Captain Cook reputation continues to be very controversial. At the time he was seen as a man of science, an explorer, a great navigator and adventurer. His death at the hands of the native people of Hawaii turned him into a martyr who died for the British Empire. However, in our post colonial times, his reputation has been called into question by people who suffered as a result of his actions. Historians are interested in these debates as they question the role and purpose of history and whose story we are telling in the classroom. Other counter that it is wrong to question the reputation of great men like Captain Cook as they didn’t have the benefit of hindsight and couldn’t foresee the consequences of their actions.
This innovative and creative activity has been designed to help students assess the reputation of Captain Cook and decide whether he was a Colonial Hero or an Imperialist Villain. This activity involves giving students a card sort with sixteen statements to sort through and decide which statement they support. Once this has been complete, students can then have a go at answering the question: How far was Captain Cook a hero or a villain?’ They could do this in a project, an essay, or they could take sides and write a speech arguing either side. I have included links to two video clips, including the BBC Timewatch video. After they have completed the card sort, students could add facts to either side of the debate. Ultimately, this resource is highly adaptable and can easily be adapted to suit a wide range of learners.
The aims and objectives are:
Theme: The British Empire
Know: What sort of man was Captain Cook?
Understand: Why are historical events interpreted in different ways?
Evaluate: Was Captain Cook a colonial hero or an imperial villain?
WILF - What Am I Looking For?
Identify and describe: Who was Captain Cook and why is famous?
Explain: Why are historical events interpreted in different ways?
Analyze: Was Captain Cook a colonial hero or an imperial villain?
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