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 British Ascendancy

Following the victory of Parliament and continuing through the late 18th Century, the United Kingdom emerged from the margins to occupy a central role in European affairs. The nation experienced population growth and economic prosperity fed by revolutions in commerce with its global empire, agriculture, and manufacturing. These transformed British society, blurring traditional distinctions between classes. Britain’s internal politics stabilized as Parliamentary leadership successfully managed crises and evolved a two-party system. The United Kingdom entered into, and won, a struggle for global power with France.


Weeks 12-13

Content Statement

1. By building a vast global commercial empire, the British formed the basis for revolutions in agriculture, manufacturing, and commerce that strengthened the British state and positioned it to play an active role in European affairs.

Learning Targets:

 I can explain the European commercial interest in Asia, Africa, and the Americas and describe the competition between European powers to gain access there.

 I can describe the causes and explain the impact of the Second Agricultural Revolution on the British economy.

 I can explain the transformation of manufacturing that characterized the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom.

 I can explain the role that corporate finance played in allowing Britain’s commercial and manufacturing sectors to expand.

2. New ways of amassing wealth in Britain blurred the lines between traditional social classes and transformed British politics, resulting in a two-party system.

Learning Targets:

 I can explain how the expansion of the British economy transformed British society, culture, and politics.

3. The British entered into, and won, a contest for global empire with the French.

Learning Targets:

 I can compare and contrast the conduct of wars of the 16th-17th Centuries with that of the era of limited warfare.

 I can describe the series of wars fought by the British to maintain and expand their global commercial empire.

Content Elaborations

At the time of England’s victory over Spain, it was a marginal European power that largely kept to its own affairs; in the years that followed it built a global empire that thrust it into the position of Europe’s economic leader. Political and diplomatic leadership followed.

The first engine for Britain’s advancement was its commercial empire. The British challenged the Spanish for access to the Americas and the Portuguese for access to India. The victorious British thus opened these areas to colonization, and the risky ventures were funded by a new innovation: joint-stock companies. These companies functioned independently, but when the French challenged the British in both America and India, Britain’s armed forces intervened to protect their investments.
In the meantime, Britain experienced an agricultural revolution that saw new techniques supported by new technologies, resulting in the production of a food surplus and population growth. With a larger population and fewer needed to work the fields, Britain was growing a labor force to feed an emerging manufacturing sector.
Manufacturing had been carried on in farmers’ cottages during the winter, with skilled craftsmen working on raw materials made available by merchants. The adoption of new machinery and a factory system which brought together labor, technology, and materials under one roof powered by flowing water, as well as a new division of labor that reduced the need for skilled craftsmen and gave Britain the early lead in industrialization.
These developments magnified the transformation that had been taking place since the Renaissance, wherein the middle class was displacing the nobles as the leaders of society. This could be seen in British politics, where the Whigs, liberal businessmen dominated the Tories, nobles who sought the establishment of a strong monarchy.
The value of colonies led to a series of wars between the British and their rivals. In this era of limited warfare, civilians were not as impacted as in the previous wars of religion. At stake in particular were control of the Americas and India, both of which were decided in Britain’s favor at the expense of the French.

Content Vocabulary

 Mughal Empire (India)  Tories vs. Whigs

 French East India Company  Jacobite Risings/Rebellions

 Conquistadores  House of Hanover

 slave trade  era of Whig dominance

 chattel slavery  “position”

 four-field crop rotation  South Sea Company

 heavy/steel plow  South Sea “Bubble” Crisis

 seed drill  “sinking fund”

 full-body harness  “Patriots”

 Enclosure Act/Movement  War of Jenkins’ Ear/

 “Putting-out System”/ War of Austrian Succession

cottage industry  Treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle

 factory system of production  Seven Years’ War

 Adam Smith’s pin factory  Treaty of Paris 1763

 industrial division of labor  War of American Independence

 cotton gin  Vasco da Gama

 spinning jenny  Jean Baptiste Colbert

 flying-shuttle loom  Christopher Columbus

 water frame  Jethro Tull

 risk management  Eli Whitney

 joint-stock company  James Hargreaves

 shares  John Kay

 dividend  Richard Arkwright

 charter  Anne

 initial public offering  George I

 stock market/exchange/bourse  Robert Walpole

 Virginia/East India Companies  George II

 gentry  William Pitt

 peerage  George III

 middle class

Academic Vocabulary

 compare and contrast

 describe

 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

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

 Parker, Geoffrey, Success Is Never Final

 Smith, Adam, An Inquiry into the Causes of the Wealth of Nations

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: Introduction to classical economic theories and world trade

 Geography: Geographic context and influences on culture

 Science/Engineering: Early agricultural and manufacturing techniques, technologies, and processes

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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