Benny Carter Jazz Appreciation Month poster, 2016

Jazz Appreciation Month 2016: Benny Carter and Democracy

Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) was created by the National Museum of American History in 2002 to celebrate the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz. Each year the museum picks a major musician to commemorate.

Rembrandt "St. Paul in Prison."

Bible Odyssey

Explore the fascinating origins of the Bible and its eventful history. On Bible Odyssey, the world’s leading scholars share the latest historical and literary research on key people, places, and passages of the Bible

  • Lesson Seven. Treaty Negotiations

    Created December 4, 2015
    Diplomacy Challenge: Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror

    One of the important roles of diplomats is to negotiate treaties between countries. In this lesson, students, working with their empire teams, will negotiate a treaty.

  • Lesson Five. Hosting a Diplomatic Reception

    Created December 3, 2015
    Diplomacy Challenge: Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror

    In this lesson students synthesize the information gathered in the earlier intelligent briefings and in the written intelligence in order to build a relationship with one other team of student diplomats.

  • Lesson Four. Writing a Diplomatic Toast

    Created December 2, 2015
    Diplomacy Challenge: Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror

    In this lesson students apply the intelligence gathered at the intelligence briefing and through their primary source analysis to prepare a toast for one Early Modern empire.

  • Lesson Three. Analyzing “Intercepted Intelligence”

    Created November 12, 2015
    Diplomacy Challenge: Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror

    In this lesson, students analyze a primary source document: A Papal Bull issued by Pope Pius V in 1570, excommunicating Queen Elizabeth of England.

  • Lesson Two. Empire Intelligence Briefings

    Created November 6, 2015
    Diplomacy Challenge: Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror

    A key role of diplomats is to gather and analyze intelligence. In this lesson students, acting as diplomats, will present a short “intelligence briefing” to the representatives of the other Early Modern empires.

  • Lesson One: Learning about Early Modern Era Empires

    Created October 29, 2015
    Diplomacy Challenge: Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror

    A key role of diplomats is to gather and analyze intelligence. In this lesson, students acting as diplomats, will prepare a short intelligence briefing on their assigned empire to present to the representatives of the other modern empires.

    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    The Diplomacy Challenge (7 Lessons)

    Created October 22, 2015



    The Unit


    Diplomacy Challenge: Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror

    Follower of Gentile Bellini, Portrait of Mehmet II (1432–1481).

    Credit: National Gallery, London. Yorck Project. Public Domain 1.0

    "One must remember that the diplomat’s hope is in man’s reason and good will…. Even Machiavelli himself was not in practice Machiavellian.”

    —Garrett Mattingly, Renaissance Diplomacy

    During the Early Modern era (1450–1750), the expansion in maritime trade and the incorporation of the Americas into worldwide exchanges meant the world became increasingly interconnected. These connections led to a greater need for diplomatic relations with other states. Like many modern institutions, diplomacy as we know it today had its origins during this period. 

    This unit asks teams of students to play the role of diplomats in the Early Modern era. Each team is charged with a particular empire, and students compare the perceived national interests of their empires to the empires of other teams. In the process, they must consider multiple perspectives and anticipate the actions and reactions of their diplomatic peers.

    Students will do the authentic work of diplomats by first gathering intelligence through selected primary and secondary sources, then by building relationships with other diplomats through a reception banquet, and finally by negotiating treaties in the interest of their empires.

    This unit has been conceived as a process. To gain maximum benefit, it is suggested that the lessons be taught sequentially.

    Guiding Questions

    • How did Early Modern empires use diplomacy to maintain and expand their power?
    • How do diplomats use intelligence to build relationships?

    College and Career Readiness Standards

      Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.


    World historians do not always agree on periodization, as a review of textbook chronologies will show. Most, however, do concur that the mid-15th century was a key turning point in World History. European exploration and settlement of the Americas and the cultural and economic exchange that resulted profoundly transformed the world. The Columbian Exchange; the role of China as a both consumer and supplier in the world economy; the development of the plantation system and chattel slavery; as well as the rise of the modern corporation all emerged during this period, which most historians call Early Modern (1450–1750).

    Diplomacy is a good way to teach students about the Early Modern era. Diplomacy as we know it today, has its origins during this period. Many of the well-known Early Modern primary source texts we have are in fact documents related to diplomacy. Having students think like diplomats requires them to consider other perspectives. Primary source documents and information become “intelligence” that student need to analyze from the perspective of not only one empire but of others, as well.

    The Early Modern era was the first time many empires and kingdoms in Africa and Asia had to deal directly with representatives of European empires, who were persistent in their presence and demanded recognition as equals. These “hairy barbarians”—as they were called in Japan—insisted on trade on their terms, often with the threat of force behind it.

    Diplomacy, however did not only take place between European and Asian or European and African monarchs. Increased interaction between Asian states, for example, occurred as well. Letters between the Ottoman Sultan and the Safavid Shah show how the religious schisms within Islam paralleled those within Christian Europe.

    Our unit also is about more than European conquest. It is important for students to understand that a great deal of Early Modern history was being made by non-European empires even after Spain and European empires settled the Americas.

    We should not forget that the Early Modern period is the time of the Muslim “Gun Powder Empires” (The Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughals), which dominated Central Europe to India. As historian Philip Curtain notes, the European economy was still less productive than the Indian economy, which during the time of Akbar was the wealthiest empire in the world. The Ottomans were the dominant military and political power in Central Europe and the Middle East. Although they struck fear in the hearts of Western Christian monarchs, Europe was only one of many concerns for the Ottomans, who were frequently at war with their Shi’ite Muslim neighbors the Safavids to the East.

    In East Asia, the Qing Empire already had a well-established maritime trade network within East Asia. No doubt, Europeans were often intentional “disrupters” of the trade systems they joined, but in the Indian Ocean, up until the mid-18th century, Asians carried more trade in the Indian Ocean than Europeans did.

    [One note on this unit: While the lessons cover a range of empires and kingdoms throughout Afro-Eurasia, they do not address two key American empires (Aztec and Inca) in existence at the time of the European conquest because, as political units, those empires ceased to exist by the early 16th century.]


    As a summative assessment, student will write a compare and contrast essay of two Early Modern empires by responding to the prompt:

    The Early Modern era saw the rise and expansion of global empires. Compare and contrast the economic policies and religious attitudes of one land-based empire and one sea-based empire during this time period. Address how these policies and attitudes were used by the empires to maintain and expand their power.

    Extending the Unit

    Have students research the crops and food that was exchanged as a result of Early Modern diplomacy and create a Columbian Exchange Cookbook.

    Additional resources:

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level


    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Common Core
    • History and Social Studies > World > The Modern World (1500 CE-Present)
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Globalization
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > War and Foreign Policy
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Map Skills
    • Using primary sources
    Illustration from a Kalila wa Dimna Manuscript, 1200–1220 CE

    World History from EDSITEment

    Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange in World History.