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
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 the students' 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.
|A. The Pattern of Revolutions||x||x||x||x|
|B. Evaluating the Greatness of Leaders||x||x||x||x|
|C. Principle v. Self-interest||x||x||x||x|
|D. The Lessons of History||x||x||x||x|
Many historians have argued that there is a common
pattern in the way political revolutions occur. Revolutions seem
to pass through four distinct phases: (1) During an initial period
of agitation, reformers seek changes in the status quo. The goals
of the reformers are moderate and they are willing to tolerate
much of the existing governing structure if certain changes are
implemented. The leaders of the reform movement often include
members of the governing class. Opposition by the government to
reform, however, makes the reformers increasingly radical. (2)
During the second phase, the reformers become revolutionaries.
They seek and achieve the overthrow of the government. Revolutionaries
establish and strengthen an entirely new government based on the
principles of the revolution. Conflict often emerges between the
original leaders of the revolution and those seeking more radical
change. (3) During the third phase, the fervor of revolutionaries
reaches its most extreme level. Revolutionary ideology is put
into practice in ways which are heedless, oppressive, or impractical.
Seeking to preserve and extend the accomplishments of the revolution,
revolutionaries try to destroy all enemies of the revolution.
In so doing, the revolutionaries ironically become more oppressive
than the government they overturned. (4) During the last phase
(sometimes called the Thermadorean Reaction), the populace reacts
against excesses of the revolutionaries, removing the most recent
leaders and returning to government some of prerevolutionary practices
and leaders. Most of the changes of the revolution, especially
those of the early phases of the revolution, remain in place however.
How well does the pattern above describe the revolutions during
the historical period covered by the exam? For exam 1, discuss
the English Revolution (the events related to the struggle against
the Stuarts and the English Civil War) or discuss the American
Revolution. For exam 2, discuss the French Revolution. For exam
3, discuss the Russian Revolution. For exam 4, discuss the Nazi
Revolution of the 1920s-30s.
Historians often evaluate the "greatness"
of world leaders. This evaluation is usually based on an assessment
of a leader's successes and failures, the short-term and long-term
consequences of a leader's actions, the success of a leader in
adjusting to the domestic and international conditions of his
or her time period, and the quality of the leader's decision-making
For the historical period covered by the exam, rank the five greatest
leaders in order of their greatness. (With number one being the
greatest and number five being the worst.)
Begin your paper with a simple listing of the leaders
in the order that you have ranked them. Explain the criteria you
have chosen for evaluating the greatness of leaders. Then, give
a detailed explanation of the reasoning behind your answer. Your
answer should include an evaluation of each leader and an explanation
of why you ranked them where you did (i.e., you will need to do
some comparing and contrasting).
One of the persistent issues confronting historians
is the question of whether most people act to promote principle
or self-interest? When confronting great public issues, do people
usually try to promote certain ideologies, values, and beliefs
or do they usually try to promote their own well-being?
When people involved themselves in politics during the period
of history covered by the exam, did they act principally to promote
certain principles or to promote their own self-interest?
The British author G. K. Chesterton wrote: "The
disadvantage of men not knowing the past is that they do not know
the present. History is a hill or high point of vantage, from
which alone men see the town in which they live or the age in
which they are living" ("On St. George Revivified,"
All I Survey, ). History serves as the experience
gained by humanity as it has struggled through the years, a body
of knowledge which can help us better understand the problems
we face and the solutions available to us.
What are the most important lessons that people of the 1990s can
draw from the period of history covered by the exam? Be certain
to apply these lessons drawn from specific historical events to
specific issues or problems facing people of our time.
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 the 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
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.
Dr. Harold D. Tallant, Department of History, Georgetown College
400 East College Street, Georgetown, KY 40324, (502) 863-8075