Teaching Students About Lusitania
The Lusitania, a British ocean liner, has a significant place in maritime history. Its sinking in 1915 during World War I had profound consequences and contributed to the United States entering the war. Teaching students about the Lusitania provides them with the opportunity to understand historical events from primary and secondary sources, engage in critical thinking, and develop empathy for the tragedy’s victims.
Background of the Lusitania
Begin your lessons by providing students with background information about the Lusitania. Launched in 1906 by the Cunard Line, this luxurious ocean liner was designed for transatlantic travel between Europe and North America. At over 31,000 tons and with a speed of roughly 25 knots, she was one of the world’s largest and fastest civilian vessels at that time.
Sinking of the Lusitania
On May 7, 1915, during World War I, a German U-boat torpedoed the Lusitania off the coast of Ireland. The attack resulted in over 1,200 deaths, including 128 American citizens. The ship sank in just 18 minutes due to catastrophic damage from a mysterious second explosion within its hull. This event sparked international outrage and played a crucial role in shaping public opinion against Germany.
1. Primary source analysis: Provide students with primary sources about the Lusitania tragedy such as newspaper articles, survivor accounts, political cartoons, photographs, and government communications. This allows them to explore various perspectives while also honing their analytical skills.
2. Timelines and maps: Have students create timelines detailing key events leading up to and following the sinking of the Lusitania, or plot its route on a map to give them context regarding its journey.
3. Debates and discussions: Facilitate debates or group discussions about the reasons behind the Lusitania’s sinking, possible justifications, and international reactions, encouraging students to engage with different arguments and viewpoints.
4. Multimedia presentations: Encourage students to create presentations or infographics that detail aspects of the Lusitania story, such as life on board the ship, technological advancements, or its role in World War I.
5. Creative writing: Assign students to write fictional narratives from the perspectives of passengers, crew members, or innocent bystanders witnessing the tragedy. This exercise helps them foster empathy, imagine historical contexts, and think critically about characters’ emotions and motivations.