Learning about Early Modern World History with Documentaries

I put together this study for my 5th grader and 7th grader.  It is a continuation of the documentary-focused Middle Ages study we did last school year.   When my boys were younger we tended to do history studies with lots of hands-on activities.  Now that they are getting older, documentaries and movies are replacing many of those hands-on activities.  Although, my 5th grader will be spending some extra time on activities of his choosing.  He may do some crafts or period building on Minecraft.

This study is designed around a portion of the McDougal Littell Modern World History Patterns of Interaction textbook.  I snagged a used version for only a few dollars.  I see right now that one can be purchased for 50 cents!  This is a 700 page hardcover book.  If you click this link to Amazon, you will see the exact edition I am using.  All of the page numbers are from that edition.

I’m also incorporating two other books to give a little more US History into our study:  A People’s History of the United States and A People’s History of American Empire.  A People’s History of the United States is a thick, dense book with tons of information, but it doesn’t cover everything.  It is more topical.  If you click on the link it will take you to Amazon where you can see inside the book.  My 7th grader is a strong reader and learns well through reading so I’ve added readings into the study for him.  A People’s History of American Empire is a cartoon-style book which is perfect for my graphic-loving 5th grader.  My 7th grader will read it too.

I will be pre-viewing and adapting  this list of documentaries and movies, if necessary.  If something is deemed inappropriate or too boring I will delete it or replace it with something else.

Also, I’ve added a little family history exploration into this study.  My boys enjoyed some genealogical explorations that they did last school year.  I have a wealth of information for them to sift through so it should be interesting.

I suspect this study will take longer than a school year.  We don’t spend tons of time on history – maybe 2 hours a week.  But the videos do tend to be a go-to activity when I am not feeling well or if the kids are not feeling well.  So there are some days or weeks where we might spend bigger chunks of time on this study.

European Renaissance and Reformation 1300-1600

Italy: Birthplace of the Renaissance pg 37-42

The Northern Renaissance pg 43-47

  • Northern Renaissance: The Supreme Art https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJnIZvjYNko
  • Timeline additions: 1455 Germany, Gutenberg Bible produced on printing press; 1534 England, Henry VIII breaks from church, 1601 England, William Shakespeare writes Hamlet; 1603 England,  Queen Elisabeth I dies, ending Tudor rule

Luther Starts the Reformation pg 48-52

The Reformation Continues pg 53-57

The Muslim World Expands, 1300-1700

The Ottomans Build a Vast Empire pg 63-67

  • History of the Ottoman Empire https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpPGxJT9qQI
  • Timeline additions:  1300 Anatolia, Osman establishes Ottoman states; 1453 Europe, Ottomans conquer Constantinople; 1529 Anatolia, Suleiman the Magnificent rules Ottoman empire

Cultural Blending pg 68-70

The Mughals Establish an Empire in India pg 71-77

  • Warrior Empire:  Mughals of India https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WX1ZWVuY84Q
  • Timeline additions: 1400 India, Timur the Lane devastates India; 1526 India, Babur founds Mughal empire; 1631 India, Shah Jahan builds Taj Mahal

An Age of Exploration and Isolation, 1400-1800

Europeans Explore the East pg 83-88

China Rejects European Outreach pg 89-93

Japan Limits Western Contacts pg 94-97

The Atlantic World, 1492-1800

Spanish Conquests in the Americas pg 103-109

Competing Claims in North American pg 110-114

The Atlantic Slave Trade pg 115-119

The Columbian Exchange and Global Trade pg 120-123

Absolute Monarchs in Europe, 1500-1800

Spain’s Empire and European Absolutism pg 133-137

France’s Ultimate Monarch pg 138-145

Central European Monarchs Clash pg 146-150

Russian Czars Increase Power pg 151-155

Parliament Limits the English Monarchy pg 156-159

Enlightenment and Revolution, 1550-1789

The Scientific Revolution pg 165-170

The Enlightenment in Europe pg 171-177

The Spread of Enlightenment Ideas pg 178-182

American Revolution:  The Birth of a Republic pg 183-187

 The French Revolution and Napolean, 1789-1815

Revolution Threatens the French King pg 193-196

Revolution Brings Reform and Terror pg 197-203

Napoleon Forges an Empire pg 204-208

Napoleon’s Empire Collapses pg 209-212

The Congress of Vienna Convenes pg 213-217

Nationalistic Revolutions Sweep the West, 1789-1900

Latin American Peoples Win Independence pg 223-228

Revolutions Disrupt Europe pg 229-232

Nationalism pg 233-238

Revolutions in the Arts pg 243

Industrialism and the Race for Empire, 1700-1914

The Industrial Revoluton, 1700-1900

Industrialization pg 258-262

Industrialization Spreads pg 263-266

An Age of Reforms pg 267-273

  • William Wilberforce Amazing Grace (movie)
  • Changing Attitudes Toward Children https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLN3qNextw0
  • Capitalism and Socialism Crash Course History https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3u4EFTwprM
  • 7th grader read The Socialist Challenge Chapter 13 – The People’s History of the United States
  • 5th grader read The Pullman Strike pg 20-27 – A People’s History of American Empire
  • 5th grader read The Ludlow Massacre pg 78-81 A People’s History of American Empire
  • Ludlow Massacre https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qIHN68YNXw
  • Timeline addition: 1848 Germany, Marx and Engels publish The Communist Manifesto, 1875 Britain, Labor unions win right to strike

An Age of Democracy and Progress, 1815-1914

Democratic Reform and Activism pg 279-283

Self-Rule for British Colonies pg 284-288

Expansion and Crisis in the United States pg 289-292

Nineteenth-Century Progress pg 293-299

The Age of Imperialism, 1850-1914

Imperialists Divide Africa pg 305-309

Imperialism pg 310-316

British Imperialism in India pg 321-325

Western Powers Rule Southeast Asia pg 326-329

Transformations Around the Globe, 1800-1914

China Responds to Pressure from the West pg 335-339

Japan Modernizes pg 340-343

Massacre at Wounded Knee (not in textbook, extra topic)

  • 7th grader read – The Empire and Its People Chapter 12– The People’s History of the United States
  • 5th grader read – The Massacre at Wounded Knee pg 10-17 – A People’s History of American Empire
  • Bury My Heart a Wounded Knee (movie) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWjj-96Ci8Y
  • Timeline addition: 1890 United States, Massacre at Wounded Knee

US Economic Imperialism in Latin America pg 344-348

  • 7th and 5th grader read Antonia Maceo and the Cuban Revolution pg 32-38 – A People’s History of American Empire
  • 7th and 5th grader read The Drumbeat for War pg 39-44 – A People’s History of American Empire
  • 7th and 5th grader read Smoked Yankees:  The Black 25th Infantry pg 45-49 – A People’s History of American Empire
  • 7th and 5th grader read Spoils of War pg 50-53 – A People’s History of American Empire
  • 7th and 5th grader read Benevolent Assimilation pg 54-66 – A People’s History of American Empire
  • 7th and 5th grader read Republic or Empire? Pg 67-71 – A People’s History of American Empire
  • 7th and 5th grader The Battle of Bud Dajo pg 72-74 – A People’s History of American Empire
  • The Story of the USS Maine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JYFJU3ZJLM short
  • The Crucible of Empire: The Spanish-American War https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8g8NpQsmxj4
  • Experience Panama – 7 Wonders of the Industrial World https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uPCQy32tGg
  • Examine family history to see if there was any participation in the Spanish-American War.
  • Timeline additions: 1898 Cuba, Spanish-American War begins; 1914 Panama, Panama canal opens

The Mexican Revolution pg 349-353




  1. Amanda Dittlinger

    What do you mean by Timeline Additions? Is that events you are adding to a Timeline you are creating in your home? I ask because there is a Timeline channel on YouTube so I was wondering if it was referencing that. Thanks!

  2. THANKS! This is a wonderful resource! We just started history from the time of European explorers, using Notgrass America the Beautiful (US history ) and Story of the World (world history) for spines. Looking up videos is time consuming! So a huge thank you to you!
    Elaine recently posted…Weekly Wrap-up: African Grasslands Minecraft ProjectMy Profile

  3. You may want to check through your YouTube links. Several videos (if not all) under the American Revolution heading have been removed from YouTube (a common problem, sadly). This is an excellent resource for older learners! Thanks!

  4. Thank you so much! It is hard to find resources for older home school students. I am definitely using this outline for next year’s studies.
    kate recently posted…The DelMy Profile

  5. My 12 year old hates history… I think watching a lot of it may be the way to go! Thank you for this outline, I’ll definitely be giving it a try!
    Krista recently posted…Save Time and Money With ISIS WalletMy Profile

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