Document Based Question – dbq learning How to Write a dbq task #1

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AP European History


Document Based Question – DBQ

Learning How to Write a DBQ
TASK #1Deconstructing the question. Specifically and in your own words describe what the question is asking you to do. Start by circling the directive words. Use the Historical Background to help you in this process. It is there for a reason and as a guide. Limit your answer to 2-3 sentences.

1. What are the Directive word(s)? Circle or underline these in the prompt

2. Identify key events, places, and people within the prompt

3. Identify if the prompt is asking for change over time

4. Explain what the prompt is explicitly asking you to do. Write your response in complete sentences. (DO NOT simply restate the question)

TASK #2The Documents. Recreate the table below on your sheet and fill it in with appropriate information. You have been provided with 13 Documents all of which are intended to be used as evidence to support your thesis. You are NOT expected to add in outside information except as context. Everything you argue must be based on what is found in the documents. You must complete the following steps:

  1. BEFORE you read a single document, predict what Points of View (P.O.V.) you will expect to find. Write those down.

  2. Read through the documents. For each one make sure you note/underline/circle all relevant information such as author, time, national origin. In other words next to the document do C.C.P. in brief.

  3. As you are reading put the documents into categories/groupings as these groups emerge. Do this in the chart below that you have recreated on your sheet. (NOTE: I’ve started you off. You do not need to fill in every box.)

TASK #3 - Constructing a thesis. Now that you have read through the documents and grouped them, you must construct your thesis which is your argument in response to the question. Follow the steps:

  1. Write a sentence/statement that identifies the GOALS of the French Revolution in 1789. LIMIT 2 sentences.

  2. Write a sentence/statement that assesses the extent to which the goal were achieved from 1789-1815 based on what the documents said. LIMIT 2 sentences. (REMEMBER assess = evaluate so no extremes)

  3. Take what you’ve written and do your best to combine it into a single statement. LIMIT 2 sentences.

TASK #4Assembling evidence. Using the thesis statement you created in Task #3, you are now going to assemble your evidence and present your arguments.




TASK #5Writing the DBQ. Now that you’ve performed the previous tasks you will actually write the full essay. Remember to include the following:

  1. Introductory Paragraph

    • The introduction is the most important paragraph of the essay. The introductory paragraph should have four elements:

    • Restate the question in your own words.

    • The historical setting. Use the question to help you to place your argument in context.

    • The thesis: this is the answer to the prompt. You are asserting something to be true which you will attempt to demonstrate in your essay response.

    • A preview of your evidence that you will use to prove your thesis. It is a roadmap to your essay. Remember to think of it like a movie preview which gives you the key elements without revealing all the details of the plot and outcome.

  1. Main Body Paragraph

  2. Main Body Paragraph

  3. Main Body Paragraph (if needed/appropriate)

  4. Conclusion



Part A

(Suggested writing time – 45 minutes)

Percent of Section II score – 45
Directions: The following question in based on the accompanying Documents 1-15. (Some of the documents have been edited for the purpose of this exercise.) Write your answer on the lined pages of the Section II free-response booklet.
This question is designed to test your ability to work with and understand historical documents. Write an essay that

  • Has a relevant thesis and supports that thesis with evidence from the documents.

  • Uses a majority of the documents.

  • Analyzes the documents by grouping them in as many appropriate ways as possible. Does not simply summarize the documents individually.

  • Takes into account both the sources of the documents and the authors’ points of view.

You may refer to relevant historical information not mentioned in the documents.

  1. Identify the goals of the French Revolution in 1789 and assess the extent to which they were achieved from 1789 to 1815.

Historical Background: On May 5, 1789 the Estates General convened at Versailles for the first time since 1614. Faced with enormous debt from a series of costly wars Louis XVI was forced to convene the assembly in an attempt to address the financial crisis. The nobility insisted on this action as the only legitimate way Louis could levy a tax on those who had been legally exempt from taxes for centuries. Each estate drew up its cahier de doleances or list of grievances to be presented to the king and the assembly. It quickly became apparent that no solution could be found. The grievances of all groups extended far beyond taxes. The First and Second Estates were bent on reasserting their authority and power while the Third Estate attempted to get more equal say within the assembly. On June 20, 1789 the Third Estate took the Tennis Court oath declaring themselves the National Assembly and swearing not to disband until a new constitution for France was in place. Thus began the French Revolution which lasted until Napoleon was defeated in 1815. The revolution went through several phases and when Louis XVIII the heir of the Bourbon dynasty was placed back on the throne in 1814 it was seemed as though France was restoring the Ancién Regime and yet clearly much had changed.
Document 1

Source: Commissioners of Third Estate of the Carcassonne, “The Cahier de Doleances of the Carcassonne,” 1789.
The third estate of the electoral district of Carcassonne, desiring to give to a beloved monarch, and one so worthy of our affection, the most unmistakable proof of its love and respect…declares that happiness of the nation must, in their opinion, depend upon that of its king, upon the stability of the monarchy, and upon the preservation of the orders which compose it and of the fundamental laws which govern it. …
They believe that they are fulfilling the duties of faithful subjects and zealous citizens in submitting…the following:
1. Public worship should be confined to the Roman Catholic apostolic religion, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship…

2. Nevertheless the civil rights of those of the king’s subjects who are not Catholics should be confirmed and they should be admitted to positions in the public administration…

11. No order, corporation, or individual citizen may lay claim to any pecuniary exemptions . . .All taxes should be assessed on the same system throughout the nation.

13. Since individual liberty is intimately associated with national liberty, his Majesty is hereby petitioned not to permit that it be hereafter interfered with by arbitrary orders for imprisonment. …

14. Freedom should be granted also to the press, which should however be subjected, by means of strict regulations, to the principles of religion, morality, and public decency.

Document 2

Source: National Assembly of France, “The Declaration of Right of Man and Citizen,” 1789.
ARTICLE 1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.

2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression. …

7. No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. …

10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law. …

13. A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equally distributed among all citizens in proportion to their means.

14. All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution

Document 3

Source: Louis XVI, from his secret letter appealing to the Prussian King, 1791.
My Brother:
I have learned through M. du Moustier of the interest which your Majesty has expressed not only in my person but also in the welfare of my kingdom. … in spite of the fact that I have accepted the new constitution, seditious leaders are openly exhibiting their purpose of entirely destroying the remnants of the monarchy. I have addressed myself to the emperor, the empress of Russia, and to the kings of Spain and Sweden; I am suggesting to them the idea of a congress of the chief powers of Europe, supported by an armed force, as the best means of checking seditious parties, of establishing a more desirable order of things, and of preventing the evil which afflicts us from reaching the other states of Europe.
Your good brother,


Document 4

Source: Louis-Marie Prudhomme, French journalist and royalist, from his reporting on Parisian reaction to the King’s Flight to Varennes, 1791.
Far from being “famished for a glimpse of the king,” the people proved, by the way in which they took the escape of Louis XVI, that they were sick of the throne and tired of paying for it. …

They contented themselves with making sport, in their own way, of royalty and of the man who was invested with it. ...

A young girl refused to let them put the queen’s bonnet on her head and trampled on it with indignation and contempt. …On the Place de Gréve the people broke up a bust of Louis XVI, which was illuminated by that celebrated lantern which had been a source of terror to the enemies of the Revolution. … The words “king,” “queen,” “royal,” “Bourbon,” “Louis,” “court,” “Monsieur,” “the king’s brother,” were effaced wherever they were found on pictures or on the signs over shops and stores.

Document 5

Source: Olympe de Gouges, feminist, playwright , “Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Citizen,” 1791.
Considering that ignorance, disregard of or contempt for the rights of women are the only causes of public misfortune and of governmental corruption, they have resolved to set forth in a solemn declaration, the natural, inalienable and sacred rights of woman. …

  1. Woman is born free and remains equal in rights to man. …

4. Liberty and Justice consist of rendering to persons those things that belong to them; thus, the exercise of woman’s natural rights is limited only by the perpetual tyranny with which man opposes her; these limits must be changed according to the laws of nature and reason. …

10. No one should be punished for their opinions. Woman has the right to mount the scaffold; she should likewise have the right to speak in public, provided that her demonstrations do not disrupt public order as established by law.

Document 6

Source: Proclamation of the Convention to the Nations, The National Convention December 1792
The French people to the people of; brothers and friends: …

We have conquered our liberty and we shall maintain it. We offer to bring this inestimable blessing to you, for it has always been rightly ours, and only by a crime have our oppressors robbed us of it. We have driven out your tyrants. Show yourselves free men and we will protect you from their vengeance, their machinations, or their return.

From this moment the French nation proclaims the sovereignty of the people, the suppression of all civil and military authorities which have hitherto governed you and of all which the taxes which you bear, under whatever form, the abolition of the tithe [church tax], of feudalism, of seigniorial rights and monopolies of every kind, of serfdom, whether real or personal, of hunting and fishing privileges, of the corvee [labor tax], the salt tax, the tolls and local imposts, and, in general, of. all the various kinds of taxes with which you have been loaded by your usurpers; it also proclaims the abolition among you of all noble and ecclesiastical corporations and of all prerogatives and privileges opposed to equality. You are, from this moment, brothers and friends; all are citizens, equal in rights, and all are alike called to govern, to serve, and to defend your country.

Document 7

Source: Anonymous, A National Guardsman Recounts the Revolutionary Journée of August 10, 1792.
More than 20,000 men march across Paris, bristling with pikes and bayonets. …

The people fling bitter reproaches at the king and accuse him of being the author of his troubles. … Some officers suggested retreat to the commander of the Swiss guards [kings personal guard]. But he seemed prepared and soon, by a clever tactic, captured the artillery which the National Guard held in the courtyard. These guns, now turned on the people, fire and strike them down. But soon the conflict is intensified everywhere,. The Swiss, surrounded, overpowered, stricken, then run out of ammunition. …

Heavens! That Liberty should cost Frenchmen blood and tears! … All the Swiss who had been taken prisoner were escorted to the Place de Gréve. There they had their brains blown out. They were traitors sacrificed to vengeance. What vengeance! I shivered to the roots of my being. … The Gréve was littered with corpses, and heads were paraded on the ends of several pikes. …
One realizes now that the Swiss are the victims of their credulity, that they hoped for support, but that the rich men who should have fought with them dared not put in an appearance.

Document 8

Source: George Munro the Earl of Gower and British Ambassador to France, from his dispatches back recounting the September Massacres in Paris, 1792.
About one o’clock… one of the Municipality on horseback proclaimed in different parts of the city, that the enemy was at the gates, Verdun was besieged, and could only hold out a few days. …

The Assembly … immediately passed a decree, directing that those who refused their arms to those that wished to serve, or objected serving themselves, should be deemed traitors and worthy of death…

A party at the instigation of some one or other declared they would not quit Paris, as long as the prisons were filled with Traitors…, who might in the absence of such a number of Citizens rise and not only effect the release of His Majesty, but make an entire counter-revolution. To prevent this, a large body of sans-culottes… proceeded to the Church de Carmes, rue de Vaugirard, where amidst the acclamations of a savage mob they massacred…exceeding in all one hundred and seventy. … After this they proceeded to the Abbaye, where they massacred a vast number of prisoners, amongst whom were also many respectable characters… none were exempted but debtors and many of these fell victims to the fury of the people. …
After the general massacre of Sunday night many of the dead bodies were laid on the Pontneuf to be claimed, a person in the action of stealing a handkerchief from one of the corpses was hacked to pieces on the spot, by the same people who had been guilty of so much cruelty and injustice.

Document 9

Source: Henry Essex Edgeworth de Firmont, Catholic priest to Louis XVI, from his observations of the execution of the King, 1793.
The procession lasted almost two hours; the streets were lined with citizens, all armed, some with pikes and some with guns, and the carriage was surrounded by a body of troops, formed of the most desperate people of Paris. As another precaution, they had placed before the horses a number of drums, intended to drown any noise of murmur in favour of the King…
The guards, whom the determined countenance of the King had for a moment disconcerted, seemed to recover their audacity. They surrounded him again, and would have seized his hands. “What are you attempting?” said the King, drawing back his hands. “To bind you,” answered the wretches. “To bind me,” said the King, with an indignant air. “No! I shall never consent to that: do what you have been ordered, but you shall never bind me…”
He was proceeding, when a man on horseback, in the national uniform, and with a ferocious cry, ordered the drums to beat. Many voices were at the same time heard encouraging the executioners. They seemed reanimated themselves, in seizing with violence the most virtuous of Kings, they dragged him under the axe of the guillotine, which with one stroke severed his head from his body. All this passed in a moment. The youngest of the guards, who seemed about eighteen, immediately seized the head, and showed it to the people as he walked round the scaffold; he accompanied this monstrous ceremony with the most atrocious and indecent gestures. At first an awful silence prevailed; at length some cries of 'Vive la Republique!' were heard. By degrees the voices multiplied and in less than ten minutes this cry, a thousand times repeated became the universal shout of the multitude, and every hat was in the air."

Document 10

Source: Declaration from the Temporary Committee of Republican Surveillance, during the Reign of Terror: Lyon, 1793.
The goal of the Revolution is the happiness of the people. …
Paragraph I: Concerning the Revolutionary Spirit
“The people” is the universality of French citizens; “the people” is above all the immense class of the poor… The Revolution would be a political and moral monstrosity if its end was to assure the happiness of a few hundred individuals and to consolidate the misery of the twenty-four million citizens. . .

. . .today, you must know nothing apart from it; you must see it, hear it, and adore it in everything. . . Any man to whom this enthusiasm is foreign. . . .have lied against nature and in their hearts. Let them flee the soil of liberty: they will soon be recognized and will water it with their impure blood.

Paragraph III: The Revolutionary Tax on the Rich
Who will come to the help of the Patrie [nation] in its need if it is not the rich? . . Any man who has more than his needs cannot use it, he can only abuse it; thus, if he is left what is strictly necessary, all the rest belongs to the Republic and to its unfortunate members.
Paragraph V: The Eradication of Fanaticism
Priests are the sole cause of the misfortunes of France; it is they who for thirteen hundred years have raised, by degrees, the edifice of our slavery. . .
Citizens, relations between God and man are a purely private matter and . . .have no need of display in worship and the visible monuments of superstition. . . the Republican has no other divinity than his Patrie, no other idol than liberty. The Republican is essentially religious because he is good. . .

Document 11

Source: Napoleon I, from his decrees affecting Spain, 1808

To date from the publication of the present decree, feudal rights are abolished in Spain.

All personal obligations, all exclusive fishing rights and other rights of similar nature on the coast or on rivers and streams, all feudal monopolies (banalites) of ovens, mills, and inns are suppressed. It shall be free to every one who shall conform to the laws to develop his industry without restraint.

The tribunal of the Inquistion is abolished, as inconsisten with the civil sovereignty and authority.

The number of convents now in existence in Spain shall be reduced to a third of their present number. . .no one shall be admitted to the convent or permitted to take the monastic vow until the number of religious of both sexes has been reduced. . .those who desire to renounce their monastic life are at liberty to leave their monasteries. . .

Document 12

Source: Jacques Louis David, detail from The Coronation of Napoleon, 1807

Document 13

Source: Louis XVIII, Constitutional Charter, 1814
Peace was the first necessity of our subjects, and we have unceasingly occupied ourselves with this. That peace, so essential to France and to the rest of Europe has been signed.
While we recognize that the expectations of enlightened Europe ought to be gratified by a free monarchical constitution, we have had to remember that our first duty toward our peoples was to preserve for their own interest the rights and prerogatives of our crown. We hope that, taught by experience, they may be convinced that. . .when concessions are snatched with violence from a weak government, public liberty is not less endangered than the throne itself.
…The dearest wish of our heart is that all the French may live like brothers, and that no bitter memory should ever trouble the security which ought to follow the solemn act which we grant them to-day.
Confident in our intentions, strong in our conscience, we engage ourselves before the assembly which listens to us to be faithful to this Constitutional Charter…
For these reasons we have voluntarily and by the free exercise of our royal authority granted and do grant, concede and accord, as well for us as for our successors forever, the Constitutional Charter as follows: ...

  1. Frenchmen are equal before the law, whatever may be their titles and ranks.

  2. They contribute without distinction, in proportion to their fortunes, towards the expenses of the state.

  3. Their personal liberty is likewise guaranteed; no one can be prosecuted nor arrested save in the cases provided by law and in the form which it prescribes.

  4. Every one may profess his religion with equal freedom, and shall obtain for his worship the same protection.

  5. Nevertheless, the catholic, apostolic and Roman religion is the religion of the state.

  6. The ministers of the catholic, apostolic and Roman religion and those of the other Christian sects alone receive stipends from the royal treasury.

  7. Frenchmen have the right to publish and to have printed their opinions, while conforming with the laws, which are necessary to restrain abuses of that liberty.

  1. The person of the king is inviolable and sacred. His ministers are responsible. To the king alone belongs the executive power.

  2. The king is the supreme head of the state, commands the land and sea forces, declares war, makes treaties of peace, alliance and commerce, appoints to all places of public administration, and makes the necessary regulations and ordinances for the execution of the laws and the security of the state.

  1. No tax can be imposed or collected, unless it has been consented to by the two chambers and sanctioned by the king.

  2. The land tax is consented to only for one year. Indirect taxes can be established for several years.

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