Lesson 2: The Trial and Multiple Causality

The People vs. Columbus Simulation

Evaluating Multiple Causality

This role play begins with the premise that a monstrous crime was committed in the years after 1492, when perhaps as many as three million or more Taínos on the island of Hispaniola lost their lives. (Most scholars estimate the number of people on Hispaniola in 1492 at between one and three million; some estimates are lower and some much higher. By 1550, very few Taínos remained alive.)

Who—and/or what—was responsible for this slaughter? 

Post Trial Discussion and Debriefing:

Was anyone entirely not guilty? Did the prosecutor convince you that the Taínos were in part responsible for their own deaths?

Why didn’t the Taínos kill Columbus on his first voyage?

How did you weigh responsibility between the “bosses” and the men they hired?

Can you imagine a peaceful meeting between Europeans and Taínos? Or did European life—the “System of Empire”—make violence inevitable?

How would Spain and other European countries have had to be different to have made a  more peaceful outcome possible?

What more would you need to know about the System of Empire to understand how it affected people’s thinking and behavior?

If the System of Empire is guilty, what should be the “sentence”? You can’t put a system in prison.

Full simulation lesson plan here: people-vs-columbus


Given 100 points, how would you distribute these to assign guilt to the 5 indicted parties for this crime?  For each, please explain the reasons why you assigned the value you did to each defendant.


1. Historical Thinking  

2.  Career Related Learning Standards




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