Take-home Questions for Exams

For each exam this semester, students will write two essays: (1) one to be written in class during the exam period and (2) the other to be written at home and turned in with the exam.

The take-home exam questions are designed to encourage students to analyze critically the historical events we have studied and to draw conclusions about these events. The take-home questions ask students to answer questions about major issues of historical interpretation. By writing the essays at home, students are able to analyze material relevant to the exams in a setting where memorization and time limits will not be critical to their performance.

Four take-home questions are listed below. For each of our four exams, answer one question. You must answer a different question for each exam. Therefore, by the end of the semester, you will have answered each question once. Use the chart below to record which questions you have answered.

Exam 1
Exam 2
Exam 3
Exam 4
A. Five significant eventsx xxx
B. How does history affect quality of life? xxxx
C. The "Great Man Theory of History" xxxx
D. Which type of forces have most affected history? xxxx

Question A

In studying the past, historians are concerned with discovering the consequences of historical events. What events or trends had the greatest impact on subsequent history? Which events or trends had the most significant consequences?

Take-home question: For the historical period covered by the exam, which five events or trends had the greatest impact on the development of Western Civilization? Begin your essay by listing the five events which you believe are most important. Then, for each event write a paragraph or two explaining why you believe the event was more significant than others during the time period. (Note: An event is a noteworthy happening. An event involves action. "The wheel" is not an event. "The invention of the wheel" is an event.)

Question B

Through the years, historians have differed with each other over the question of whether historical change brings progress or decline in humanity's quality of life. Four theories have been proposed: (1) Some historians have seen history as the story of decline in quality of life. Humanity has declined from higher stages of development to lower stages of development. (2) Some historians present history as occurring in cycles, with humanity experiencing alternating periods of advancement and decline, continuing throughout history. (3) Some historians see history as progress. Each era of history is better than the one which came before it. The conditions of humanity generally improve from lower to higher stages of development. (4) Some historians argue that the progression of time has had little impact on the overall quality of life. While history may bring improvement in some areas of life, these gains are offset by declines in other areas of life. Thus, the overall condition of humanity does not change through time.

Take-home question: For the period of time covered by the exam, which of these four theories best explains the history of Western Civilization? Why?

Question C

Historians often debate the "Great-Man Theory of History." Some scholars agree with the historian Thomas Carlyle, who argued that "The history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the history of the Great Men who have worked here." Historians who embrace the "Great-Man Theory" see history as the product of actions by significant individuals: kings, generals, politicians, entrepreneurs, and other prominent persons. Wars, revolutions, economic cycles, and cultural, intellectual, and technological advances are the work of significant individuals whose actions fundamentally change human destiny. Other scholars disagree with this interpretation by arguing that history is the product of impersonal social, economic, and political forces. No single person--no matter how great or powerful--can really affect these forces and significantly change the course of history. The "Great Men" (or women) are themselves simply the creation of larger historical forces, and their actions are likewise the by-products of trends beyond the control of any individual.

Take-home question: For the time period covered by the exam, was the course of history affected more by the actions of significant individuals or by large, impersonal forces beyond the control of single individuals? Explain your answer.

Question D

Many scholars present history as being especially influenced by specific types of forces. For instance, many scholars have traditionally presented political and diplomatic forces as the principal forces driving history forward. Other scholars have presented philosophical and theological concerns as the principal motive forces causing historical change. Karl Marx said that history is produced by economic forces. Many scholars have seen historical change occurring through the clash of social and economic classes seeking to maximize the advantages of their classes. Others argue that changing technology has produced the greatest changes in society. Some see gender issues-the relations between men and women as classes of people-as the greatest mover of history. Many scholars argue that environmental factors, including geography and climate, have had the greatest impact. Finally, some scholars present demography as the most important force (the characteristics of populations of people, including size and density of population, distribution of population and migration, and health, death rates, and birth rates).

Take-home question: For the period of time covered by the exam, identify the one force that had the greatest impact in causing historical change: (1) politics, (2) diplomatic and military forces, (3) economics, including the conflict between social and economic classes, (4) intellectual and philosophical trends, (5) religion, (6) technology, (7) gender issues, (8) environment, and (9) demography. Explain your answer.


Answer this take-home question in an essay of four or fewer pages. I assume that many of you will find evidence which supports more than one side of these issues. Nevertheless, on each question you should state clearly which theory best explains history of civilization. Remember that making a successful argument involves not only presenting evidence and arguments for your side of the issue, but also refuting evidence and arguments on the other side of the issue. Be sure to explain the reasons for your answer and use specific examples drawn from the textbook, class lectures, or other sources to support your answer.

You may consult these readings and your class notes while you are answering the question, but be certain to include a bibliography and reference notes for the materials you use. The normal rules regarding plagiarism apply to this essay. Also, you should not consult with other students concerning your answer. Your answer to the take-home question is due at the beginning of class on the day of the exam.

| This page was last updated on 1/18/01. | Return to History 111 Supplements | Site Map |
| Study Sheets | Exam 1 | Exam 2 | Exam 3 | Exam 4 | Take-home Questions for Exams |
| Quiz Assignments | Quiz 1 | Quiz 2 | Quiz 3 | Quiz 4 |

Dr. Harold D. Tallant, Department of History, Georgetown College
400 East College Street, Georgetown, KY 40324, (502) 863-8075
E-mail: htallant@georgetowncollege.edu.