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 Birth of Modern Europe – Part One: The Renaissance

The first historical movement of the modern era in Europe saw a transformation of political power away from the noble and clerical authorities who dominated the Medieval Period; power instead was centralized around kings and emperors. The rediscovery of the Greek-Roman heritage in Western Europe promoted the development of a secular philosophy, humanism, that not only justified and accelerated these political developments, but encouraged individual creativity as well. Humanism and the works it inspired spread rapidly due to the invention of the movable-type printing press. This spawned new movements in the visual arts and literature, which produced works cherished throughout Europe’s modern history.


Weeks 4-5

Content Statement

1. The transition from pre-modern to modern Europe was characterized by a shift in political power toward the monarchs and a shift in philosophy from spiritual to secular.

Learning Targets:

 I can analyze the decline of the power of the Roman Catholic Church during the transition from pre-modern to modern Europe.

 I can analyze the decline of the nobles’ power during the transition from pre-modern to modern Europe.

 I can describe the process by which the Renaissance and the environment in which it emerged in Italy.

 I can compare and contrast the competing philosophies of the period of transition from pre-modern to modern Europe.

 I can describe the growing entanglement of secular and spiritual authority in Renaissance Italy.

2. The humanist philosophy and the invention of the movable-type printing press revolutionized European culture.

Learning Targets:

 I can compare and contrast works of art of the medieval period with those of the Renaissance and assess to what extent the philosophy of humanism influenced this transformation.

 I can describe the contributions of the Italian Renaissance masters and identify the characteristics of Renaissance art in their works.

 I can describe how the movable-type printing press worked and assess to what extent it transformed modern European history and culture.

 I can compare and contrast the works of the Italian Renaissance with the “Northern” Renaissance.

Content Elaborations

The beginning of the modern era in Europe was marked by the decline of the power wielded by the Church and the nobles. A series of failed Crusades, internal division and corruption, and the horrors of the Black Death gradually eroded believers’ confidence in the Church. The nobles, meanwhile, saw a rising “middle class” of merchants displace them as the wealthiest members of society, then watch as kings partnered with merchants, protecting their valuable trade in order to reap tax revenues to build an independent treasury with which they could hire their own armies of peasants armed with new technologies like the longbow, which was making knights obsolete. All of this opened the doors for the monarchs to consolidate their power as an era of absolute monarchy loomed. The cities chartered by the kings to serve as centers of trade, meanwhile, grew into political and cultural centers as well.

In the meantime, the same trade that was giving rise to the merchants and kings allowed the ancient Greek and Roman heritage to be reintroduced into western Europe. This gave rise to an enthusiasm for the ancient styles in the arts, but just as importantly it gave rise to a new philosophy, humanism. Unlike the philosophy of the medieval Church, which taught that the only worth this life held was preparation for eternity in heaven, humanism held that great achievements gave this earthly existence its own worth and dignity. This further undermined Church authority but also inspired a new synthesis in the visual arts. Starting in Italy, painters and sculptors continued to present divine subjects, but now they combined ancient Greek standards and motifs with new techniques to present them in a way that emphasized their humanity. Supported by wealthy patrons, the artists of the Italian Renaissance gave the world some of its most valued art treasures.
Outside of Italy, wealthy merchants and city leaders hoped to make their cities into cultural centers like those in Italy had become. Their patronage allowed artists to learn techniques from the Italian master which they brought home and used to glorify both religious figures and local themes. Because of their passion for the everyday, their work provides a window into daily life in western Europe during this era.
The most important development of the period, however, was the movable-type printing press, which not only made written works more generally available, but now allowed for western Europe to emerge as a community of shared innovation that rocketed it ahead of all of the other regions of the world.

Content Vocabulary

 Second, Third, Fourth Crusades  perspective

 Avignon Papacy  fresco

 “Babylonian Captivity”  movable-type printing press

 decadence  subject vs. technique

 Western Schism  Boniface VIII “Unam Sanctam”

 Council of Constance  Philippe IV “le Bel”

 Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges  Clement V

 Black Death  Urban VI

 bubonic, pneumonic,  Charles VIII

septicaemic plagues  Henry V

 anti-Semitism  Joan of Arc

 flagellation  Charles IV, HRE

 merchants/”middle class”  Thomas Aquinas

 towns  Giovani di Medici

 guilds/guild masters  Cosimo di Medici

 Hundred Years’ War  Lorenzo and Guiliano de Medici

 longbow  Sixtus IV (della Rovera)

 Battles of Crecy, Poitiers,  Girolamo Savonarola

Agincourt  Alexander VI (Borgia)

 artillery/the cannon  Filippo Brunelleschi

 Renaissance/”Renatio”  Leonardo da Vinci “Last Supper”

 Golden Bull  Michelangelo (Buonarotti)

 Guelphs vs. Ghibellines  “David”

 Contadini  Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

 vendetta  “The Last Judgment”

 popolo grosso/minute  Raphael (Sanzio)

 Signoria  “The School of Athens”

 medieval philosophy  Johann Gutenberg

 Scholasticism  Albrecht Durer

 Humanism  Hans Holbein

 humanities  Jan van Eyck

 “L’uomo universal” Medici bank  Pieter Bruegel

 Pazzi Conspiracy  Miguel de Cervantes

 interdict  William Shakespeare

 subject

Academic Vocabulary

 analyze

 assess to what extent

 compare and contrast

 describe

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

 Davison, Michael Worth, ed., Everyday Life Through the Ages

 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

 Aligheri, Dante, The Inferno

 Boorstin, Daniel J., The Creators

 Burke, James, The Day the Universe Changed

 Castiglione, Baldissaire, Book of theCourtier

 Durant, William, The Story of Renaissance

 Hall, Sir Peter, Cities in Civilization

 Keegan, John, The Face of Battle

 King, Ross, Brunelleschi’s Dome

 King, Ross, Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling

 Manchester, William, A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance

 Machiavelli, Niccolo, Il Principe (The Prince)

 More, Sir Thomas, Utopia

 Norberg-Schulz, Christian, Meaning in Western Architecture

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

 Geography: Geographic context and influences on culture

 Government: Differences between republic and democracy; oligarchies

 Science/Engineering: Historical background of early modern science and engineering; technologies that allowed for conquest and exploration

 Visual Arts: Historical background for works of art and architecture

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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