Imperialism Unit Plan

Instructor: Laura McNeice

Laura has a masters in Curriculum and Instruction in Social Studies Education and has been teaching for 7 years in North Carolina.

Imperialism is a complex topic that spans many of the world's continents. Use this unit plan to help prepare a study of the motivations, practices, and responses to the topic of imperialism.

Global Imperialism Unit Plan

In global studies and world history courses, imperialism is a key topic in teaching students about the changing times of the 20th century. This unit plan would be best used when teaching high school freshman and sophomores about the countries who imperialized and countries who were affected. Use the following lesson plans, activities, essay prompts, and discussion questions to build your unit.

Imperialism Pre-Discussion

Prior to introducing new material ask students what they know about imperialism. Have them brainstorm possible definitions, examples, side effects, etc. Also have them brainstorm why they believe countries take over other countries. Record all their answers on the board so you can refer to them throughout the lesson and add to it as you go.

Imperialism Begins

Introduce students to the general idea of what imperialism is and how it started. The Imperialism Lesson Plan can help you with particular concepts related to Europe and America, and includes a political cartoon activity. An optional extension idea can be found in the Eugenics Lesson Plan, which will expound on the idea of national pride gone astray. This subject could potentially be sensitive, so ensure you evaluate the maturity level of your students and their objective observation skills before you decide if the ideas about eugenics would benefit your students.

The Imperialism Simulation Lesson Plan can be a fun way to engage your students with primary and secondary sources as well as a hands-on activity to deepen their knowledge of imperialism.

Imperialism Globally


Use the Berlin Conference Lesson Plan to help students evaluate how imperialism started on the African continent. The Belgian Congo is a great case study to use in order to illustrate the effects of European imperialism on Africa. The Belgian Congo Lesson Plan will contextualize imperialism and describe the effects of it on the African people.


Begin discussion of imperialism in Asia with the Imperialism in China Lesson Plan which will connect students' existing knowledge of European imperialism to another continent. To take it a bit deeper you could use the Boxer Rebellion Lesson Plan to have students evaluate the reaction of the native people groups to the imperialist efforts of other countries. Continue examining Asian imperialism by utilizing the British Imperialism in India Lesson Plan to show further aspects of European imperialism on the continent, through the timeline of British involvement.

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