You may be thinking, “Who?”
Most people that have heard of her would say she was a serial killer – possibly the world’s most prolific serial killer. A small minority of historians would argue that she was a victim of a terrible plot to destroy her family, fortune, and influence. Your students have the opportunity to make up their own minds.
She was one of the richest women in eastern Europe. Her family owned most of Hungary and Slovakia and controlled Transylvania. Contrary to popular belief, these lands were NOT part of the Holy Roman Empire which is where the problem lies.
Elizabeth was a woman of means and education. She owned much of the family land and fortune in her own right, meaning, it was in HER name, not her husbands. She managed the estate most of her adult life and did a great job but she either wasn’t aware of or couldn’t help the rumors swirling around her.
Whether you believe the rumors or believe there is a possibility she was set up, she died after four years in solitary confinement and the Bathory reign of power in Hungary ended.
Like Hua Mulan, there simply are not enough images to create a video which means I opted for another podcast*. In one class period, your students will learn about the life of Elizabeth and the politics surrounding her. They will be presented with both sides of the history – the murderess and the victim.
While listening to the podcast, students have a workbook to complete. In the end, students will have all of the information necessary to make a decision – guilty or innocent.
This lesson is Common Core aligned, making it a great one day lesson, and gives you a great excuse to change it up. Students learn about a woman in history, how history may be exaggerated and tilted to one side, and they get to practice a history skill – decision making. After all, history is a collection of opinions, not facts.
*The podcast will begin with opening credits and fade to a mostly black screen. There is one map a few minutes into the podcast that needs to be seen by students because I am not providing a color map in the workbook. The podcast will note when you could turn your projector off. Credits do run at the end, however.
The Link with Dracula
Elizabeth Bathory is often referred to as the Blood Countess or Countess Dracula. This is because she is from Hungary and lived in the same geographic region as Vlad the Impaler, the real-life inspiration for Bram Stokers Dracula.
She was born less than 100 years after Vlad. And Vlad stories were very well known and often sold in pamphlets. EVERYONE knew about Vlad and the sensational stories of his wickedness. When the rumors of Elizabeth’s blood bathing and the missing young women, people couldn’t help themselves and they continued to tell the stories.
As time continues, surviving accounts of Elizabeth morph her story with Vlad and then they recount her history as a blood-crazed woman desperate to keep herself looking young forever.
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