy (rule by a few). The poor lived in misery; many were legally enslaved for not paying their bills. A class struggle grew from their discontent. Solon, a moderate, was appointed arbitrator or lawgiver to create a fairer system. Like all reformers seeking a middle road, he angered people on both sides of the political spectrum: the right (those who wanted little or no change) and the left (those who wanted a lot of change)…” [For more see “The History of the 5th-Century Greece,” Antigone and the Greek World, NEXUS]
SAMPLE HISTORY ACTIVITY (attenuated) from NEXUS Guidelines: “Have students read and reflect on the Solon poem below (see NEXUS Antigone and Greek World Guidelines, History Section) and compare it to part 2 of ‘The History of 5th-Century Greece’ in NEXUS. Also have students explain the highlighted simile and back up their explanation with an example from our time.” This lesson satisfies CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.1, 6 and 8 (for 9-10 and 11-12).
Cleisthenes – A History Lesson in “Idealism”
“The first democracy was created in 508 B.C., by Cleisthenes, Pericles’ great uncle. Cleisthenes didn’t establish democracy because he believed in giving ‘power to the people.’ He needed support against the upper classes who wouldn’t accept him as their leader, so he turned to the poor. He promised to give them power if they backed him. They did, and the first democracy was born. Herodotus tells us:”
Having brought over entirely to his side the common people of Athens, who had before lacked rights…he was now that the common people took his part, very much more powerful than his adversaries. [For more see “The History of the 5th-Century Greece,” Antigone and the Greek World, NEXUS]
Delian League – The NATO of Ancient Greece
“Pericles brought Athens into its Golden Age. He moved the Delian League tribute money from its original (neutral) home on the island of Delos to the Acropolis in Athens. It seemed logical to keep the money in Athens since Athens paid for the navy. But Pericles used the money not only to build ships, but also to support and strengthen the Athenian city-state. After moving the money to the Acropolis, unemployment disappeared in Athens – largely because half the citizens worked for the government and their salaries were now paid for with the allies’ tribute money. Before Pericles, politicians worked for free, which meant only the wealthy could afford to serve. Thanks to Pericles’ policy, the poorest citizen could hold office and make a decent living doing it. Pericles also used the money to give Athens a facelift. He commissioned the magnificent Parthenon and other new buildings on the Acropolis with the allies’ tribute. [For more see “The History of the 5th-Century Greece,” Antigone and the Greek World, NEXUS]
Lessons in Democracy
See “Antigone’s Challenge, Democracy or Dictatorship,” Antigone and the Greek World, NEXUS
Athenian Democracy and the Peloponnesian War – Learning from History
“Forty years (after Cleisthenes instituted Athenian democracy), Ephialtes and Pericles successfully weakened the Aeropagus by attacking some of its members on charges of misconduct. This was and still is a popular politician’s tactic: discredit your opponent, then strip him of power. The misconduct charges can be real, exaggerated or made up. The point is to damage your opponent’s reputation enough so that the public backs you when you deprive him (or his group) of power. Can you think of examples of politicians using this strategy today?”
“The [Peloponnesian War] started in a typical way—with name calling. The Corinthians (who had grievances against Athens) said Athens wanted to enslave all Greece. A Corinthian ambassador told the Peloponnesian Congress: ‘We must believe that the tyrant city…has been established against all alike, with a program of universal empire.’ Pericles accused Sparta of having similar ambitions. Labeling one’s enemy an arch-villain or ‘evil empire’ is an often used political tactic. Basically, it says you’re the good guy and your enemy is the bad buy. During the Cold War, Russia and the US did the same thing, each labeling the other an evil empire.”
SAMPLE HISTORY LESSON: from the NEXUS Guidelines: “Have students identify and explain weaknesses and strengths in Pericles’ arguments for war in Book 1, ch V of Thucydides’ History. Pericles, of course, was a great orator. Ask students to identify distinguishing features of his rhetorical style in his pro-war speech. Also have them point out and explain all examples of antithesis and parallelism.” This lesson satisfies CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.4, 5 and 8 (for 9-10 and 11-12).
Athens Attacks Its Ally Melos – A Lesson in Power vs. Trust
Defeat in Sicily – Learning from History Instead of Repeating It

Ancient Roman Unit with Lessons Linking History Across the Curriculum

Julius Caesar, from Republic to Empire – History-Infused Lessons in Literature, Art and Science

“Caesar was supremely self-confident. When he was captured by pirates as a young man, the pirates tried to ransom him for twenty talents. Caesar laughed at the sum and said, ‘You don’t know who’ve you’ve caught. I’m worth fifty.” So they raised his ransom and got it. Caesar lived with the pirates for thirty-eight days. They became friends, more or less. Caesar often joked with them and participated in their sports. He even recited poetry for them. If they didn’t cheer, he’d call them illiterate barbarians. If they made noise while he was napping, he’d order them to shut up. Upon his release, Caesar promised the pirates that he’d return to crucify them. They laughed. It seemed like another one of his jokes…” [For more see “Julius Caesar, Father of the Roman Empire,” Julius Caesar and Ancient Rome, from Republic to Empire, NEXUS and Julius Caesar, Father of the Roman Empire – Unit Introduction on the Literature page under the Subject menu.]

SAMPLE MINI HISTORY LESSON from Julius Caesar and Ancient Rome Guidelines: “Read chapter one of Sallust’s The Conspiracy of Catiline on the origin of Rome.  Have students compare Sallust’s view with that of recent scholarship.  Is the glowing picture he paints of the early Republic too nostalgic?  Does he judge his own period too harshly?  Then students should explicate the following Human Insight Passages from Sallust’s work (for details see Guidelines.)”  This lesson is aligned with CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6 (for 9-10 and 11-12).

Brutus – How Noble was He?
NEXUS Julius Caesar and Ancient Rome Text Samples Below:
“When Brutus fought against Caesar in the civil war, Caesar forgave him in advance – even before the war was over. Caesar usually forgave his enemies, but with Brutus he went much further. He told his lieutenants not to harm Brutus in battle and that if he surrendered he should “be brought safely to him.” If Brutus refused to give up, Caesar ordered his men to let him escape!” [For more see “Noblest Roman,” Julius Caesar and Ancient Rome, from Republic to Empire, NEXUS]
Battle of Philippi and Military Strategies
We dramatically recount the decisive battle based on accounts from Dio Cassius, Appian and Plutarch.
SAMPLE HISTORY LESSON from the Julius Caesar and Ancient Rome Guidelines: “Have students read section III.78 in Caesar’s The Civil War, then in a paragraph show how Caesar considers all his options before making a military decision.”
Winning by Waiting
“Octavius and Antony were low on food after the first battle. It was autumn, the rainy season in Macedonia. Having camped in a low lying area near marshland, the heavy rains flooded Antony and Octavius’ tents with mud and water. It was so cold the water froze inside the tents and many men grew sick. With winter approaching, conditions would only worsen. If Brutus’ forces could wait, they would win. But there were obstacles to waiting…”[For more see “Blood of the Republic, Battle of Philippi,” Julius Caesar and Ancient Rome, from Republic to Empire, NEXUS]
Post-Assassination Object Lesson
Octavius, the Future Emperor
Cicero: Orator, Republican, Senator
The Politics Behind the Gladiator Games
FOR DESCRIPTIONS OF THE OTHER CHAPTERS IN THIS VOLUME, SEE Julius Caesar and Ancient Rome, from Republic to Empire, NEXUS]

Macbeth and Scottish and English History and Culture, Plus FREE and FEE Lesson Plans

Macbeth – the History and Life Lessons in a Tragedy

The wonderfully rich historical background in the Macbeth and the Dark Ages volume—colorful anecdotes & clear, conversational accounts of family ties, political motives, events, & phenomena—will definitely enhance students' study of the play.  The illustrations for the 14 short sections (one to three pages) of this volume are stunning: maps, production photos, beautiful reproductions of tapestries, and manuscript illuminations.  —THE COLLEGE BOARD

Royal Murder and the Real Macbeth
Part 1 of this chapter examines primogeniture (lacking in Scotland), tanistry and the centuries-long struggle for the Scottish crown among royal candidates and usurpers. In part 2, students investigate the unification of Scotland and attempts to Anglicize it through the centuries. This chapter meets Common Core History Standards: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.3 and 4 (for 9-10 and 11-12).
History through the Window of Art – Lessons in Reading Visual History
Bayeux Tapestry – The Visual Chronicle of the Battle of Hastings
Students learn to read the progression of events leading up to the Battle on the Tapestry as well as the Battle of Hastings itself. They also learn to identify visual punctuation marks and to interpret the subtle Saxon point of view in the Tapestry’s borders. This chapter is aligned with CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.3 and 6 (for 9-10 and 11-12). For more Bayeux Tapestry images see Macbeth and the Dark Ages, NEXUS, Britain's Bayeux Tapestry and the Bayeux Museum website.
Historical Points of View – Sorting Norman and Saxon Perspectives
SAMPLE HISTORY LESSON from the NEXUS History Guidelines: “Ask students to read and compare the accounts of the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings and of the battle itself: Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, The Life of King Edward, and Eadmer’s History, and the Norman accounts by William of Jumièges and William of Poitiers. Have your students explain how political bias colors many of the interpretations. Which, if any interpretation, seems the most objective and reliable? Why? Which seem the least objective? Why? Then compare the interpretations of events in the above sources to the Bayeux account. Sarah Lawrence historian/art historian David Bernstein (who wrote ‘Unraveling the Bayeux Tapestry’ for NEXUS) says: ‘One would expect a work of art that was commissioned by a brother of William the Conqueror to portray Harold as a wicked, perhaps cowardly person, as well as a terrible ruler who deserved to die—much in the way Norman writers depict him. But all of the English soldiers in the Tapestry are shown as brave and courageous, and Harold is depicted as the most heroic of all. He rescues two Normans while fighting with William during his visit to Normandy; and in the inscriptions after Edward’s death, he is always referred to as King Harold, never as usurper or tyrant…. Could it not be said that Harold appears in the Tapestry as a tragic hero and legitimate king, not an evil tyrant? Find other ways in which the Tapestry may offer a subtle pro-English point of view, as well as some dents to William’s reputation, see D. Bernstein’s The Mystery of the Bayeux Tapestry (University of Chicago Press). Recall that scholars today believe the tapestry was created by Anglo-Saxon artists, though it was commissioned by Bishop Odo, a Norman.”
This lesson is aligned with Common Core History Standard CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH. 6 (“Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts”) as well as CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH. 1, 3, 4, 8 and 9 (for 9-10 and 11-12).
Edward the Confessor, England’s “Holy King”
This chapter examines the history that paved the way for the Battle of Hastings and satisfies Common Core History Standard CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.3 (for 9-10 and 11-12).
NEXUS Macbeth and the Dark Ages Text Sample:
“People claimed Edward the Confessor was so holy, he could cure the sick with a touch of his hands. This healing power was supposedly even transferred to things that King Edward came in contact with, like his bath water. Servants used to steal and sell the royal tub water to believers who sprinkled it on the eyes of the blind. Many claimed to regain their sight. Some people even drank it to cure their ails…”
The King and the Saint
“Concise account of the long-term effects of the Norman invasion on the fortunes of Scotland explains reasons for frictions and alliances between England and Scotland. (Supplements deepen the investigation with material on Braveheart.)” – The College Board
This chapter, in conjunction with lessons in the NEXUS Guidelines regarding the long-term relationship between England and Scotland, satisfies CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.3,6 and 9 (for 9-10 and 11-12).
Vikings in Macbeth
Students investigate the Viking assaults on Scotland and England in the 9th-11th centuries. See “Vikings in Macbeth,” Macbeth and the Dark Ages, NEXUS

Middle Ages – Cross Cultural Connections

The Lion in Winter – Battles of Wits Between Royals

The Crusades – History Lessons Linked to the Play
The Crusades are often taught in the abstract. This chapter explores these so-called holy wars in terms of characters in The Lion in Winter who participated in them—characters students who study the play know and care about. Eleanor of Aquitaine went on the 2nd Crusade; her son Richard the Lionhearted and King Philip II of France led the 3rd. [For more see “Pilgrimage to Crusade,” The Lion in Winter and the Middle Ages, NEXUS]
Feudalism is also typically taught as an abstract concept. Here we examine it in relation to the central conflict of The Lion in Winter. This approach raises the stakes for students and gives them a much deeper understanding and appreciation of both the play and the medieval world it reflects.
Magna Carta
This chapter looks at the significance of the Magna Carta, then and now. Students know the signer of the historic document, King John, from The Lion in Winter and the Robin Hood legend.

Romeo and Juliet and Renaissance History and Culture, Plus FREE and FEE Lesson Plans

Romeo and Juliet, Mirror of the Renaissance

Italian Family Feuds
Ha, banishment!
Be merciful say death.” – Romeo
NEXUS Romeo and Juliet and the Renaissance Text Sample:
“Great families vied to control the city-states in which they lived. Power struggles between rival clans often degenerated into street brawls like the one that opens Romeo and Juliet. Banishment was the customary punishment for the losers. Famous Italian exiles include Dante and the Medici, who were kicked out of Florence following civil unrest. Family feuds were so ferocious that the whole male line of a family might be ambushed and killed on their way to church. In 1478, the powerful Pazzi family and their allies attacked the male members of Florence’s leading family, the Medici, while they were at mass. Giuliano de Medici was murdered in front of the altar, stabbed 19 times…” [For more see “Italian Family Feuds,” Romeo and Juliet and the Renaissance, NEXUS]
SAMPLE MINI HISTORY PROJECT from the Romeo and Juliet and the Renaissance NEXUS Guidelines: “Investigate the rise of the Medici in Florence. How was the appearance of democracy preserved under the Medici while despotism prevailed? (For a modern link, compare Medici rule to the political intrigues of powerful businessmen in the classic American film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.) In connection with this, have students read sections of Machiavelli’s The Prince. Also, have students investigate the role of banking and the textile industry in Renaissance Florence.