K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


LEARN NC is no longer supported by the UNC School of Education and has been permanently archived. On February 1st, 2018, you will only be able to access these resources through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. We recommend that you print or download resources you may need before February 1st, 2018, after which, you will have to follow these instructions in order to access those resources.

Learn more

Related pages

Related topics


Please read our disclaimer for lesson plans.


The text of this page is copyright ©2009. See terms of use. Images and other media may be licensed separately; see captions for more information and read the fine print.

These suggested teaching strategies, designed to accompany the article “Land and Work in Carolina,” will enable students to understand the concept of feudalism and its impact on the systems of labor and land ownership in colonial North Carolina. The activities may be used independently of each other or together.

Feudal origins activity

Students will be amazed that the feudal system had such an impact on colonial North Carolina. A review of some of the basic principles of this period will be helpful as the students read the primary sources in this section.

Student handouts

Feudal triangle diagram
Open as PDF (119 KB, 2 pages)
Feudal graphic organizer
Open as PDF (89 KB, 2 pages)


  1. Have students look at the feudal triangle diagram to help them recall what they have learned about the feudal system.
  2. Have students use the feudal graphic organizer to determine how feudal classes provided for those above and below them in the societal hierarchy.
  3. After students have reviewed the feudal concepts, have them go back and locate the examples of feudalism in the early Carolinian documents from this module:
  4. Ask students why they believe the documents were written in feudal language.
    • In what ways did a feudal system benefit the Lords Proprietors?
    • Are there any ways that it could benefit settlers?

Critical thinking activity: Towards a “modern” world

Eighth graders are beginning to think critically. The decline of feudalism presents an excellent subject that will allow students to use higher orders of thinking as they look for connections and causes and effects. The following questions may be presented in a discussion format or in written form:

  • Why did feudalism decline?
  • Why was the rise of towns one of the causes?
  • How was commerce both a cause and effect of the decline of feudalism?
  • Why did banking start?
  • Why did the practice of quitrents develop?
  • Aside from business or products, why else might rulers need money? (For this question you may consider leading students to the cost of warfare. Since nations were using armies and navies instead of service of vassals, what expenses developed?)

Understanding headrights: Old and new in Carolina

  1. Have students explain headrights in their own words. Why might the Proprietors have encouraged giving away land to settlers?
  2. Have students refer to “A Declaration and Proposals of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina (1663).” Ask them to read section seven, about establishing headright grants. Give them the following scenarios and have them determine how many acres each would receive:
    • A man moves to Carolina with his wife and seven children. He takes with him four male servants and two female servants. The head of the household has sufficient guns and ammunition to arm himself and his male servants. 360 acres
    • An indentured servant has fulfilled his indenture. He marries a young servant who has also completed her indenture. 16 acres
    • A widower moves to Carolina, bringing with him one male servant. He has as two guns and sufficient ammunition. 150 acres
  3. Although voting was still restricted to landowners, proportionally why would there have been many more voters in Carolina than in England? How did policies of the Lords Proprietors ensure that this would be true? Students should recognize that the headright system enabled more people to own land.
  4. You might ask the students to wrestle with the idea that although it was advantageous for the Lords Proprietors to encourage settlement and land ownership so that they could collect quitrents, they were also setting up a society in which many more men could become politically active than would have been possible in England.
    • How could people who would have been considered peasants in England become powerful landowners in America?
    • How did the blurring of class and rank have an impact in colonial life?
    • How could this political opportunity and power become an issue in the later years of the colonial period?
    • Could these policies have been influential as the colonies eventually sought independence from Great Britain?
  5. Why, ultimately, did a feudal society not succeed in the Carolina colony and the rest of the early American colonies?

Graphic organizer activity: Free and unfree labor

  1. Have students complete the graphic organizer below about labor in Carolina.
  2. After the students have completed the graphic organizer, ask them how each of these categories of labor aided in the development of Carolina.

Free and unfree labor in Carolina

In the PDF version of this lesson plan (see print and share menu), this chart appears on a separate page for ease of printing.

Labor Free or
Definition Typical type of work Positives and negatives
Indentured servants

Free and unfree labor in Carolina (teacher guide)

Labor Free or
Definition Typical type of work Positives and negatives
Apprentices Free after a period of time, usually seven years. Apprenticeship is a system of training craftsmen or skilled workers, began (typically) at age 14. Apprenticeship was just about the only way someone could learn a craft such as blacksmithing, carpentry, shoemaking, or printing. Received clothes, food, shelter; learned a craft or trade. Could be treated cruelly, had to stay for seven years.
Indentured servants Free after a period of time, usually five to seven years. Men in England paid transportation costs of poorer men and women. They were bound to work the land, during which time they were not free to leave their master or disobey him. Indentured servants in North Carolina usually worked on farms. Received clothes, food, shelter; could finish their indenture and become free; could earn land, clothes, and tools at that time. Were often treated cruelly, work was difficult, hours long, had to work for five to seven years.
Slaves Not free. Slaves were slaves for life, the phrase “chattel slavery” means slaves were personal possessions, and the children of slaves became slaves. All kinds of labor including housework; many worked in agriculture. Received clothes, food, shelter. Could be bought and sold, often treated cruelly, were slaves for life, work was difficult, hours long (students could have many more).

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 8

        • 8.C.1 Understand how different cultures influenced North Carolina and the United States. 8.C.1.1 Explain how exploration and colonization influenced Africa, Europe and the Americas (e.g. Columbian exchange, slavery and the decline of the American Indian populations)....
        • 8.H.1 Apply historical thinking to understand the creation and development of North Carolina and the United States. 8.H.1.1 Construct charts, graphs, and historical narratives to explain particular events or issues. 8.H.1.2 Summarize the literal meaning of...
        • 8.H.3 Understand the factors that contribute to change and continuity in North Carolina and the United States. 8.H.3.1 Explain how migration and immigration contributed to the development of North Carolina and the United States from colonization to contemporary...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 8

  • Goal 1: The learner will analyze important geographic, political, economic, and social aspects of life in the region prior to the Revolutionary Period.
    • Objective 1.03: Compare and contrast the relative importance of differing economic, geographic, religious, and political motives for European exploration.
    • Objective 1.05: Describe the factors that led to the founding and settlement of the American colonies including religious persecution, economic opportunity, adventure, and forced migration.
    • Objective 1.07: Describe the roles and contributions of diverse groups, such as American Indians, African Americans, European immigrants, landed gentry, tradesmen, and small farmers to everyday life in colonial North Carolina, and compare them to the other colonies.