This Week in Geographic History, May 7-13

Here’s an advance look at some of the “This Day in Geographic History” (TDIGH) events coming up this week. For each date, we’ve matched it with a map or visual, background information, and a classroom activity so you can plan ahead.

Check out our Pinterest board for more resources to support teaching these topics!


Monday, May 7

A cloud of snow blows from the summit of Mt. Everest, the highest of the “Seven Summits.”
Photograph by Jodi Cobb, National Geographic

TDIGH 1986: Mountaineer Reaches All ‘Seven Summits’

The Canadian mountaineer Patrick Morrow became the first person to reach the summits of the tallest mountains on each continent.

Maps: Take a look at the Seven Summits (or the Nine Summits, depending on the definition), and compare their elevations with this terrific graphic.

Background: Download this free poster and booklets for teaching about the Seven Summits.

Activity: Read about Wasfia Nazreen, a National Geographic explorer who became the first Bangladeshi to climb the Seven Summits.


Tuesday, May 8

Londoners celebrate the end of the war in Europe on V-E Day.
Photograph courtesy the Imperial War Museums. IWM Non Commercial Licence

TDIGH 1945: V-E Day

The day Nazi Germany surrendered is known as Victory in Europe (V-E) Day (since WWII did not end until Japan surrendered months later).

Maps: Get an overview of the major battles in the European Theatre of WWII, and then browse and download these fantastic maps of the conflict.

Background: Navigate the war with this interactive timeline of WWII in Europe.

Activity: Read this article about the end of WWII in Europe and discuss the “connect to today” question at the end.


Wednesday, May 9

Despite the cartoonish poster, “Buffalo Bill” became a strong supporter of Native American rights.
Illustration courtesy Library of Congress

TDIGH 1887: ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West’ Comes to London

The show, developed by former Army scout “Buffalo” Bill Cody, was a circus-like extravaganza depicting an exciting, romantic fable of life in America’s “Wild West.”

Maps: Take a look at this lovely map of Buffalo Bill’s tour of Western Europe. Have students think about the logistics of travel in the 19th century: How did the show transport bison, horses, and hundreds of performers?

Background: Have students read a fan’s account of how Buffalo Bill “conquered” Europe. Do students agree with the author that the Wild West is no longer American, but “belongs to the world”?

Activity: Bring Buffalo Bill to your classroom! The Buffalo Bill Center for the American West offers a terrific Skype in the Classroom program! We love the “Do You See Me Like I See Me? Cultural Perspectives in Western American Art” lesson.


Thursday, May 10

At center left, Samuel S. Montague, Central Pacific Railroad, shakes hands with Grenville M. Dodge, Union Pacific Railroad (center right).
Photograph by Andrew J. Russell, courtesy Yale University Libraries

TDIGH 1869: Golden Spike

The completion of the American transcontinental railroad boosted westward expansion by cutting travel times from months to days.

Map: Navigate the reach of U.S. Railroads from 1870-1890.

Background: Is everything we think we know about the Golden Spike a lie? (Not really, but these fun facts are a breeze to browse.)

Activity: Use the lesson plans surrounding this interactive map to help students learn how the transcontinental railroad transformed the American West between 1860 and 1890.


Friday, May 11

This gorgeous woodblock print is the front “page” of the oldest surviving print manuscript in the world. This Chinese version of the Buddhist “Diamond Sutra” was printed in northern China in 868.
Photograph courtesy International Dunhuang Project

TDIGH 868: First Printed Book

The Diamond Sutra survives as the oldest dated, printed book in the world.

Map: Dunhuang, where the Diamond Sutra was discovered, was a crucial part of the Silk Road. Navigate Dunhuang and the Silk Road with this interactive map, and discuss how ideas, as well as goods, traveled the Silk Road.

Background: Get a short background from the Smithsonian on “Five Things to Know About the Diamond Sutra.”

Activity: Use this lesson plan to explore the spread of Buddhism and other belief systems along the Silk Road.

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