APUSH study guides

🚀  Thematic Guides

🐎  Unit 4: 1800-1848

🌎  Unit 7: 1890-1945

🥶  Unit 8: 1945-1980

📲  Unit 9: 1980-Present

📋  Short Answer Questions (SAQ)

1.1 Context: European Encounters in the Americas




⏱️  3 min read

written by

Robby May

robby may

Caleb Lagerwey

caleb lagerwey


By Sarah Bradstreet in 9 APUSH Historical Thinking Skills

Contextualization involves the ability to put something in its proper historical context—understanding an event or document in relation to what else was happening at the same time, in the same area, or within the same long-term process. To demonstrate this skill, you should be able to:

  • place events or documents within the broader context of time and place

  • understand how an event relates to what else was going on locally, regionally, nationally, or globally

  • draw conclusions about an event or perspective based on its relation to the broader historical context

The historical thinking skill of contextualization involves having students place an event in its proper historical context. To demonstrate this historical thinking skill, students should be able to understand an event or document in relation to what else was happening at the same time or within the same time period. It is a difficult skill, because students actually have to explain what was going on during the period, and they should be able to identify key people and events. #Yougotthis

Period 1 (1491-1607)

Why 1491 to 1607? In short, 1491 is one year prior to "in 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue". We begin the first period of APUSH in 1491 as a realization that sophisticated societies and cultures existed in New World long before the arrival of Europeans. The period ends in 1607 because that is the year of the first successful English settlement in the New World: Jamestowne, Virginia.

Bering Land Bridge

The first people to inhabit North and South American came across The Bering Land Bridge. The Bering Land Bridge connected Eurasia and North America in the area of the present-day Bering Sea between Siberia and Alaska approximately 20,000 years ago. Nomadic Asian hunters came across the bridge looking for big game animals, such as woolly mammoths and saber-tooth tigers. The hunters settled throughout North and South America. 


Cahokia, as it may have appeared around 1150 CE. Painting by Michael Hampshire for the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.

The people that first inhabited North and South America transformed and adapted to their environments. The different people settled into varying tribes, and developed various agricultural techniques and social structures. 

Before Christopher Columbus and other European explorers set foot in San Salvador, North and South American indigenous tribes had formed highly complex and organized societies, such as Cahokia, a large fortification and ceremonial site in Illinois that originally rose high above the river, representing the greatest achievement of the Mississippi people. It supported a population of 20,000 people, larger than many European cities at the time. Despite these advances by Native Tribes, they were unprepared for the weaponry and diseases brought by European explorers and settlers. 

Since there were significant declines in the Native populations due to diseases, European settlers turned to African slaves to meet the labor needs of this new world. The first African slaves arrived in 1501. Eventually, over 11.2 million Africans were brought across the Atlantic Ocean (millions perished during the arduous journey). 

The clash of Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans produced a new society in both North and South America.

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