to syllabus

Fall 2003 Final Exam Questions




In class during our final exam, I will pick one of these three questions for you to answer.  You will answer the question in class in a blue book (I will provide you with the blue book).


You may bring to class a single page of notes (front and back).  One this page you can have notes, quotations from the documents and textbook, and outlines to your answers.  (Remember that all quotations must be in quotation marks!)


Your page of notes can not include the text of your answer.


You will turn in your page of notes with your exam.


Here are the three questions.  Please be sure to read the "tips on writing essays" that follow the questions!




Question 1.


How did the political use of nationalism in Europe change between 1815 and 1945? 


In the Week VII lecture I said that the nature of politics of nationalism changed dramatically in the 1800s:   in the early 1800s, nationalism was basically a "liberal" idea that conservatives viewed as dangerous; but in the second half of the 1800s, conservatives made use nationalism to promote "traditional" authority.  In lecture, I have also argued in the late 1800s and early 1900s nationalism became linked to new thinking about "race," that nationalism was one of the causes of the First World War, and that the fascists in  Italy and the Nazis in Germany manipulated ultra-nationalism in creating their dictatorial regimes.


In planning your essay, be sure that you consider information in the lecture notes and relevant information from the Coffin textbook and from the following documents: von Bismarck, Memoirs; Renan, What is a Nation?; Fabri, Does Germany Need Colonies?; Chamberlin, Foundations of the Nineteenth Century; Junger, The Storm of Steel; Mussolini, Born of A Need for Action; Hitler, Mein Kampf.


Question 2.


In what ways was conflict between social classes a central issue in European politics between 1848 and 1945?


In the Week VII lecture I argued that from 1848 through the 20th century, one of the most basic political divisions in western civilization was the division between the main social classes of capitalist society--the working class and the capitalist class (also called the proletariat and the bourgeoisie).  I've mentioned social class divisions as a major political factor in the revolutions of 1848, in Imperial Germany, the Russian Revolution (in the on-line lecture notes), and in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.


In planning your essay, be sure that you consider information in the lecture notes and relevant information from the Coffin textbook and from the following documents:  Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party; Documents on 1848 in France (linked to on-line syllabus); Reed, Ten Days That Shook the World; Mussolini, Born of A Need for Action.


Question 3.


Mussolini famously claimed that fascism would erase the year 1789 from the face of history.  What legacies of "1789" did the Fascists and Nazis wish to destroy and why? 


To answer this question, you need to consider not only the meaning of the ideas of Mussolini and Hitler, but also the meanings of the ideas that they were attacking (for instance, democracy, liberalism, and socialism). 


In planning your essay be sure that you review the lecture notes, Coffin textbook, and Brophy documents on Fascism and Nazism (Mussolini, Born of a Need for Action" and Hitler, Mein Kampf).  But you also have to be sure to review the lecture notes and the Coffin textbook material on the development of democracy and on the changing ideas of liberalism and socialism in the period 1815-1933, as well as the following documents:  Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party; Mill, On Liberty; Ferry, The State Must Be Secular; Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace.



Some tips on writing essays that require examination of documents:


Before you start writing:


First, pay attention to how the question is worded.  What is the "question word"?  Is the question asking you to explain Why, How, or What? Is it asking you to Compare (explain what is similar) or Contrast (explain what is different)?  Or is it asking you to Evaluate a statement (to explain if you agree or not and why)?   Even if you have correct information in your essay, it still is not a good essay unless you answer the question that was actually asked!


Second, be sure that you have read the documents carefully and thought about how they fit together with the information and ideas from your textbook and class lectures.  Remember, your goal is to build an answer out of the evidence, so you have to think about what the evidence actually says.  Don't twist the evidence to fit your pre-conceived notions; instead, think about how the evidence relates to other "facts."


Third, if a question asks you answer on the basis of documents, then it is absolutely critical that you discuss the evidence from those documents in your essay.  Even if you have a lot of correct information from the textbook, it still is not a good essay unless you use the documents to prove your thesis.  Be sure to actually EXPLAIN what the documents show us and how they support your thesis.  The difference between an "ok" essay and a good (!) essay is that an ok essay simply mentions the documents, while a good (!) essay refers to specific evidence from the documents and then explains what the evidence means and how it is related to the essay's main points.


Fourth, think through and write an outline!!!!  Don't try to write an essay of this type off the top of your head.  You need a have a logical plan that allows you to break your answer down into clear stages, and you need to think about how and where you are going to use different evidence.  No matter how good you are at writing off the top of your head, you need to have a clear organizational structure for the essay before you start writing.


The organization of the essay:


The classic essay presents an introduction that states a thesis; has several body paragraphs, each of which is devoted to explaining a single idea that helps prove the thesis; and ends with a conclusion that clearly re-states the main ideas in the essay.


1) The Introduction.  Be sure that your introductory paragraph lets the reader know what your main question is.   But you MUST do more than this in the introduction!  Your introduction must present a thesis statement.  The thesis statement is the main point of your answer.  It can be one sentence or several sentences.  But it must be a logical statement that answers the question.  By the end of the first paragraph, the reader should know what your argument is and should have a sense of how you will develop that argument in the essay. 


Again, remember that the thesis is not just a restatement of the question!  It is the core of your ANSWER to the question.  One of the biggest problems with most students' introductions is that all they do is re-phrase the question—they don't present an answer!


2) The Body of the paper.  The body of your paper should be composed of several paragraphs, each of which is completely devoted to explaining one main idea.  So if your thesis has three "sub-points," you need to have three body paragraphs (etc).


Again, you must break your thesis down into several "sub- ideas" and provide evidence to prove these ideas.  That is the function of the body paragraphs in your paper.  Be sure that each paragraph in the body of your paper is devoted to explaining a single main idea (one main idea per paragraph).  That main idea should help us understand your thesis. 


It is extremely important that each paragraph has a clear Topic Sentence.  The topic sentence (the first sentence of the paragraph) must present the main idea of that paragraph, and everything in the paragraph must be related to the topic sentence.  (If you have a fact or information in the paragraph that is not logically connected to the topic sentence, then you have to move that fact/information to another paragraph where it does fit with the topic sentence!)


After the topic sentence, each paragraph needs to include evidence that supports the main idea in the paragraph.  In other words, you have to illustrate and prove your point in that paragraph.  Remember (and this is really important) that you must EXPLAIN what the evidence means--don't assume that it is obvious! 


This is where you integrate the documents into your essay.  Try to use as many of the assigned documents as you can!  And be sure to refer explicitly to the document.  ("In his August 6, 1786 speech to Congress, John Jay argued that…."   or "In his 1630 statement A Model of Christian Charity, John Winthrop insisted…). 


Remember, the difference between an ok essay and a good essay is that an ok essay only mentions the evidence in the documents while a good essay explains the evidence in the documents.  Every time you present a quotation from a document or paraphrase or summarize information from a document, you need to explain what that information needs and how it relates to your main point.


In really good essays, each paragraph ends in a transition sentence that guides the reader to the next topic sentence.  (example--"The differences in the composition of the settlers of New England and Virginia help us to understand difference in family patterns in the two regions."


3) Be sure that you end your paper with a concluding paragraph that sums up you main ideas and makes clear how all of these ideas add up to your main point (thesis), and how your main point answers the main question of your paper.