Primary Source Questions

Travels with the King:
What does this document tell you about the demeanor and mentality of Louis XIV? If one accepts that effective kingly authority depends essentially on the monarch's capacity to humiliate all rivals for power and attention, what are the real politics of the fancy (but discomforting) outing St. Simon describes?
Hobbes and Locke:
How did Hobbes and Locke differ in their views of political authority. In your opinion, what fundamental differences in each man's view of human nature may account their conflicting political ideologies? To what extent do the ideas of Hobbes and Locke still fundamentally inform our political conceptions of conservatism and liberalism?
Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres:
What major new ideas did Copernicus discuss in this selection? What was the source of these ideas? Why might one say that European astronomers finally destroyed the Middle Ages?
Starry Messenger:
What was the significance of Galileo's invention? What impressions did he receive of the moon? Why were his visual discoveries so stunning and how did he go about publicizing them? Why would these irrefutable discoveries have been so threatening to clergymen of all faiths?
Attack on Religious Intolerance:
Compare the two approaches of Voltaire to the problem of religious intolerance. Do you think one is more effective then the other? Why?
Rights of Women:
What arguments does Mary Wollstonecraft make on behalf of the rights of women? What contemporary trends in other aspects of eighteenth-century life would have brought the condition of women into sharper focus as an essential topic of enlightened investigation and improvement?
Conversion Experience in Wesley's Methodism:
How does the emotionalism of this passage relate to enlightened thinkers' fascination with the passions and the workings of human reason? Did eighteenth-century religous thinkers and religious practices accept or reject new enlightened ideas about human nature and behavior?
The French King's Bedtime:
What does this document reveal about the condition of the French monarchy and the high French aristocracy during the reign of Louis XVI? How might the royal behavior described here aggravate sociopolitical tensions in the French realm and magnify unpredictably "enlightened" critiques of kingly government and misrule?
Poverty in France:
What does this document reveal about the nature of poverty in France in the eighteenth century? How would growing ranks of the poor in Europe further destablize this society? Would traditional European modes of poor relief be in any way up to the challenge posed by more and more poor? Why/why not?
Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen:
What "natural rights" does this document proclaim for the French? To what extent do you believe that this document was influenced by the ideas or ideals of the philosophes?
Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen:
What rights for French women does this document assert? Given the nature and scope of argument in favor of women's rights here, what key effects on European society can you now attribute to the French Revolution?
Napoleon and Psychological Warfare:
What themes did Napoleon use to play upon the emotions of his troops and inspire them to greater efforts? Do you think Napoleon believed any these words? Why/why not?
Man of Destiny:
According to Napoleon, what is a man of destiny? What role did Napoleon's belief in himself as a man of destiny play in his successess and failures as a leader? Is the concept of the "man of destiny" an outgrowth of the Enlightenment or a rejection of its principles?
Traits of British Entrepreneur:
What traits did Edward Baines think were crucial to be a successful entrepreneur?
Discipline in the New Factories:
What impact did factories have on the lives of workers?
Child Labor:
What kind of working conditions did children face in the mills and mines during the early industrial revolution? Why did entrepreneurs permit such conditions and treatment of children?
Voice of Conservatism: Metternich
Based on Metternich's discussion, how would you define conservatism? What experiences conditioned Metternich's ideas?
Voice of Liberalism: John Stuart Mill
How do Mill's ideas fit into the concept of democracy, safety and national security? What is more important in this thought: the individual or society? What seem to be the historic sources of Mill's ideas?
Gothic Literature: Edgar Allen Poe and William Blake
What characteristics of Romanticism are revealed in Poe's tale and Blake's poem? How does Romanticism offer alternatives to the reigning influences of rationalism and industrialism?
Bismarck Goads France into War:
What did Bismarck do to the telegraph? What does this affair tell us about Bismarck's motives and his concept of politics?
Classless Society:
What steps did Marx believe would lead to a classless society?
Darwin and the Descent of Man:
What is Darwin's basic argument here? Why did so many object to it?
Realism: Charles Dickens
What image of Birmingham do you get from this selection of Dickens? Why is it so powerful? What does it reveal about Dickens himself and the roles European writers took in the reform of 19th century European society?
Freud and the Concept of Repression:
What did Freud mean by the concept of repression? What forces in modern European society would have contributed to force individuals into repressive modes of thinking and acting?
White Man's Burden and the Black Man's Burden:
What arguments did Kipling present to justify European expansion in Africa and Asia? How does the piece by Morel challenge or undermine Kipling's beliefs?
The Excitement of War
What does this excerpt reveal about the motivations of ordinary people to support and join the war? What does this piece tell you about the powers and diffusion of nationalism in Europe around 1914?
The Reality of War: Trench Warfare
How does Remarque's novel capture the "reality" of WWI? Do you think it would ever be possible for the surviving frontline victims of the war to describe or explain their experiences there to those left behind on the home front? What subsequent tensions in post-war European society might be attributable to this disjuncture?
Ten Days that Shook the World: Lenin and the Bolshevik Seizure of Power
What impressions did John Reed give of Lenin? What do you believe may have been the broader effects of such political reporting on the culture of modern Europe and modern Europeans?
The Great Depression
Discuss the plight of the homeless in Germany in 1932. How did the growing misery of many ordinary Germans promote the rise of extremist political parties like the Nazis and facilitate the seizure of power in Germany by racist and anti-democratic forces?
Propaganda and Mass Meetings in Nazi Germany
How did Hitler envision the role of propaganda and mass meetings in the totalitarian state? How do you believe the stage management of Nazi spectacles contributed to the acceptance of corrupt and inhuman Nazi ideology by many ordinary Germans?
The Formation of Collective Farms
What is a collective farm and how was it created? What traditions of Russian life and character did this novel unit of agricultural production attack?
The Holocaust
What death camp procedures in mass murder did the Germans create for the extermination of people who were Jewish? Why do you think that the Germans were so meticulous in these procedures? What do you think induced German killers to produce so many documents about the construction and conduct of the Holocaust that later proved so valuable in the many war crimes trials?
The Bombing of Civilians
What common elements do you find in these different descriptions of bombing raids? What effect did aerial bombing have on the nature of modern warfare?
The Truman Doctrine
What attitudes or themes about America and Russia does Truman express? What, in essence, is the "Truman Doctrine"? How did Truman justify is request for aid? How might a Russian respond to these statements? Does Truman bear responsibility for beginning or aggravating the Cold War?
The Cuban Missile Crisis
How does Khrushchev's account differ from America's version? Do you think that Khrushchev could know it was a highpoint in his career?
The Second Sex
What factors or values do you think inform de Beauvoir's implicit call for a new history of women? Why is the author outraged by the neglect of women in the historical consciousness or comprehension of Westerners? How does de Beauvoir employ and capitalize on the psychological and sociological discoveries characteristic of Western Civilization from 1850-1950?
Gorbachev and Perestroika
How revolutionary was Gorbachev's rejection of nuclear war? What impact did his idea of restructuring have on communism and the Soviet state's capacity to reform itself?
Vaclav Havel: Call for a New Politics
How different is Havel's view of politics from the mainstream politicians' views? What broader forces working in modern European society do you believe shape Havel's thinking? How can Havel's emphasis on our common humanity and responsibility to conscience nullify the selfishness of modern consumer society and contribute to a political and moral revitalization of Western Civilization?
Bosnia: Two Faces of War
What do these excerpts tell you about the utility of modern newspapers as sources for the analysis of historical events and developments? By what criteria might one judge the "accuracy" or "reliability" of these two articles? How does increasingly sophisticated state manipulation of public opinion through mass media complicate the work of historians seeking to understand the origins and course of great interstate conflicts?
Small is Beautiful: The Limits of Modern Technology
What was Schumacher's critique of modern technology? To what extent has this critique been substantiated by developments since 1975? What broader forces in Western Civilization active after 1939 may have contributed to the criticism of industrial technology in what Schumacher participates?

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This page last updated 01/30/09