British Imperialism: Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” & Gandhi’s “Non-Violent Resistance”
This lesson is part of my 12th grade unit on British Imperialism. If you are interested in purchasing the entire unit as one bundle, it is available here.
I use this lesson as the base text for the Imperialism Unit which is aimed at studying the literature of the era to uncover the perceptions and emotions of individuals caught on both sides of Imperialism. The concept of Imperialism involves the major work of nations (war, exploitation, servitude, enslavement), yet the literature exposes the conflicts, emotions, and true human nature of those people who lived within the social and political systems. I want my students to understand that there are people, relationships, conditions, choices, and motivations in every era of history; it is easy to judge historical events and figures from our contemporary standpoint, but it is important to remember that everybody has a back-story. These stories reveal that the relationships within the Imperialistic social structure were not always what they seemed.
This lesson reveals two very different perspectives on British Imperialism. Although the Kipling poem seems almost sarcastic, it was a very sincere sentiment. Imagine the straight-laced Victorians standing face to face with bare-breasted natives with piercings, tattoos, and spears! The Victorians felt a duty to civilize and modernize the native cultures. Although the nations-at-large were busy grabbing land and resources, the colonizers themselves dealt with natives on a day-to-day basis. While Victorian culture devalued the native culture, the settlers came to realize that modern ways don’t always work in rugged landscapes.
This lesson includes:
Two focus texts and 18 guiding questions with answer key. These are suitable for homework or classwork, individual or group. My students struggled a bit with Gandhi’s speech, so we read that aloud and chunked it. Students then worked on the guiding questions.
Synthesis Prompt asking students to use Assertion, Evidence, and Commentary to compare the two points of view presented in the texts.
Extension Activity #1 – Political Cartoon suitable for individual or group analysis.
Extension Activity #2 – A DBQ featuring E.D. Morel’s “Black Man’s Burden” and several critical thinking comparison questions.
Depending on your pacing, and if you assign portions of this work as homework, there are two full days of reading, questions, investigation, discussion, and writing.
Key Words: British Imperialism, 12th Grade, Literature, Short Story, Critical Thinking, Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance, Kipling, White Man's Burden, Critical Thinking, CCSS Aligned