Advanced Placement European History Theme

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Advanced Placement European History

Theme The study of European history introduces students to cultural, economic, political, and social developments that played a fundamental role in shaping the world in which they live. Without this knowledge, we would lack the context for understanding the development of contemporary institutions, the role of continuity and change in present-day society and politics, and the evolution of current forms of artistic expression and intellectual discourse. In addition to providing a basic narrative of events and movements, the goals of AP European History are to develop (a) an understanding of some of the principal themes in modern European history, (b) an ability to analyze historical evidence and historical interpretation, and (c) an ability to express historical understanding in writing.

Strand History

Topic The Cold War and the Era of the Cold War

In the wake of the Second World War, the Soviet Union occupied eastern Europe, and western Europe was free to determine its own destiny having been liberated by the Americans and British. The Soviet’s determination to consolidate their holdings in eastern Europe combined with an ideological divide to produce the Cold War, a 46-year period of elevated tensions. The United States and their western allies were determined to use economic (and if necessary military) might to contain Soviet expansion, while the Soviets were determined not to allow any of their eastern European satellites to slip away. The specter of nuclear war hung over Europe and all of the world. Only a severe economic decline forced internal reforms in the Soviet Union that were accompanied by an end to the nuclear arms race and the occupation of eastern Europe. In the meantime, European powers had abandoned their colonies in Africa and Asia and instead focused on building an internal trade network that evolved into the European Union.


Weeks 36-38

Content Statement

1. The Cold War began with the Soviet’s determination to consolidate their occupation of eastern Europe and the Americans’ determination to contain the Soviets.

Learning Targets:

 I can examine the factors that contributed to the outbreak of the Cold War.

 I can define “containment” and assess to what extent this strategy worked for the United States during the early years of the Cold War.

 I can explain how Berlin became the focus of the Cold War confrontation in Europe.

 I can describe the Cold War alliance system.
2. During the 1960s, Soviet leadership was determined to keep control of eastern Europe and sought to maintain parity with the United States economically and especially militarily.

Learning Targets:

 I can evaluate the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev.

 I can assess to what extent the efforts of the Soviet Union to maintain control of eastern Europe were successful.

 I can describe the nuclear arms race and evaluate the strategies of the U. S. and Soviet Union during the arms race.

3. Economic stagnation brought a need for reform to the Soviet Union, and Mikhail Gorbachev initiated reforms that included the end of the arms race and withdrawal from eastern Europe.

Learning Targets:

 I can describe the problems that confronted the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s.

 I can evaluate the policies introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev in an effort to address the problems faced by the Soviet Union.

 I can describe the results of the Soviet military withdrawal from eastern Europe.

4. Gorbachev’s reforms led to the collapse of communism and the rise of a democratic capitalist state, but Russia struggled both politically and economically.

Learning Targets:

 I can explain the events that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

 I can examine the post-Soviet conditions of Russia.
5. During the era of the Cold War, European countries’ trade focus turned from colonies in Africa and Asia toward creating a European trading bloc; this evolved into the European Union.

Learning Targets:

 I can examine the process by which European powers left their colonies in Africa and Asia.

 I can examine the process by which the European Union was founded and expanded.

Content Elaborations

With eastern Europe occupied by the Soviet Union and western Europe by the Americans and British, the Allied leaders agreed at the Yalta Conference to withdrawal of occupying armies and the conduct of free elections by the end of 1946. The Soviet’s refusal to follow through with these agreements and instead to consolidate power in eastern Europe sparked the Cold War.

The Americans were determined to “contain” communism within the countries where it already existed. A series of policy decisions led to economic aid first for Greece and Turkey and then for all of western Europe on the Marshall Plan. This aid rebuilt western Berlin as it did the rest of western Europe. The Soviets sought to force the Allies to give up west Berlin through a blockade, but the Americans broke this via an airlift. In the wake of these events, the sides became entrenched into alliances – NATO and the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact.
The secretive, yet confrontational approach of Joseph Stalin had been a major contributor to the Cold War’s onset, and while his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, pledged to “de-Stalinize” the Soviet Union and did allow greater openness with the west, the confrontation continued. The Soviets brutally suppressed an anti-communist uprising in Hungary and forged a strategic relationship with Cuba. Khrushchev also “saber-rattled” with U. S. President John F. Kennedy over Berlin. Soviet success in the space race enabled them to develop an ICBM to deliver a direct nuclear strike on the U. S., and American technology soon caught up; a nuclear arms race ensued, in which both sides sought to “deter” the other from launching a nuclear attack by maintaining a large enough arsenal to guarantee that both sides would lose a nuclear war. This frightening strategy worked, despite close calls.
But the Soviet Union was suffering from internal problems that it managed to largely hide from the rest of the world. So much of its national wealth was tied up in military expenditures that little remained to maintain basic infrastructure. The quality of Soviet-made goods was poor and the manufacturing process inefficient due to the centrally-planned economy; these forced down the value of Soviet currency and opened a highly-trafficked “black market.” This “period of stagnation” was presided over by Leonid Brezhnev, whose death (and that of his immediate successors) left it to the younger Mikhail Gorbachev to fix. Gorbachev instituted a program of reforms designed to introduce openness, some elements of a market economy, and competitive elections – all designed to save the Soviet Union. To reduce military expenditures, he also withdrew Soviet forces from eastern Europe, and a wave of democratic, mostly peaceful revolutions swept across the continent; Germany was reunited, but Yugoslavia collapsed into a bloody ethnically-inspired civil war.
Gorbachev also entered negotiations with U. S. President Ronald Reagan to end the nuclear arms race and even granted independence to the Baltic States. These moves outraged Soviet hard-liners, who staged a coup d’état in August 1991. Though the coup was defeated, the forces that Gorbachev had unleashed caused the Soviet Union to disintegrate. Russia since then has seen a crash-course in democracy and market capitalism that has engendered corruption; Russia has also faced ethnic tension and terrorism originating in Chechnya.
During the period of the Cold War, European imperial powers gradually withdrew from their colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. This process was sometimes accompanied by violence, as in France’s withdrawal from Indochina and Algeria. In other cases, violence followed decolonization, as in Palestine, India, and sub-Saharan Africa. In all cases, Europeans left a legacy that was mixed.
At the same time, the Europeans initiated a process designed to reduce trade barriers and create a free trade bloc. The initial economic community proved successful in improving European competitiveness, and as more countries joined, it evolved into a European Union with unified currency and policy-making bodies.

Content Vocabulary

 Yalta Conference  Dayton Peace Accords/IFOR

 Declaration of Liberated Europe  “hardliners”

 “Warsaw” vs. “London” Poles  Union Treaty

 United Nations  August Coup

 “Iron Curtain”  Commonwealth of Independent

 Communist Bloc States

 containment  “shock therapy”

 Truman Doctrine  “kleptocracy”

 U.N. Recovery and Relief  Chechnyan wars and terrorism

Administration  Statute of Westminster

 European Recovery Program/  Commonwealth of Nations

“Marshall Plan”  Indian National Congress

 COMECON/”Molotov Plan”  Partition of India

 coup in Czechoslovakia  Partition of Palestine

 Potsdam Conference  Israeli War of Independence

 Allied occupation of Germany  Suez Crisis

 “Marshall Plan” and  Indochina War

reestablishment of German  Battle of Dien Bien Phu

currency  Algerian War

 Berlin Blockade  European Coal and Steel

 Berlin Airlift/“Operation Vittles” Community

 Vienna Summit  Treaty of Rome

 Berlin Wall  European Common Market/

 North Atlantic Treaty/NATO European Economic Community

 Warsaw Pact  Value-Added Tax (V.A.T)

 de-Stalinization  Maastricht Treaty

 “Kitchen Debate”  European Union

 Sputnik  Euro

 Cuban Revolution  European Constitution (rejected)

 U-2 Affair  Franklin D. Roosevelt

 Bay of Pigs Invasion  Joseph Stalin

 Vienna Summit/Berlin Wall  Winston Churchill,

 Cuban Missile Crisis “Iron Curtain” speech

 “hare-brained schemes”  George Kennan, “The Sources

 “Separate Paths to Socialism” of Soviet Conduct”

 Hungarian Revolt  Harry Truman

 “Prague Spring”  Marcos

 Warsaw Pact invasion  George Marshall

 Brezhnev Doctrine  Vyacheslav Molotov

 ICBM  Dwight D. Eisenhower

 nuclear deterrence  Nikita Khrushchev,

 “massive retaliation” “Secret Speech”

 “Mutual Assured Destruction”  John F. Kennedy

 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty  Fidel Castro

 “Era of Stagnation”  Imre Nagy

 centrally-planned economy  Leonid Brezhnev

 central planning bureaus  Alexander Dubček

 “black market” economy  Richard Nixon

 infrastructure disintegration  Mikhail Gorbachev

 invasion of Afghanistan  Boris Yeltsin

 Glasnost  Ronald Reagan

 Perestroika  Lech Walesa

 market reforms  Margaret Thatcher

 Demokratizatsaya  John Paul II

 Intermediate Nuclear Forces  Vaclav Havel

Treaty  Nicolae Ceauşescu

 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty  Helmut Kohl

 withdrawal from eastern Europe  Josip Tito

 Solidarity  Gennady Yanayev

 free elections in Poland  Vladimir Putin

 “Velvet Revolution”  Mohandas Gandhi

 Romanian Revolution  Muhammad Ali Jinnah

 Reunification of Germany  Gamel Abdel Nasser

 Croatian War of Independence  Ho Chi Minh

 Kosovo War  Charles de Gaulle

 Bosnian War  Robert Schuman

Academic Vocabulary

Formative Assessments

Students are required to create a chapter outline or synopsis weekly that measures their comprehension of the major people, events, and trends that characterize the era or theme being studied during that portion of the unit. They may be quizzed or required to produce a written response to prompt. Evidence of students’ miscomprehension or lack of comprehension is addressed by the teacher in subsequent lessons.

Summative Assessments

Students are required to complete a series of multiple choice questions modeled after those which will appear on the AP European History Exam. In these, more than one plausible response is provided, and the student must distinguish the correct response from among the merely plausible. Students are also required to complete an essay that integrates content and concepts from throughout the unit into a coherent written argument. In the case of a document-based question, the student is required to also integrate evidence from a series of provided primary sources.


 Palmer, R. R., Colton, Joel, and Kramer, Lloyd, A History of the Modern World Tenth Edition

 Caldwell, Amy, Beeler, John, and Clark, Charles, ed., Sources of Western Society

 Davies, Norman, Europe: A History

 Fordham University, The Internet Modern History Sourcebook

 Lualdi, Katharine, ed., Sources of The Making of the West

 Sherman, Dennis, Western Civilization: Sources, Images, and Interpretations

 Tierney, Brian, Kagan, Donald, and Williams, L. Pearce, eds., Great Issues in Western Civilization

Brzezinski, Zbigniew, Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the 21st Century

 Gaddis, John Lewis, The Cold War: A New History

 Gorbachev, Mikhail, Perestroika

 Kennedy, Robert, Thirteen Days

 Kissinger, Henry, Diplomacy

 Manchester, William, The Glory and the Dream

 Medvedev, Grigori, The Truth About Chernobyl

 Moore, Robert, A Time to Die: The Untold Story of the Kursk Tragedy

 Rubenstein, Alvin Z., The Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union

 Schell, Jonathan, The Unconquerable World

 Solzhenitsyn, Alexsandr, The Gulag Archipelago

von Rauch, Georg, A History of Soviet Russia

 Zubok, Vladislav, A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev

Enrichment Strategies

Due to the nature of the AP European History curriculum, it is difficult to envision an approach to enrichment. The course is taught with the expectation that its content and standards for performance are equivalent to those of a first-year college survey course, and students who choose to enroll in this course do so in anticipation that the course, in and of itself, is an enrichment of their education in history. Students may choose to read the complete versions of texts referenced during the course, with the encouragement and support of the instructor.


 ELA: Historical background for works of literature; writing analytical essays

 Economics: Command economy and market economy; world trade

 Geography: Geographic context and influences on culture

 Government: Comparative systems of government; propaganda as a political tool; international relations

 Psychology: The psychology of risk

 Science/Engineering: Technologies of conquest

 Sociology: Social responses to deprivation; group disillusionment and responses to loss

 Music: Historical background for works of music, music as a form of propaganda

 Visual Arts: Historical background for works of art and architecture; arts and architecture as forms of propaganda

Intervention Strategies

The most common deficiency of students who take AP European History is in writing. For these students, it is necessary to: (1) review the process of creating a coherent historical written argument; (2) break down the process into its constituent parts and have the students practice those parts individually; (3) meet individually with those students to consult with them about their progress.

Another area of struggle for students is with exams. For these students, it is important to: (1) develop daily skills that will allow them to summarize and organize the information they will need to be successful on exams; (2) teach them to develop a systematic approach to exam preparation; (3) provide extra assistance with exam preparation in the form of student- or teacher-led study groups/review sessions.
For students who struggle to read, it is advised that an alternative text be provided that the student may read prior to reading the chronologically similar sections of the main text.

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