Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
Across the Centuries

Understanding Primary Sources:
The Islamic World

Objective: Students analyze a primary source description of 10th-century Baghdad, the capital of the Muslim Empire.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
2 hours over 2 days

Building Background:
Ask students to help you review Muslim expansion beginning in the 7th century. By A.D. 632, the year of Muhammad's death, Islam spread to most of the Arabian Peninsula. The Muslim Empire continued to expand, and by A.D. 661 included much of the Middle East, Persia, and North Africa. The Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties continued the conquest by pushing deep into Central Asia and Europe's Iberian Peninsula. The Muslim world became the center of culture and learning by preserving and developing the knowledge of the ancient world and that of conquered civilizations. Capital cities such as Damascus and Baghdad became rich and important centers of government, learning, and trade. Tell students that they will analyze a primary source description of the 10th-century Abbasid government complex in Baghdad.

What To Do:

1. Have students review Unit 2, Chapter 4 of their textbooks. Suggest that students visit the school or local library to find historical maps that illustrate the spread of Islam between A.D. 570 and 1492. Point out to them the map of Baghdad on p. 87. The "Round City" was the government complex.

2. Distribute the Baghdad in the 10th Century worksheet. Have students read the description of the Abbasid government complex and note details about its construction. Encourage students to work collaboratively to answer the questions.

3. Have students conduct further research on 10th-century Baghdad to learn more about the governmental, cultural, and economic center of the Abbasid Empire. Encourage students to visit your local library.

4. Have students use their notes and research to write a paragraph about 10th-century Baghdad. Suggest that students use evidence from the primary source description and any secondary sources they found, such as encyclopedias, to explain the physical and human characteristics of Baghdad. You might have them compare Baghdad with 10th-century European cities.

5. Have students share their completed descriptions with the class.

Discuss with students how the primary source description of Baghdad helped them picture what life was like in the city during the 10th century. Then have students explain what they learned from secondary sources.


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