The Anatomy of a Crisis

The Anatomy of a Crisis
Rosalynn Carter: Law, Politics and Govt

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: At least two class periods


The Iran Hostage Crisis had an enormous impact on the election of 1980.  In fact, many political analysts have asserted that it was perhaps the primary reason that Jimmy Carter lost the election.  It was also one of the first acts of international terrorism against the United States by a Middle Eastern country.


The purpose of this lesson is to acquaint students with Iran and its history of contact with the United States.  Understanding this crisis will also assist student understanding of present-day relations between the United States and the countries of the Middle East.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; access to print reference materials; materials for creation of a timeline.


Ask students what they know about the Iran Hostage Crisis.  If the textbook addresses the Crisis, review that section.  Tell students that, because this is one of the first acts of international terrorism against the United States, they are going to study it carefully and create a timeline of events.  The teacher should decide whether the timeline would be created by each individual, in groups, or by the class as a whole.  Regardless of how he/she decides, the following topics should be included:

  • Iran under the Shah
  • Overthrow of the Shah
  • Establishment of a theocracy
  • Seizure of the embassy staff
  • Diplomatic attempts to secure their freedom
  • Presidential Election of 1980
  • Final Resolution


Extending the Lesson:

The teacher may wish to compare the events leading up to 9/11 with the Iran Hostage Crisis.  This will give students two different models of terrorist behaviors.

Sources & Resources:

The Iranian Hostage Crisis: November 1979-January 1981 
The Hostage Crisis in Iran 
Iran Hostage Crisis on Wikipedia 

Iran Hostage Anniversary – CBS News 

This lesson was developed by Bette Brooks, Kent State University.