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 Triumphs and Setbacks of Absolute Monarchs

As Europe entered its modern era, monarchs – princes, kings, and emperors – seized power from their nobles and the Church. This was facilitated by the rise of trade following the Crusades; monarchs built independent wealth through the taxation of trade, hired independent armies and masses of bureaucrats who rendered the nobles redundant. The Church’s decline also offered a power void into which the monarchs thrust themselves. Thus they centralized power and ran their countries and their subjects’ lives directly, without a middleman. This process did not repeat itself in Eastern Europe, where the economy had not diversified from its agrarian origins, or in England, whose tradition of absolute monarchy dated back 400 years.


Weeks 9-11

Content Statement

1. In England, the Stuart monarchs challenged a tradition of limited monarchy and a balance of power between king and Parliament that had prevailed since 1215; the conflict that resulted affirmed both limited monarchy and the power of Parliament.

Learning Targets:

 I can explain the evolution of the balance of power between the monarch and the Parliament in England.

 I can explain the causes and describe the consequences of the conflict between Charles I and England’s Parliament.

 I can contrast the sides of England’s Civil War and explain its outcome.

 I can evaluate the leadership of the United Kingdom by Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans.

 I can explain why the Stuart family was restored and again fell after coming into conflict with Parliament.

 I can describe the emergence of the Dutch Republic and the growth of Dutch economic and cultural influence.

 I can describe the outcome of the Glorious Revolution and the ongoing struggle for control of the United Kingdom.

2. In Western Europe, the ability to tax trade, build treasuries, and hire armies of soldiers and bureaucrats allowed monarchs to assert their power over the nobles and centralize power; these absolute monarchs commanded authority beyond that possessed by any medieval monarch.

Learning Targets:

 I can evaluate the leadership of France by Louis XIV.

 I can explain how Louis XIV’s ambitions in foreign policy were thwarted by the “balance of power” principle.

 I can explain the rise of Prussia as a major European power.

3. In Eastern Europe, monarchs struggled to assert authority over their nobles because their economies remained largely agrarian and their subjects were often ethnically diverse; this slowed the modernization of Eastern European states.

Learning Targets:

 I can describe the rapid expansion of the Ottoman Empire and explain why this expansion gave way to decay.

 I can explain and evaluate the transformation of Habsburg Austria into a multinational/multiethnic empire.

 I can explain the emergence of Russia as a major European power.

 I can explain the “modernization” and expansion of Russia into eastern Europe.

 I can explain the political weakness of Poland-Lithuania and describe the consequences of this weakness.

 I can compare and contrast the economic, political, social, and cultural progress of Western and Eastern Europe as the modern era began.

Content Elaborations

The advent of effective taxation of Europe’s growing middle class opened the door for monarchs to consolidate power, but this process did not happen evenly across Europe.

In England, a tradition of limited monarchy and shared government stretched back 400 years to Magna Carta. When the Stuart family gained the throne of England, Charles I sought to overturn these traditions by violating Magna Carta and undermining the Parliament that had evolved from it. Parliament pushed back, trying to force the king to accept additional limits on his power, and a civil war grew from this. As in the continental wars of religion, religious fervor mixed with political ambition, and the Parliamentarians found themselves aligned with (and dominated by) the minority Puritans.
A Puritan/Parliamentarian victory led to the establishment of a Commonwealth, but this gave way in turn to a dictatorship led by the Puritan Oliver Cromwell. Upon his death, Parliament sought to ensure stability by restoring a constitutional monarchy led by the Stuarts, but when James II violated Parliament’s trust, he was overthrown by Dutch stadtholder William of Orange and his wife (James’ daughter) Mary. The Dutch Republic had become one of Europe’s most enlightened states, politically and culturally. William and Mary thus accepted the limits on royal power that the Stuarts never would, and this gave birth to England’s Bill of Rights. Though James II, his sons, and their Catholic and monarchist supporters tried to restore the Stuarts to power, Parliament and its supporters retained power permanently.
In places like France and Prussia, there was no tradition of limited government to reference or defend. Instead, in France, Louis XIV became Europe’s prototype “absolute monarch,” having gained control of France’s military, replaced the nobles with bureaucrats, and centralized the nobles at Versailles. Though he wasted French resources fighting fruitless wars, his power within France was unchallenged. In Prussia, the Hohenzollern family built a military state by assigning all state resources to the army and basing nobles’ status and access on military performance. Though Frederick the Great was known as an “Enlightened Despot” for the freedoms he granted his subjects, his power to grant those freedoms came from his centralization of authority.
In eastern Europe, there was little basis for centralization of power and, consequently, monarchs had to live with sharing power with their nobles. In Habsburg Austria, Poland-Lithuania, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia, the economies remained largely agrarian, which meant that no trade network existed to provide an independent tax base for the monarchs, who thus remained reliant on nobles for security and administration of law. Many of these monarchs ruled over multiethnic empires, which also taxed their ability to consolidate power. The slower penetration of the printing press also meant the monarchs lacked an important tool for communication and standardization. While the result was progressively disastrous for the Poles and Ottomans, Russia under the leadership of Peter the Great sought to modernize. Drawing on Peter’s observations of western Europe and relying on western expects to guide them, the Russian military and nobles went through a process of “westernization” that allowed Russia to emerge as the first semi-modern state of eastern Europe.

Content Vocabulary

 Magna Carta  Peace of Westphalia

 Grant Council of the Nobles  War of Austian Succession

 limited government/monarchy  “enlightened monarchy”

 Parliament  Rus

 House of Lords  Tsar/Czar

 House of Commons  Kremlin

 United Kingdom  “Time of Troubles”

 absolute vs. limited monarchy  Romanov Dynasty

 Divine Right  Modernization/Westernization

 forced loans  Great Northern War

 Petition of Right  “Window on the West”

 Law of Habeas Corpus  warm-water/year-round port

 Period of the Personal Rule  arable land

 Ship Money  First Russo-Turkish War

 “Common Worship”  “Polish Liberties”

 Revolt of the Scots Presbyterians  “exploding” diets

 Puritans  John

 English Civil War  James VI (Scotland)/I (England)

 Cavaliers  “The True Law of a Free Monarch”

 Roundheads  Charles I

 New Model Army  George Villiers, Duke of

The Commonwealth Buckingham

 Pride’s Purge  William Laud

 “Rump” Parliament  John Pym

 Council of State  Oliver Cromwell

 Instrument of Government  Thomas Pride

 Lord Protector  George Monk

 Stuart Restoration  Charles II

 Mercantilism  James II

 Navigation Acts  William “the Silent” (Orange)

 Test Act/Exclusion Act  Rembrandt van Rijn

 Dutch Republic  William III (Orange) and Mary II

 stadtholders  James II “The Old Pretender”

 Glorious Revolution  James “The Young Pretender”

 joint monarchy  Charles “Bonnie Prince Charlie”

 Jacobite Risings/Rebellions  Louis XIV

 Battle of the Boyne  Jean Baptiste Colbert

 Bill of Rights  Philip Bourbon

 Act of Toleration  William III

 “The Sun King”  John Churchill

 “L’état, c’est moi.”  Osman I

 intendents  Suleyman “the Magnificent”/

 Palace and Gardens of Versailles “the Lawgiver”

 cult of personality  Selim II “the Drunkard”

 Balance of Power  Charles VI

 hegemony  Maria Theresa

 “natural boundaries” of France  Frederick Hohenzollern

 War of Spanish Succession  “The Great Elector”

 Treaty of Utrecht  Frederick Wilhelm I

 Sultan, Supreme Caliph of Islam  “The Sergeant King”

 harem  Frederick II “the Great”

 Battle of Kosovo  Prince Volodymyr (Vladimir)

 Sharia/Kanun  Ivan III “Lord of all Rus”

 Battle of Lepanto  Ivan IV ‘the Terrible”

 multinational/multiethnic  Feodor

 Janissaries  Michael Romanov

 commercial dependency  Peter the Great

 “Sick Man of Europe”  Catherine the Great

 Treaty of Karlowitz  Jan Sobieski

 Treaty of Utrecht

Pragmatic Sanction

Academic Vocabulary

 compare and contrast

 contrast

 describe

 evaluate

 explain

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

 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

 Brinton, Crane, The Anatomy of a Revolution

 Churchill, Winston, History of the English-Speaking Peoples (Vol. II)

 de Madariaga, Isabel, Catherine the Great: A Short History

 Durant, William, The Age of Louis XVI

 Lewis, Bernard, The Middle East

 Ozment, Stephen, A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People

 Parker, Geoffrey, Success Is Never Final

 Kissinger, Henry, Diplomacy

 Massey, Robert, Peter the Great

 Troyat, Henri, Catherine the Great

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: Historical background to rights established during England’s struggle between King and Parliament

 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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