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 Age of Reason

During the previous “Age of Faith,” questions about the physical world and the human world were referred to religious authorities. The first movement of the “Age of Reason” was the “Scientific Revolution” in which thinkers attempted to answer questions about the physical world through direct, systematic observation and application of mathematics and logic. These thinkers concluded that the answers they got using this method were at least as good as those they received from religious authorities. The thinkers of the Enlightenment applied the same tools as those of the Scientific Revolution but applied them to investigate the human world. The result was an increasing reliance on the scientific worldview, a further undermining of traditional authorities, and a growing sense that governments should be more responsive to the needs and interests of their subjects.


Weeks 14-15

Content Statement

1. The thinkers of the Scientific Revolution transformed the way that questions about the physical world are answered, from reference to religious tradition and authority to direct, systematic observation analyzed logically.

Learning Targets:

 I can contrast the approach to understanding the universe that characterized the “Age of Faith” with that of the “Age of Reason.”

 I can explain how the geocentric model of the universe came to be replaced by one which placed the sun at the center.

 I can explain how deductive reasoning came to be replaced by inductive reasoning in pursuit of universal laws.

2. The thinkers of the Enlightenment transformed the way that questions about human behavior are answered, from reference to religious tradition and authority to direct, systematic observation, analyzed logically; the result was a growing sense that governments should be more responsive to the needs and interests of their people.

Learning Targets:

 I can compare and contrast the political views of Enlightenment thinkers.

 I can assess to what extent the Enlightenment influenced how absolute monarchs managed their kingdoms.

 I can explain the foundation of capitalist philosophy as articulated by Adam Smith.

3. The Age of Reason produced a range of belief systems that diverged from the traditional beliefs of the Age of Faith.

Learning Targets:

 I can compare and contrast the epistemological and ethical views of scientific thinkers, deists, and rationalists during the Age of Reason.

Content Elaborations

The “Age of Reason” saw the rise of two separate but linked historical movements: the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. Emerging from an “Age of Faith,” in which all questions about the nature of the universe were referred to religious authorities (who in some cases deferred to ancient writers like Aristotle), the thinkers of this era proposed that equally good, if not better, answers to these questions could be arrived at through direct, systematic observation and the application of mathematics and logic to those observations.

Nicolas Copernicus noted that the movements of the planets suggested that the traditional geocentric model of the universe was wrong – that it made more sense to place the sun at its center. This suggestion was confirmed by Galileo Galilei’s direct observation. These challenged the doctrines of the Church, which tried to suppress them. In the meantime, Galileo had established a universal law of acceleration for falling objects. He had arrived at this law inductively – via observation. Traditional thinking was deductive; it began with established principles that were applied to specific instances. Isaac Newton synthesized these concepts to produce the universal law of gravitation, explaining how the attraction among all objects explains much of how the universe works.
Enlightenment thinkers applied the same new tools of observation and logic to answer questions about human behavior. They challenged the traditional justification of absolute monarchy by divine right and suggested instead a social contract in which government existed to protect its subjects – and in particular their natural rights. Some asserted that a government that failed in this mission ought to be overthrown, while others worked to design a government that would not be able to violate its subjects’ rights. Emerging economic thought advocated economic freedom.
Some monarchs took notice of these ideas and granted greater freedoms to their subjects; in other cases, Enlightenment ideas helped inspire revolutions.
The Age of Reason further undermined the authority of the Church, and some individuals influenced by its ideas rejected organized religious institutions altogether. This led to new approaches to understanding truth, especially ethical truth.

Content Vocabulary

 geocentric model of the universe  Nicolaus Copernicus

 deductive reasoning  On the Revolution of the

 Scientific Method Heavenly Orbs

 systematic observation  Galileo Galilei

(under controlled circumstances)  The Starry Messenger

 inductive reasoning  Johannes Kepler

 heliocentric model of the universe  Sir Isaac Newton

 elliptical orbits  Thomas Paine

 Galileo’s universal law of the  Francois-Marie Arouet (Voltaire)

acceleration of falling objects  Baruch di Spinoza

 Newton’s universal law of  Julien de la Mettrie

gravitation  Denis Diderot

 philosophes  Rene Descartes

 salons  John Locke

 Deism  Essay Concerning Human

 Rationalism Understanding

 Epistemology  David Hume

 direct experience  Immanuel Kant

 inductive reasoning  Groundwork on the

 “a priori” knowledge Metaphysics of Morals

 deductive reasoning  Thomas Hobbes

 ethics Leviathan

 categorical imperative  John Locke

 “state of nature” Second Treatise of Government

 natural rights  Thomas Jefferson

 life, liberty, property Declaration of Independence

 limited government  Jean-Jacques Rousseau

 social contract The Social Contract

 separation of powers  Baron de Montesquieu

 checks and balances The Spirit of the Laws

 enlightened monarch/despot  James Madison

 abolition of serfdom  Immanuel Kant

 patronage of arts and sciences “What is Enlightenment?”

 Pugachev’s Rebellion  Frederick II “the Great”

 “Invisible Hand”/”Hidden Hand”  Joseph II

 market economy  Catherine the Great

 Aristotle  Adam Smith

 Ptolemy The Wealth of Nations

 Francis Bacon

Academic Vocabulary

 assess to what extent

 compare and contrast


 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. In this unit, students are also required to complete a performance assessment in which they take on the role of a figure from the Age of Reason and represent faithfully the ideas of that figure either in a presentation or a debate with other Age of Reason figures.


 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

 Bacon, Francis, Novum Organum

 Boorstin, Daniel J., The Seekers

 Burke, James, The Day the Universe Changed

 Copernicus, Nicolaus, Revolutions of the Heavenly Orbs

Descartes, Rene, Meditations

 Diderot, Denis, Encyclopedia

 Durant, William, The Age of Reason

 Galileo, The Starry Messenger

 Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan

 Kant, Immanuel, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals

 Kepler, Johann, Laws of Planetary Motion

 Locke, John, Essay Concerning Human Understanding

 Locke, John, Two Treatises of Government

 Montesqiueu, Baron, Spirit of the Laws

 Newton, Sir Isaac, Principia

 Paine, Thomas, The Age of Reason

 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, The Social Contract

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: Philosophical bases of modern governments

 Mathematics: Historical background for Cartesian mathematics and infinitesimal calculation

 Science/Engineering: Historical background for the Scientific Revolution and emergence of secular worldview

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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