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 French Revolution and Napoleonic Europe

Growing dissatisfaction with the conditions faced by the majority of France’s citizens combined with rising expectations for the responsiveness of the French government resulting from the Enlightenment; this created a volatile situation that exploded into revolution in July 1789. Though the revolution began with moderate reforms designed to make France into a limited monarchy, internal radicals and external threats pushed the revolution toward a more thorough overturning of French society. Exhausted by the chaos and violence that ensued, the French turned to a dictator, Napoléon Bonaparte, to restore order. Bonaparte’s enlightened ambitions led him to first expand the benefits of the revolution to others, waging war on Europe’s monarchs, but his hunger for power led him to become a conqueror and emperor until finally causing his downfall.


Weeks 16-18

Content Statement

1. Institutionalized inequality, poverty, and elevated expectations for government responsiveness to their subjects’ needs arising from the Enlightenment combined to ignite a moderate revolution in France that initially aimed to establish a limited monarchy there.

Learning Targets:

 I can explain the sources of discontent that contributed to the outbreak of the French Revolution.

 I can explain how the revolt of the Third Estate escalated to violence during the summer of 1789.

 I can describe the transformations of French politics and society during the moderate opening of the French Revolution.

2. The revolution took a turn toward the complete overthrow of the French cultural, social, and political order in response to foreign invasions and the rise of radical Jacobins; the chaos this produced contributed to the French people’s desire for “a man on horseback,” which turned out to be Napoléon Bonaparte.

Learning Targets:

 I can explain how foreign countries came to intervene in the French Revolution and describe how the French defended themselves.

 I can examine the interaction between the radical Jacobins and the moderate French population over the goals of the Revolution.

 I can explain how events conspired to allow the collapse of the Revolution in 1799 at the hands of Napoléon Bonaparte.

3. Napoléon Bonaparte first emerged as an enlightened ruler who sought to expand France’s republican values to the subjects of tyrants, and he was very successful; this success fed his overwhelming ambition to conquer and rule as an emperor, but he overreached and brought about his own downfall.

Learning Targets:

 I can explain Napoléon’s appeal to the French nation and assess the extent to which his leadership reflected the values of the Revolution.

 I can evaluate Napoléon as a tactician and strategist.

 I can evaluate Napoléon’s management of his empire.

 I can describe the events that led to Napoléon’s ultimate downfall.

Content Elaborations

In France, massive inequalities in land ownership and legal privileges combined with royal extravagance to create an environment in which the Third Estate (non-clergy and nobles) was extremely resentful of the Ancien Régime (the existing social/political order). The crisis created by the king’s inability to generate tax revenues to retire the national debt opened the door for the Third Estate to issue its grievances, but these fell on hostile ears and the Third Estate was shut out of the process. They, along with sympathetic members of the clergy and nobles who were influenced by the writings of the Enlightenment formed an alternative government, the National Assembly. Attempts to suppress this assembly were only met with rising violence against the Ancien Régime in Paris and the countryside. Meanwhile the Assembly placed the Church under government control, abolished aristocratic privilege, created a constitutional monarchy, and asserted the natural rights of individual citizens.

The spirit of the French Revolution gravely concerned other European monarchs; they feared it could spread to their own populations. As the radical Girondins moved to export the revolution, the monarchs declared war. At first a volunteer army defended the new republic, but as the invasion continued the entire population was mobilized for defense. The climate of fear caused by the invasion allowed the hyper-radical Jacobins to seize control of the government. They used the crisis to attempt a complete overturning of the traditional French social and cultural order. They purged all references to the Ancien Régime and sought to de-Christianize France; this along with their heavy-handed management of the economy led to resentment among many French. In an effort to suppress the growing resistance, the Jacobins led by Maximilien Robespierre waged a campaign of terror to silence their opposition. This in turn actually led to the Jacobins’ overthrow and the creation of a new government with a weak executive, designed to prevent future abuse of power but utterly incapable of a swift response to crisis.
The crisis was provided by an ambitious and popular military officer, Napoléon Bonaparte. On the basis of a series of victories against France’s enemy Austria, he staged a coup d’état and moved to consolidate power. His enlightened policies increased his popularity, and he positioned himself to declare himself Emperor of the French; the desire of the French for stability in the form of “a man on horseback” appears to have contributed to their willingness to accept his perversion of the values of the revolution. More perversions were to come as Bonaparte moved (with great tactical success at first) to conquer Europe. Though he framed his conquests as an expansion of the revolution and introduced his enlightened Code Napoléon wherever he conquered, he soon evolved to a point where victory became the cause for which he called his soldiers to fight. Strategic failures like the Peninsular War and invasion of Russia led ultimately to Napoléon’s downfall.

Content Vocabulary

 Ancien Régime  Concordat of 1801

 First Estate  Code Civil

 Second Estate  amnesty for émigrés

 exemptions from taille, corvée  public works

 Third Estate  lycées

 bourgeoisie  Coronation as Emperor

 American Revolution  slave revolt in Haiti

 debt crisis  Battle of Trafalgar

 Estates-General  decisive battle

 Cahiers de doléances  critical point

 National Assembly  feu d’enfer

 Tennis Court Oath  friction

 National Guard  “On s’engage, pui on voit.”

 Hôtel des Invalides  coup d’oeil

 Bastille  Battle of Austeritz

 Le Grand Peur  Battles of Jena/Auerstadt

 Women’s March to Versailles  Battle of Friedland

 Tuileries  Continental System

 Tricolor  Berlin and Milan Decrees

 “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité!”  Peninsular War

 Decrees of August 5  guerilla warfare

 Declaration of the Rights of Man  Invasion of Russia

and Citizen  Grande Armée

 Civil Constitution of the Clergy  “scorched earth”

 Constitution of 1791  “Generals January and February”

 Legislative Assembly  Confederation of the Rhine

 Hereditary Agent of the People  Grand Duchy of Warsaw

 Émigrés  tribute

 flight of the Bourbon family  conscription

 Declaration of Pillnitz  Battle of Leipsig (Nations)

 Girondins  Treaty of Fontainebleu

 Invasion of Austrian Netherlands  Congress of Vienna

 National Convention  “White Terror”

 Jacobins  “Hundred Days”

 “Mountain”  Battle of Ligny

 sans-culottes  Battle of Waterloo

 Battle of Valmy  Louis XIV

 “La Marseillaise”  Louis XV

 Execution of Louis XVI and  Louis XVI

Marie Antoinette  Marie Antoinette (Habsburg)

 guillotine  Anne Robert Jacques Turgot

 (First) Committee of Public Safety  Jacques Necker

 Maximum Price Act  Comte de Mirabeau

 levée en masse  Marquis de Lafayette

 de-Christianzation  Joseph II

 Republican Calendar  Leopold II

 Temple of Reason  Duke of Brunswick

 Supreme Being  Georges Danton

 Vendéean Uprising  Maximilien Robespierre

 Execution of Danton  Napoléon Bonaparte

 (Second) Committee of Public  Carl von Clausewitz Vom Krieg

Safety  Horatio Nelson

 Reign of Terror  Roger Ducos

 Law of Suspects  Abbe Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyes

 Revolutionary Tribunal  Pius VII

 The Directory  Napoléon I

 Monarchist Uprising  Toussaint L’Ouverture

 “whiff of grapeshot”  Joseph Fouché

 Northern Italian Campaign  Joseph Bonaparte

 Treaty of Campo Formio  Arthur Wellesley, the Duke

 Egyptian Campaign of Wellington

 Battle of the Pyramids  Alexander I

 Battle of the Nile  Mikhail Kutuzov

 Coup d’état de Brumaire 1799  Marie-Louise Habsburg

 Consulate  Louis XVIII

 First Consul  Gabhard von Blucher

 Plebiscite

 “man on horseback”

Academic Vocabulary

 describe

 evaluate

 examine

 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 Revolution

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

 de Tocqueville, Alexis, The Old Regime and the French Revolution

 Lynn, John A., The Bayonets of the Republic

 Schama, Simon, Citizens!

 Chandler, David, The Campaigns of Napoléon

 Cornwell, Bernard, Sharpe’s Rifles

 Jakob, Walter, Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier

 Johnson, Paul, Napoléon: A Life

 Keegan, John, The Face of Battle

 Keegan, John, Intelligence in War

 Keegan, John, The Mask of Command

 von Clausewitz, Carl, Vom Krieg (On War)

 Wills, Gary, Certain Trumpets: The Nature of Leadership

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

 French: Opportunity for exposure to French language and culture

 Geography: Geographic context and influences on culture

 Government: Opportunity to examine various forms of government and role of citizens in changing governments; case studies in modern political science

 Visual Arts: Historical background for works of art and architecture, examination of art and architecture as a form 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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