AP World History Students Examine Expired Empires Under a Forensic Lens

Safavid Empire

Safavid Empire
  • “You and your group,” Mr. Michael Pace addressed his AP World History class, “will be looking into the success and eventual downfall of a global empire… through an autopsy report.”

    The Sayville World History students had been learning about each of the four empires—the Ottoman, the Mughal, the Safavid, and the Manchu—but this assignment asked them to select one for their “autopsy report,” i.e., a large map-like poster of a fully clothed human shape, “dressed in appropriate clothing for the empire and the time period.” In these poster-maps, the Empires would be “personified” with the following body parts:

    • Head: Significant Leaders & Accomplishments
    • Hands: Art, Architecture & Tech. Advances
    • Legs: Labor Systems
    • Spine: Political Structure
    • Ribs: Societal Infrastructure
    • Heart: Religious Beliefs
    • Pen: Literature
    • Feet: Trade routes and goods traded

    To accomplish this assignment, the students first outlined the six main themes or SPICE T (social, political, interactions between humans and environment, cultural, economic, and technology) for their chosen empire. After assembling the data for each section, the students distilled the information down to no more than three-sentence captions—as required in the assignment—to ensure the information fit within the physical limitations of the poster. There also had to be enough information about each part to convey at least two pieces of information for each category.

    The assignment, which blended a scientific approach to the social studies discipline while using art to illustrate their findings, proved to be an exciting departure for the students. Upon completion of the project, the AP students—as “authorities” about their chosen empires—gave excellent class presentations that illustrated what led to the “death” of that empire. Mr. Pace couldn’t have been more proud of his students nor more thoroughly pleased by the creativity, the enthusiasm, and the accuracy of the autopsy reports. “All of the projects were phenomenal,” he said, adding, “and the students had a great time.” 

    It is no secret to educators that a lesson enjoyed is a lesson remembered. These World AP students will long remember their Empire Autopsy projects.

Manchu Empire

Manchu Empire