Miller Center

European Reaction to the Cuban Missile Crisis

Martha Wheless, First Colonial H.S. (Virginia Beach, VA)

Download Lesson Plan | Download DBQ

General Topic

Cuban Missile Crisis

Specific Topic

European Reaction to the Cuban Misslie Crisis

Virginia Standards of Learning

WHII.1 The student will improve skills in historical research and geographical analysis by

a)identifying, analyzing, and interpreting primary and secondary sources to make generalizations about events and life in world history since 1500 A.D.;
b)using maps, globes, artifacts, and pictures to analyze the physical and cultural landscapes of the world and to interpret the past since 1500 A.D.;

WHII.12 The student will demonstrate knowledge of major events and outcomes of the Cold War by

a)explaining key events of the Cold War, including the competition between the American and Soviet economic and political systems and the causes of the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe;
b)assessing the impact of nuclear weaponry on patterns of conflict and cooperation since 1945;


  • The student will improve skills in historical research and analysis by analyzing and interpreting primary source material pertaining to the Cold War.
  • The student will discuss the Cuban Missile Crisis and it’s effect on Europeans and assess the impact of nuclear weapons on a major Cold War conflict.

Historical Context

In September 1962, United States President John F. Kennedy received intelligence reports on a possible nuclear missile buildup in Cuba. American U-2 spy planes photographed Cuba for the next month while American intelligence noted the increasing number of Soviet ships going into and out of Cuba. On October 16th, President Kennedy was informed that the Soviets were building offensive missile sites in Cuba. Kennedy and his advisors developed three possible responses. The first was diplomatic action followed by military action if needed. The second option was to send military forces to Cuba without warning. The third option was to give a political warning to the Soviets and to blockade Cuba. In a speech on October 22, Kennedy informed Americans and the world of the presence of missiles in Cuba, announced a quarantine (blockade) of Cuba, and asserted that any nuclear missile launched at the United States from Cuba would require a “full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”



Teacher/Student Activity

The following question is based on the accompanying Documents 1-14. (Some of the documents have been edited for the purpose of this exercise.) This question is designed to test your ability to work with and understand historical documents. You may refer to relevant historical information not mentioned in the documents. Write an essay that:

  • Provides an appropriate, explicitly stated thesis that directly addresses all parts of the question and does NOT simply restate the question.
  • Discusses a majority of documents individually and specifically.
  • Demonstrates understanding of the basic meaning of a majority of the documents.
  • Supports the thesis with appropriate interpretations of a majority of the documents.
  • Analyzes the documents by explicitly grouping them in at least three appropriate ways.
  • Takes into the account both the sources of the documents and the authors’ point of view.

Q: Discuss the various European views regarding the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Students will complete their DBQ essay in one hour. They will have previously received a copy of the AP European History Core Scoring Guide (a copy of which is attached to this lesson plan).


  • Utilizing the AP European History Core Scoring Guide, each essay will receive a number from 0 – 9 which corresponds to an identified scale of numerical grades. Zeros are given only for no response to the question.