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 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.

Exam 1
Exam 2
Exam 3
Exam 4
A. The Pattern of Revolutionsx xx x
B. Evaluating the Greatness of Leaders xx xx
C. Principle v. Self-interestx xx x
D. The Lessons of Historyx xx x

Question A

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.

Take-home question: 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.

Question B

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 process.

Take-home question: 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).

Question C

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?

Take-home question: 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?

Question D

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, [1933]). 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.

Take-home question: 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 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 113 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: Harold_Tallant@georgetowncollege.edu.