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Interactive video lesson plan for: 4 of History’s Most Notorious Traitors | What the Stuff?!

Activity overview:

Don’t turn your back on these historical figures! They’ll probably stab you in it! Because that’s what they do!

10 of History's Most Notorious Traitors:

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Video Attribution:
Best Scene: Assassination of Jesse James

• Intro
• We have a natural tendency to despise traitors. No matter whether you’re a cop or a criminal, no matter which side of the war you fight on, nobody likes someone who’s willing to betray their supposed friends.
• Body
• Robert Hanssen
• Robert Hanssen was an FBI agent for 25 years, and was known to many as a church-going family man
• When Hanssen was arrested in 2001, it was alleged that he had been selling state secrets to the Russians for two decades
• Authorities claimed he revealed the identities of double agents working within the Soviet Union
• This apparently led to the execution of several of them
• Authorities also claimed he had shared the United States’ plans for responding to a nuclear strike with Soviet intelligence
• Hanssen was paid $1.4 million for his dealings over the years – he got some diamonds too
• He was caught and prosecuted in the early 2000s and sentenced to life in prison
• Vidkun Quisling
• Vidkun Quisling was a Norwegian army officer during World War II whose name became synonymous with betrayal
• As Minister of Defense in Norway, Quisling was known for opposing workers’ strikes and unionization
• During World War II, Quisling met with Adolf Hitler and encouraged him to invade Norway
• After the Germans invaded and occupied his country, Quisling tried to seize power for himself
• He was only Norway’s leader for a week
• He sentenced 1,000 Jews to concentration camps
• After the Axis powers were defeated, Quisling was put on trial for his treason, found guilty and executed in 1945
• Robert Ford
• Is there no honor among thieves?
• Jesse James of Missouri became famous as one of the leaders of a gang of outlaws who staged major robberies in the 1860s and ‘70s
• Robert Ford was an outlaw in Jesse’s gang
• In 1880, the governor of Missouri put a $10,000 reward on Jesse’s head
• And on April 3, 1882, Robert Ford shot Jesse James in the back, hoping to receive all of the money, a pardon and “Hero” status
• He got some of the money, but none of the “hero”
• Instead, Ford was widely reviled as a coward and a betrayer, until he himself was shot in the chest by another outlaw seeking fame
• Benedict Arnold
• Benedict Arnold – another one whose very name has come to mean “traitor”
• Benedict Arnold was an international merchant in colonial America, and his business suffered under taxation
• Arnold reacted by joining the cause of the American Revolution and becoming a respected commander
• But when popular support for the revolution began to decline, Arnold decided he might be better off with the British
• When the key strategic location of West Point was placed under his command, Arnold betrayed the revolutionary cause and attempted to surrender plans of the fort to the British
• These plans included the location of the fort’s weapons
• He was asking for the equivalent of about $3 million in today’s money in return for the betrayal
• Arnold’s plot was exposed in 1780 and he was convicted of treason
• Afterwards, he fought for the British crown and eventually moved to London.
• He died in 1801.
• Brutus and Cassius
• In Dante’s vision of hell in the Divine Comedy, the worst fate of all sinners (being personally chewed up by Satan) is reserved for three people:
• One of them is Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrays Jesus in the gospel narratives
• But who are the other people who could possibly be on this level, in Dante’s mind?
• Brutus and Cassius, the betrayers of Julius Caesar.
• Gaius Cassius Longinus was a Roman general who was distrustful of the power that fellow Roman general Julius Caesar was amassing.
• Marcus Junius Brutus was a Roman politician and friend of Julius Caesar.
• When Caesar declared himself ruler for life of Rome, Cassius convinced Brutus that Caesar had to be deposed
• On March 15, 44 B.C.E., Brutus led a revolt of political leadership in Rome, where the members of the Roman senate stabbed Julius Caesar to death on the senate floor

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