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Past Essay Questions


  1. To what extent is the term "Renaissance" a valid concept for s distinct period in early modern European history?
  2. Explain the ways in which Italian Renaissance humanism transformed ideas about the individual's role in society.
  3. Discuss how Renaissance ideas are expressed in the Italian art of the period, referring to specific works and artists.
  4. "In the fifteenth century, European Society was still centered on the Mediterranean region, but by the end of the seventeenth century, the focus of Europe had shifted north." Identify and analyze the economic developments between 1450 and 1700 that helped bring about this shift.
  5. "The Reformation was a rejection of the secular spirit of the Italian Renaissance." Defend or dispute this statement using specific examples from sixteenth century Europe.
  6. "Luther was both a revolutionary and a conservative." Evaluate this statement with respect to Luther's responses to the political and social questions of his day.
  7. Assess the extent to which the Protestant Reformation promoted new expectations about social roles in the sixteenth century. Refer to at least two social groups in your response.
  8. Compare and contrast the attitudes of Martin Luther and John Calvin toward political authority and social order.
  9. Describe and analyze the ways in which the Roman Catholics defended their faith against the Protestant Reformation.
  10. The pictures below and on the next page show the interiors of a Protestant church and a Roman Catholic church as each appeared in the first half of the seventeenth century. Using these pictures as a starting point, explain how each of these interiors reflect the different theologies and religious practices of Protestantism and Catholicism at that time.
  11. What were the responses of the Catholic authorities in the Sixteenth Century to the challenges posed by the Lutheran Reformation?
  12. "The Protestant Reformation was primarily an economic event." By describing and determining the relative importance of the economic, political, and religious causes of the Protestant Reformation, defend or refute this statement.
  13. Compare and contrast the Lutheran Reformation and the Catholic Reformation of the sixteenth century regarding the reform of both religious doctrines and religious practices.
  14. Describe and analyze the ways in which the development of printing altered both the culture and the religion of Europe during the period 1450-1600.
  15. In 1519 Charles of Hapsburg became Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Discuss and analyze the political, social, and religious problems he faced over the course of his imperial reign.
  16. Evaluate the relative importance of the religious rivalries and dynastic ambitions that shaped the course of the Thirty Years War.
  17. In the seventeenth century, how did England and the Dutch Republic compete successfully with France and Spain for control of overseas territory and trade.
  18. Analyze the changes in the European economy from about 1450 to 1700 brought about by the voyages of exploration and colonization.
  19. In the seventeenth century, what political conditions accounted for the increased power of both the Parliament in England and the monarchy in France?
  20. Focusing on the period before 1600, describe and analyze the cultural and economic interactions between Europe and the Western Hemisphere as a result of the Spanish and Portuguese exploration and settlement.
  21. Analyze the ways in which both the theory and practice of monarchy evolved in England from 1603 (the death of Elizabeth I) to 1688-1689 (the Glorious Revolution).
  22. Describe and analyze the changes in the role of Parliament in English politics between the succession of James I and the Glorious Revolution.
  23. "In seventeenth-century England the aristocracy lost its privileges but retained its power; in seventeenth-century France the aristocracy retained its privileges but lost its power." Assess the accuracy of the statement with respect to political events and social developments in the countries in the seventeenth century.
  24. Analyze the major ways through which Tsar Peter the Great (1689-1725) sought to reform his society and its institutions order to strengthen Russia and its position in Europe. (1985)
  25. Analyze the methods and degrees of success of Russian political and social reform from the period of Peter the Great (1689-1725) through Catherine the Great (1762-1796).
  26. Analyze the influence of the theory of mercantilism on the domestic and foreign policies of France, 1600-1715.
  27. Analyze the military, political, and social factors that account for the rise of Prussia between 1640 and 1786.
  28. Describe and analyze the economic, cultural, and social changes that led to and sustained Europe's rapid population growth in the period from approximately 1650 to 1800.
  29. In what ways did the Enlightenment thinkers build on or make the use of the ideas of Newton and Locke?
  30. Describe and analyze the changes that led to Europe's rapid population growth in the eighteenth century.
  31. Compare and contrast the views of Machiavelli and Rousseau on human nature and the relationship between government and the governed.
  32. Compare and contrast the cultural values of the Enlightenment with those of the sixteenth-century Northern Renaissance.
  33. Describe the new astronomy of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and analyze the ways it changed scientific methods and thought.
  34. How did the new developments in scientific thought from Copernicus to Newton create a new conception of the universe and humanity's place in it?
  35. Analyze the ways in which Enlightenment thought addressed religious beliefs and social issues in the eighteenth century.
  36. To what extent did the Enlightenment express optimistic ideas in the eighteenth-century? Illustrate your answer with references to specific individuals and their works. (
  37. "In the eighteenth century, people turned to the new science for a better understanding of the social and economic problems of the day." Assess the validity of this statement by using specific examples from the Enlightenment era.
  38. Analyze the ways in which specific intellectual and scientific developments of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries contributed to the emergence of the religious outlook known as "Deism."
  39. To what extent and in what ways was the French Revolution during the period 1789 through the Reign of Terror (1794) an attempt to create a government based on enlightenment ideals?
  40. "The essential cause of the French Revolution was the collision between a powerful, rising bourgeousie and an entrenched aristocracy defending its privileges." Asses the validity of this statement as an explanation of the events leading up to the French Revolution of 1789.
  41. "Political leaders committed to radical or extremist goals often exert authoritarian control in the name of higher values." Support or refute this statement with reference to the political and cultural policies of Robespierre during the French Revolution.
  42. Identify the major social groups in France on the eve of the 1789 Revolution. Assess the extent to which their aspirations were achieved in the period from the meeting of the Estates-General (1789) to the declaration of the republic (September 1792).
  43. "Napoleon was a child of the Enlightenment." Assess the validity of this statement. Use examples referring both to specific aspects of the Enlightenment and to Napoleon's policies and attitudes.
  44. "Napoleon I is sometimes called the greatest enlightened despot." Evaluate this assessment in terms of Napolean I's policies and accomplishments. Be sure to include a definition of enlightened despotism in your answer.
  45. Between 1450 and 1800, many women gained power as rulers, some as reigning queens, other as regents. Identify two such powerful women and discuss how issues of gender, such as marriage and reproduction, influenced their ability to obtain and exercise power.
  46. Evaluate the effectiveness of the collective responses by workers to industrialization in Western Europe during the course of the nineteenth century.
  47. Identify the social end economic factors in pre-industrial England that explain why England was the first country to industrialize.
  48. Between 1750 and 1850 more and more Western Europeans were employed in cottage industry and in factory production. Analyze how these two types of employment affected employer-employee relations, working conditions, family relations, and the standard of living during this period.
  49. Discuss some of the ways in which Romantic artists, musicians, and writers responded to political and socioeconomic conditions in the period from 1800 to 1850. Document your response with specific examples from discussions of at least two of the three disciplines: visual arts, music, and literature.
  50. Describe and analyze the issues and ideas in the debate in Europe between 1750 and 1846 over the proper role of government in the economy.
  51. Between 1815 and 1848 the condition of the laboring classes and the problem of political stability were critical issues in England. Describe and analyze the reforms that social critics and politicians proposed to solve these problems.
  52. In what ways did the writings of Karl Marx draw on the Enlightenment concepts of progress, natural laws, and reason?
  53. Identify and explain the similarities and differences between socialism and liberalism in nineteenth-century Europe.
  54. Describe and compare the difference among Utopian socialists, Karl Marx, and Revisionist socialists in their critiques of nineteenth-century European economy and society.
  55. To what extent and in what ways did intellectual developments in Europe in the period 1880-1920 undermine confidence in human rationality and in a well-ordered, dependable universe.
  56. To what extent did Marx and Freud each challenge the nineteenth-century liberal belief in rationality and progress.
  57. Analyze the major social, political, and technological changes that took place in European welfare between 1789 and 1918.
  58. In February 1848, the middle classes and workers in France joined to overthrow the government of Louis Phillipe. By June the two groups were at odds in their political, economic, and social thinking. Analyze what transpired to divide the groups and describe the consequences for French politics.
  59. Describe the physical transformation of European cities in the second half of the nineteenth century and analyze the social consequences of the transformation.
  60. Analyze and compare the effects of nationalism on Italian and Austro-Hungarian policies between 1815 and 1914?
  61. Analyze the policies of three European colonial regarding Africa between 1871 and 1914.
  62. How and in what ways were economic and political factors responsible for intensifying European imperialist activity in Africa from the mid-nineteenth century to the beginning of the First World War.
  63. To what extent did the emancipation of Russian serfs and other reforms in the nineteenth century contribute to the modernization of Russia before the First World War?
  64. Contrast European diplomacy in the periods 1890 to 1914 and 1918 to 1939, respectively. Include in analysis goals, practices and results.
  65. Describe the steps taken between 1832 and 1918 to extend suffrage in England. What groups and movements contributed to the extension of the vote?
  66. Assess the extent to which the unification of Germany under Bismarck led to authoritarian government there between 1871 and 1914.
  67. Analyze what differences in leisure activities shown in the two paintings below reflect about the social life of the peasants in the sixteenth century and of urban dwellers in the nineteenth century.
  68. Compare and contrast the motives for European overseas expansion during the Age of Discovery (fifteenth and sixteenth centuries) and during the Age of New Imperialism (nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.)
  69. Describe and analyze the long-term social and economic trends in the period 1860 to 1917 that prepared the ground for revolution in Russia.
  70. "The tsarist regime fell in 1917 because it had permitted tremendous change and progress in some areas while trying to maintain a political order that had outlived its time." Assess the validity of this statement as an explanation of the abdication of Nicholas II in 1917.
  71. Compare and contrast the efforts the ensure European collective security that were made by the victorious powers between 1815 and 1830 (after Napoleonic wars) with those made by the victorious powers between 1918 and 1933 (after the First World War).
  72. Compare and contrast the roles of the peasantry and of urban workers in the French Revolution of 1789 to those of the peasantry and of the urban workers in the Russian Revolutions of 1917.
  73. TO what extent and in what ways did nationalist tension in the Balkans between 1870 and 1914 contribute to the outbreak of the First World War?
  74. Describe and analyze the ways in which Marxism, Freudianism, and the women's movement challenged traditional European beliefs before the First World War.
  75. Analyze and assess the extent to which the First World War accelerated European social change in such areas as work, sex roles, and government involvement in every day life.
  76. Discuss and analyze the political and economic reasons for the failure of parliamentary democracy in Germany after the First World War.
  77. TO what extent and in what ways has twentieth-century physics challenged the Newtonian view of the universe and society.
  78. "1914-1918 marks a turning point in the intellectual and cultural history of Europe." Defend, refute, or modify this statement with reference to the generation before and after the First World War.
  79. Compare and contrast the roles of British working women in the preindustrial economy (before 1750) with their roles in the era 1850 to 1920.
  80. How and in what ways did European painting or literature reflect the disillusionment in society between 1919 and 1939? Support your answer with specific artistic or literary examples.
  81. Compare the rise of power pf fascism in Italy and in Germany.
  82. Account for the responses of the European democracies to the military aggression of Italy and Germany during the 1930's.
  83. Compare the economic roles of the state under seventeenth-century mercantilism and twentieth century communism. Illustrate your answer with reference to the economic system of France during Louis XIV's reign under Colbert and of the Soviet Union under Stalin.
  84. In what ways did Lenin alter Marxism?
  85. Why did Germany's experiment with parliamentary democracy between 1919 and 1933 fail?
  86. What policies of the Stalinist government perpetuated the essential features of the tsarist regime under Nicholas II (1894-1917)?
  87. Compare and Contrast the patronage of the arts by Italian Renaissance rulers with that of dictators of the 1930's.
  88. Compare and contrast the relationships between the great powers and Poland between 1772-1815 and 1918-1939.
  89. Compare and contrast the extent to which Catherine the Great and Joseph Stalin were "Westernizers".
  90. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the economic revival of Western Europe between 1945 and 1970.
  91. Analyze the criticisms of European society presented by European authors in the period 1940 to 1970. Be sure to discuss at least two (2) works.
  92. Analyze the economic and social challenges faced by Western Europe in the period from 1945 to 1989. (2008)
  93. Analyze the ways in which the cold war affected the political development of European nations from the end of the Second World War in 1945 to the construction of the Berlin wall in 1961.
  94. Describe and analyze the changing relationships between the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries from 1945 to 1970.
  95. Identify four specific changes in science and technology, and explain their effects on Western European family and private life between 1918 and 1970.
  96. Analyze the ways in which technology was an issue in European social activism between 1945 and 1970. Be sure to include three of the following: environmentalism, peace movements, student protest, women's movements, worker's movements.
  97. Compare and contrast the women's suffrage movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with the European feminist movements of the 1960's and 1970's.
  98. Describe and analyze the resistance the Soviet authority in the Eastern bloc from the end of the Second World War through 1989. Be sure to include examples from at least two Soviet satellite countries.

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