Guide to Higher History



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NATIONAL QUALIFICATIONS CURRICULUM SUPPORT

History
A Guide to Higher History:

For students

[HIGHER]


The Scottish Qualifications Authority regularly reviews the arrangements for National Qualifications (NQ). Users of all NQ support materials, whether published by Learning and Teaching Scotland or others, are reminded that it is their responsibility to check that the support materials correspond to the requirements of the current arrangements.

Acknowledgement

Learning and Teaching Scotland gratefully acknowledges this contribution to the National Qualifications support programme for History.


© Learning and Teaching Scotland 2008
This resource may be reproduced in whole or in part for educational purposes by educational establishments in Scotland provided that no profit accrues at any stage.
Contents
Introduction 4
Section 1: Writing essays 7
Section 2: Extended essay 14
Section 3: Historical special topic 17
Appendix 24
Introduction
What will I study in Higher History?
This depends on your school or college. They can choose from lots of different topics. You will study one topic from the three columns below – Medieval, Early Modern and Later Modern.






1.

Scottish and British

2.

European and World

3.

Historical Special Topic

Medieval

Medieval Society

Nation and King

or

Crisis of Authority



Norman Conquest and Expansion 1050–1153

or

The Crusades 1096–1204



Early Modern

Scotland in the Age of Reformation 1542–1603

or

Scotland and England in the Age of Revolutions 1603–1702



Royal Authority in 17th and 18th Century Europe

or

French Revolution: Emergence of the Citizen State



Scotland 1689–1715

or

The Atlantic Slave Trade



or

The American Revolution



Later Modern

Britain 1850–1979

Growth of Nationalism in either Germany or Italy 1815–1939

or

Large Scale State: either USA (1918–68) or Russia (1881–1921)



Patterns of Migration: Scotland 1830–1939

or

Appeasement and the Road to War, to 1939



or

The Origins and Development of the Cold War 1945–85



or

Ireland 1900–85: a Divided Identity




How will I be assessed?
Unit Assessments (NABs)
Like all Higher courses, there are Unit Assessments (you might know them as NABs), which you must pass before sitting the final exam. There are three Unit Assessments in Higher History. You will tackle your Unit Assessments when your teacher/lecturer thinks you are ready. All three will be marked in your school or college.


Unit

Assessment

Total number of marks

Pass mark

Time

allowed

Historical Study: Scottish and British

One essay

20

10

1 hour

Historical Study: European and World

One essay

20

10

1 hour

Historical Special Topic

Five questions based on five sources

30

15

1 hour & 30 minutes


External Assessment
The external assessment will be marked by SQA markers. The external assessment is made up of two exam papers and an Extended Essay. For more information on the Extended Essay, see page [14].


Unit

Paper

Task

Marks

Time

allowed

Historical Study: Scottish and British

1

Answer one essay from a choice of five

20

1 hour & 20 minutes

Historical Study: European and World

1

Answer one essay from a choice of four

20

Historical Special Topic

2

Answer five questions based on five sources

30

1 hour & 25 minutes

Extended Essay

-

Answer one question of own choice in extended piece of writing

30

2 hours

How will I study Higher History?
The biggest difference from Standard Grade or Intermediate level is that you will be expected to do a lot of work on your own. Your teacher/lecturer will expect you to become increasingly independent and for you to take responsibility for your own learning.



Section 1: Writing essays
In the final exam for Paper 1, you will have to write two essays in 1 hour and 20 minutes. Essay writing is an important skill which you should be able to use not only in history, but in studying other subjects as well.

What are History essays like?
There are two types of history essay at Higher level. If you are to do well, it is important that you know what they are like and what you are expected to do.


1. Evaluating factors to explain historical developments

(a) Evaluate the factors involved

An essay question that begins ‘To what extent’ or ‘How far’ requires an evaluation of all the factors involved. You should present a reasoned answer showing your choice of criteria and evidence to draw a balanced conclusion.

Examples of this type of question

  • To what extent did feudalism serve the needs of society as a whole?

  • How far did the powers of the monarchy in Britain change between 1603 and 1702?

  • To what extent did the 1905 revolution in Russia cause major changes in the structure of the tsarist state?

  • To what extent was Germany a united country after 1871?

  • To what extent did the Liberal government of 1906–14 set up a welfare state in Britain?

Answers to these essay titles require a careful weighing up of the various pieces of evidence involved in order to come to a balanced solution. You may want to compare the importance of various factors. You may want to make a

personal judgement. Remember that you must support your main points with evidence.

(b) Which factor best explains


An essay question that begins ‘How important’ or ‘Assess the contribution of’ or sometimes ‘To what extent’ and which gives an example of a factor involved is asking for that named factor to be weighed up against other factors that are involved.

Examples of this type of question





  • To what extent did Scotland win the Wars of Independence because of English mistakes and weaknesses?

  • How important was the question of ‘rights’ in the growth of opposition to royal authority before 1788?

  • Assess the contribution of the socialist societies to the growth of the Labour movement in Britain up to 1914?

  • How important a part did the First World War play in the decision to grant votes to women?

In these essays you must deal with the named factor and compare it to other possible reasons in order to arrive at a good, well balanced, conclusion.


2. Making a judgement

(a) The quotation – making a judgement

Sometimes, an essay title has a quotation in it. The essay will ask you to agree or disagree with this statement. You must establish what the view of the quoted writer is and then, by using your knowledge as evidence, draw a justified conclusion about the underlying issue.



Examples of this type of question





  • ‘The life of the medieval serf was nasty, brutish and short.’ How true is this statement?

  • ‘Ideas were more important than hunger in the collapse of the French monarchy between 1788 and 1792.’ Do you agree?

  • ‘To maintain its authority, Fascism relied on propaganda rather than solid achievement.’ How far would you agree with this view? Refer to either Germany or Italy up to 1939.

  • ‘Too little, too late.’ Is this a fair judgement on the social and economic measures of the National Government, 1931–39?

(b) The statement – making a judgement

This is similar to the Quotation question. You are being asked to make a judgement about a given statement. Such an essay might begin with ‘How successful’ or ‘How true’ or ‘Do you agree that …’



Examples of this type of question





  • Do you agree that the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were a time of social, political and economic decline?

  • How much justification is there for calling Joseph II of Austria and Hungary a complete failure in everything he did?

  • How successful were the welfare reforms of the Labour government of 1945–51 in improving social conditions in Britain?

  • How true is the claim that the period between 1931 and 1939 was one of hardship for the British people?

In these essays you have to answer the question by showing your understanding of the question and by presenting a balanced evaluation and a valid conclusion which results from your presented evidence. You should clearly state your point of view and exemplify it.


These examples are given as a rough guide. All history questions are unique to some extent. Look carefully at each question and work out what is required.

How do I write my essay?


Each essay is unique. But to write a good essay it needs a clear structure. It needs a good clear introduction, a main development of several paragraphs where you put forward your argument and evidence to support it. Then in your conclusion you should draw together your argument.


Introduction


  • Should set out the issue clearly.

  • Identifies the main themes of the essay – pointing the reader/examiner in the direction the essay is going to take.

  • Captures the reader’s interest and attention.

  • Links up with the main, development section.



  • Should not answer the question.



Evidence (in the development)


  • Short paragraph for each relevant point made/theme.

  • Written factually, using information as evidence.

  • Makes the argument flow in a logical, continuous fashion, for example arranging paragraphs chronologically or thematically from weakest to strongest argument.

  • Links each paragraph to the next one so that the theme is maintained.




  • Does not jump about.

  • Paragraphs should not be too short or too long.

  • Should not use quotations to present basic points of knowledge.


Argument (in the development)


  • Analyses, evaluates and discusses showing both sides of the argument.

  • Use of quotations to show opinion or historical argument (if appropriate).




  • Does not simply describe or narrate.


Conclusion


  • Summarises the argument and reinforces it.

  • Directly answers the question or addresses the issue, providing a valid, balanced explanation and/or conclusion.




  • Does not simply summarise main ‘facts’.



What are introductions and conclusions like?
Writing an introduction and a conclusion can be a bit daunting at first. Most people have a good idea what to write in the ‘middle’ of an essay but are not sure how to start off. Below are some examples of introductions and conclusions. The examples below are not supposed to be ‘perfect answers’ as this is not possible. Their purpose is to highlight the key features of a good introduction (establishing context, signposting relevant factors to be developed and areas of debate) and conclusion (pulling on evidence and argument in main body of the essay). Hopefully this should give you some ideas.
Example 1: How successful were the welfare reforms of the Labour Government 1945–51 in improving social conditions in Great Britain?
Introduction
Within the 1942 Report on Social Insurance and Allied Services by William Beveridge, the roots of the post war reforms undertaken by the Labour Government can be found. Much debate has centred on the success of the Labour Government’s welfare reforms. There is no doubt that the five giants of want, idleness, ignorance, disease and squalor were, to varying degrees, tackled. However, various schools of thought have emerged amongst historians as regards whether real success was achieved in terms of education, housing, poverty, unemployment and ill-health. In order to fully evaluate the Labour administration’s endeavours, each key legislative development shall be examined in depth. Only at this point can a true understanding of the success of the Labour Government’s welfare reforms between 1945 and 1951, be ascertained in terms of improving social conditions in Great Britain.
Conclusion
Considering the monumental task that faced Labour when it assumed office, it can be concluded that marked inroads had indeed been made in terms of improving social conditions in Great Britain. The Labour Government established the key mechanisms of the welfare state, which, having endured to this day, demonstrate a degree of success. Despite Barrett’s contention of growing British dependency, the creation of the NHS undoubtedly provided health care from ‘cradle to the grave’ and was indeed perceived to be the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the government’s reforms. In education, despite contentions that reforms did not go far enough, there now was greater access to further and higher education. Achieving full employment continued this success and Dalton, Chancellor of the Exchequer, suggested it was ‘the greatest revolution brought about by the Labour Government’. Clearly, not all endeavours were as successful and the 750,000 shortfall in housing by 1951 highlighted this. Social Security arguably failed to meet the needs of the populace with the over reliance on National Assistance. Nevertheless in this, as in all areas, the infrastructure was laid, albeit to varying degrees of success, for later administrations to build upon. In essence, it can be concluded that the vision of a truly comprehensive welfare system was stronger than reality allowed.

Example 2: The weakness of the Weimar Republic was the main factor that allowed Hitler to rise to power between 1920 and 1933. Do you agree?
Introduction
The Weimar Republic, which came into being in November 1918 during a time of national crisis, was rooted in the chaos of defeat. Many historians claim that weaknesses inherent within the Weimar Government proved insurmountable. To ascertain any validity in this statement, the legacy of Versailles and Weimar’s role in accepting the diktat must be considered, as well as the Weimar constitution and the alleged flaws implicit within. Fuelled by a series of economic crises, it is believed that these key weaknesses effectively undermined Weimar. However such a contention, it can be argued, cannot be viewed in isolation. As such, the rise of Hitler and the Nazis requires in depth examination in terms of their growing momentum in the 1920s and culminating in their exploitation of the political machinery latterly. This, in conjunction with the underestimation of Hitler by eminent politicians, also needs to be addressed. Ultimately, it is only at this point that a comprehensive understanding can be achieved as regards Hitler’s rise to power and whether Weimar’s weaknesses were the overriding factor.
Conclusion
It is clear that the weaknesses implicit within Weimar were not the only factor that facilitated Hitler’s rise to power, but rather it was just one piece in the puzzle. As Karl Dietrich Bracher testifies, ‘the combination of political inexperience, lack of familiarity with the workings of parliamentary democracy, and powerful residues of authoritarianism proved fatal’. Nevertheless, a variety of other situations had to be in place, namely a Nazi party willing to go out and sell themselves, and an unpopular opposition who did not have the determination to unite and counter Hitler. Finally, the Great Depression was the last straw and the vehicle that handed power to Hitler; a wave of support went to the Nazis who promised a return to Germany’s former glory. Only with hindsight can we see the irony behind Albert Speer’s contention: ‘One seldom recognises the devil when he is putting his hand on your shoulder’. It was Hitler’s authoritarian stance that provided a perceived continuity with the past that Weimar, with its democratic aspirations, could never have achieved.

How will my essay be marked?
Your essay will be marked according to guidelines set down by the SQA. Markers will be looking for evidence that you have:


  • answered the question carefully

  • shown a good knowledge of the topic

  • argued – rather than having just written down lots of ‘facts’

  • written your essay clearly, using historical terms

  • organised your essay into paragraphs with a clear introduction and a conclusion.


What will a C pass essay be like?


  • A reasonable quantity of accurate, relevant knowledge will have been presented to address the issue.

  • There will be basic analysis of the issue in its context, supported by evidence.

  • There will be an appropriate structure and a relevant conclusion.


What will a B pass essay be like?


  • A more substantial quantity of accurate, relevant knowledge will have been presented.

  • The analysis will show greater coherence, making clear use of the evidence presented to illustrate and develop appropriate points.

  • There will be a recognisable structure, leading to a relevant conclusion based on the evidence presented.


What will an A pass essay be like?


  • There will be a considerable body of evidence, selected appropriately and used to illustrate and develop the analysis.

  • The line of argument will be well developed, clear and coherent throughout the essay.

  • There will be a coherent structure with a conclusion clearly based on the evidence presented and relating directly to the issue.


Section 2: Extended essay
The Extended Essay is the coursework element of Higher History and counts for nearly one third of your overall grade – 30 marks out of a total of 100.
It is really just a longer and more in-depth version of a Paper 1 essay. You choose an essay title yourself, research it, draw up a plan and then write up the essay in two hours with only the help of the plan. Both the plan and the essay are sent off to SQA.

Why do I have to do an Extended Essay?
The Extended Essay is to allow you to:


  • develop your interest in a particular area of the course

  • further develop your research skills

  • show your ability with less constraints being placed on time and memory.



When will I do my Extended Essay?
Most schools and colleges begin work on the Extended Essay after the Christmas holidays, although there is no reason why you cannot begin earlier. You will be given no more than eight hours time in class to prepare; you will have to do most of the work in your own time.

What will my Extended Essay be on?
You get to choose both the topic and the title yourself. It could be on anything you are studying in Higher History – that includes the Special Topic. Many people choose an essay that they have worked on in class. The Extended Essay allows you to find out more about your favourite topic!
Tips


  • Titles must be a question or tackle an issue.

  • Essay titles should be kept relatively straightforward; otherwise they will be too difficult to answer.

  • Don’t choose a topic just because your friend is doing it. Be original and focus on something that interests you.

  • Try to work independently as far as possible. Markers like to see some originality in essays – not exactly the same stuff that everyone else has done.



How do I plan my Extended Essay?
The good news is that you are allowed to use a 200-word plan to help you write up your essay.
By the time you write your Extended Essay, you should already be very good at planning how to tackle essays.
Caution


  • Up to 10 marks can be deducted should a plan go over the word limit.

  • The plan must be words. Pictures, codes and text message language are not allowed. However, mind maps and use of colour are allowed.

  • The plan should not simply be a list of ‘facts’, but should show the organisation and flow of the essay.



How should I prepare for the Extended Essay?
You should research your topic thoroughly. Once you are ready, write your essay at home. This will allow you to see whether you need to make any changes, or improve your argument. Once your essay is reaching final preparation time, try writing it in two hours. This should allow you to spot any potential problems with timing before you do it for real on the day.

On the day – writing the Extended Essay
Your school or college will choose the time and date when you write up your Extended Essay. You must make sure that you have your plan with you. You are not allowed to make any changes to your plan once you start writing the essay.

How will my Extended Essay be marked?
Your plan and essay will be sent away and marked by SQA markers. Your mark will be added to your overall grade in the final exam. The markers will be looking at three key areas when they mark your essay:



Structure

6 marks

For Structure [S], marks are awarded for the overall quality, using criteria statements for the Structure, Introduction and Conclusion.

Argument

12 marks

Marks are awarded for the overall quality of the Argument [A], using criteria statements. There is a higher and a lower mark in each range and these should be used to reflect the degree to which the criteria are met.

Knowledge

12 marks

Marks for Knowledge [KU] are awarded for each recognisable and relevant point, up to a maximum of 12 marks. Points that are developed may be credited with 2 marks.


Section 3: Historical special topic
You will be assessed on the Historical Special Topic in Paper 2 of the final examination. Your study of the topic will focus on both primary and secondary source material. Whilst most of the sources you will study will be written, you will also analyse visual sources.


Written sources you might study:

Visual sources you might study:

  • letters

  • newspaper reports

  • manuscripts

  • chronicles

  • speeches

  • poems and songs

  • memoirs

  • autobiographies

  • government reports

  • cabinet minutes

  • extracts from secondary texts

  • historical articles/journals

  • cartoons

  • photographs

  • posters

  • maps

  • manuscripts



How will I be expected to use sources in the Unit Assessment and in the Exam?
The Unit Assessment and External Assessment will focus on five source extracts:


  • At least three will be primary sources.

  • At least one will be a secondary source.

  • Most, or all, will be written sources.

  • Written sources will be roughly one or two paragraphs long.

There will be five questions relating to the sources:




  • Each of the 5 questions will be a different type of question:

    • Type One: Evaluating the value/reliability/usefulness of a source.

    • Type Two: Comparison of two sources.

    • Type Three: How typical is a view/opinion.

    • Type Four: How fully does one source explain a particular viewpoint?

    • Type Five: How fully do three sources explain a particular viewpoint?

  • Questions will be worth a total of 30 marks – two will be worth 5 marks, two will be worth 6 marks and one will be worth 8 marks.

  • The 8-mark question will always be a Type 5 question – relating to three sources.



What types of question will I be expected to answer?
Each type of question requires a different answer. It is important that you can recognise the different types of question as this will allow you to analyse the sources thoroughly, as well as applying your own knowledge. Each question has a prompt to help structure your answer.
The following pages look at the different question types. There is some advice to help you with your source analysis. Remember that each source is unique, and therefore the advice should not be treated as a formula – rather it is a guide to help you gain confidence. Over time the question prompt should be sufficient to guide your answers. Also included are the general marking guidelines used by SQA markers. You could use this to look at your answers and look at how they could be improved.

Type One: Evaluating the value/reliability/usefulness of a source
Types of question


  • Assess the value of a source as historical evidence.

  • How useful or reliable is a source as evidence of ...?

  • How useful is a source in explaining ...?

  • Discuss/explain the significance of the source in the context of events at the time.

  • In what ways does the source reflect events at the time it was published?


Prompt


  • In reaching a conclusion you should refer to:

    • the origin and possible purpose of the source

    • the content of the source

    • recalled knowledge.


Advice
Before you reach a conclusion to the question consider the following points:


  • The context in which the source is set.

  • The origin of the source in terms of authorship and timing and whether it is primary or secondary.

  • The purpose/reason why the source was written/produced.

  • The content in terms of accuracy. Therefore, you need to know what the main points of the source are and compare the source content with other information from the time. This then allows you to bring in relevant recalled knowledge which is essential if you wish to do well.

  • Once you have carried out the above steps you should be in a position to make a conclusion/give your opinion on the value/reliability/accuracy of a source. It is vitally important that you do not omit this crucial last step. A single concluding sentence may be sufficient.


Mark guide
1–2 Selects some evidence from the source and/or from recalled knowledge but without making the required evaluation.
3–4 Selects relevant evidence from the source and uses limited recalled knowledge to support a basic evaluation.
5 Establishes the main points in the source and uses recalled knowledge to evaluate it and reach an appropriate conclusion.

Type Two: Comparison of two sources
Types of question


  • In what ways and for what reasons do two sources disagree/differ over ...?

  • Compare the attitude towards ... expressed in Sources A and B.

  • Compare the views in Sources A and B on …

  • Explain the differences between Sources A and B.

  • To what extent does Source B agree with the view suggested in Source A?


Prompt


  • Compare the sources overall and in detail.


Advice
Before you reach a conclusion to the question consider the following points:


  • Make an overall comparison making clear the main similarity/difference between the sources.

  • Compare the sources thoroughly – point by point. If the question also asks you to explain the difference, discuss who wrote the sources and the reasons for differing opinions. Don’t simply copy what the sources say.

  • Write a conclusion. It is vitally important that you do not omit this crucial last step. A single concluding sentence may be sufficient.


Mark guide
1–2 Selects some evidence from one or both sources but little attempt to make the required comparison.
3–4 Selects relevant evidence from both sources and makes a basic comparison in terms of the question.
5 Selects relevant evidence from both sources and compares them overall and in detail to reach an appropriate conclusion.

Type Three: How typical is a view/opinion
Types of question


  • How widely held at the time were the opinions expressed in Source A?

  • Was the reaction in Britain, as described in Source D, typical of British attitudes towards...?

  • How much support was there at the time for the views expressed in Source A?

  • How well does Source A reflect public opinion at the time?

  • To what extent is Source D an accurate reflection of the attitude of the British government to...?

  • How typical are the arguments put forward in Source C of those used by supporters of...?


Prompt


  • Use the source and recalled knowledge.


Advice
Before you reach a conclusion to the question consider the following points:


  • The context in which the source is set.

  • Use the sources as your starting point to explain what opinion is being expressed.

  • Use relevant recalled knowledge to compare the opinion in the source with the public viewpoint at the time.

  • Write a conclusion. It is vitally important that you do not omit this crucial last step. A single concluding sentence may be sufficient.


Mark guide
1–2 Selects some evidence from the source and/or from recalled knowledge but without making the required evaluation.
3–4 Selects relevant evidence from the source and uses limited recalled knowledge to support a basic evaluation.
5–6 Establishes the main points in the source and uses recalled knowledge to evaluate it and reach an appropriate conclusion.

Type Four: How fully does one source explain a particular viewpoint?
Types of question


  • To what extent does Source A explain ...?

  • To what extent do you accept the assessment given in Source C?

  • To what extent do you accept the view in Source C about ...?

  • How fully does Source D explain ...?

  • How fully does Source B explain the reasons ...?

  • How complete an account does Source A give of ...?

  • How well does Source C assess ...?


Prompt


  • Use the source and recalled knowledge.


Advice
Before you reach a conclusion to the question consider the following points.


  • The context in which the source is set.

  • Identify the information in the source which explains the point expressed in the question. It is likely that the information contained in the source only gives a partial explanation which you should indicate in your answer.

  • Use relevant recalled knowledge to identify other points of information which are not contained in the source but are required for a full explanation.

  • Write a conclusion. It is vitally important that you do not miss this last step. A single concluding sentence may be sufficient.


Mark guide
1–2 Selects some evidence from the source and/or from recalled knowledge but without making the required evaluation.
3–4 Selects relevant evidence from the source and uses limited recalled knowledge to support a basic evaluation.
5–6 Establishes the main points in the source and uses recalled knowledge to evaluate it and reach an appropriate conclusion.
Type Five: How fully do three sources explain a particular viewpoint?
Types of question


  • How fully do Sources A, B and E explain ...?

  • How fully do Sources A, B and D illustrate ...?

  • To what extent do Sources A, B and C explain ...?


Prompt


  • Use Sources A, D and E and recalled knowledge.


Advice
Before you reach a conclusion to the question consider the following points.


  • The context in which the sources are set.

  • Take one source at a time and identify the information that explains the point expressed in the question. It is likely that the information contained in the source only gives a partial explanation which you should indicate in your answer.

  • Use relevant recalled knowledge to identify points of information which are not included in the sources but are required for a full explanation.

  • Write a conclusion. It is vitally important that you do not omit this crucial last step. A single concluding sentence may be sufficient.



Mark guide
1–3 Selects relevant evidence from the sources and/or from recalled knowledge but without making the required evaluation.
4–6 Selects relevant evidence from the sources and uses limited recalled knowledge to inform a basic evaluation in terms of the question.
7–8 Establishes the main points in the sources and uses recalled knowledge to evaluate these and reach an appropriate conclusion.
Appendix
Looking at visual sources
Many students often panic the first time they have to evaluate visual sources in detail, especially cartoons. This should not be the case as all sources are chosen with great care by the SQA. If you are presented with a visual source in the final examination, there is a chance you may have studied it in class. You are much more likely to remember a picture or a cartoon than a passage from a book you have read.

How should I study a cartoon?
Cartoons are excellent pieces of evidence. They are designed to make a point, usually political, in a visual way which is easy for people to understand. However, as we are looking at them long after they were drawn, we must use our historical knowledge to make sense of them.
When looking at cartoons you should remember that the cartoonist is trying to make a point – everything that s/he has drawn will help convey a central message.
Look out for:
The rubric above the cartoon will give you information on:


  • The author who drew the cartoon. This may give you a good indication of the stance of the cartoon – e.g. David Low was known to be critical of appeasement.

  • The date the cartoon was drawn. Use your knowledge to think about what was happening at this time.

  • The publication that the cartoon appeared in. Cartoons from an American newspaper, British satirical magazine or a German propaganda poster will be very different.


In the cartoon look at:


  • The people shown. Check how the cartoonist has drawn them. What are they doing? How are they dressed? Do they represent historical figures (e.g. Hitler) or national stereotypes (e.g. John Bull representing Britain)? Look carefully at how the people relate to each other in the scene – facial expressions will give you some good clues.

  • The labels in the cartoon are used by the cartoonist to make sure you understand what is being shown and to highlight significant objects or people. Again, this gives a strong hint about the message of the cartoon.

  • The background of the cartoon should not be forgotten. There may be some important details shown there too.

  • The caption of the cartoon is usually the key to unlocking the message. It could perhaps be a play on words or parody a common saying or turn of phrase.



Analysing a cartoon: an example
The cartoon below comes from the Appeasement and Road to War Special Topic. However, you can do the same with any cartoon.

Primary source: from the day after the plebiscite results were announced.

Austrians asked on 10 April to vote on Anschluss. 99% voted in favour.

British newspaper.




Hitler shown as saint-like.



Lord Halifax – British Foreign Secretary.






Goering (second in command) looks happy in his role as election officer. Notice the pre-printed ballots – result a foregone conclusion.

German soldiers march in the leaders of France, Britain and Italy.








Daladier – French Prime Minister looks concerned – hands tied behind his back.






Goebbles, German minister of Propaganda is checking all the ballots.




Neville Chamberlain – British Prime Minister.

‘Vote Ja’ – Vote Yes. Suggests that there was no other option but to vote in favour of Anschluss.


Drawn by David Low – opposed to British policy of appeasement.





Leaders of Britain, France and Italy didn’t actually vote but by their inaction they as good as endorsed the Anschluss. European leaders were too scared of the consequences of opposing Hitler.

‘or else’ – points to intimidation during the vote.

Mussolini – Italian leader shown with cushion – to ‘cushion the blow’? Mussolini made it clear to Hitler that he would not object to Anschluss any more.

You can search the British Cartoon archive at http://opal.kent.ac.uk/cartoonx-cgi/ccc.py . You can print out any of the cartoons and annotate them just like the example above.





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