Document-based question

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What is a DBQ?

  • DBQ is an acronym for “document-based question.”

  • A DBQ asks students to READ and ANALYZE historical records, gather information and fill in short response questions, assimilate and synthesize information from several documents, and then respond to an assigned task, by using information gleaned from the documents as well as their own outside information.

  • Your response is judged based upon your thesis (or ARGUMENT) and details you use to support your argument

Today and next class you will be completing a “mini-Q”, or a simplified version of a DBQ!


Day 1 – Thursday, 12/11

-TASK: Analysis of documents and completion of questions; essay outline

-HOMEWORK: Finish outline
Day 2 – Friday, 12/12

-TASK: Write essay response

-HOMEWORK: Finish (if needed) AND print essay; Essay is DUE Monday, 12/15 and must be printed!

DAY 1 DIRECTIONS: Analyze the following documents by completing the questions that pertain to each document. You may write or type your answers but be sure to label and number the questions.

Example: Document #1 Questions

1. ……………………

Document #1: “The Map of Africa by Treaty” by Sir Edward Hertslet, London, 1909


  1. Consider the source: list the date, creator, and where the map was produced.

  2. Explain how the map’s source might influence interpretations of the map.

  3. What is the purpose of the map: why was it drawn, what evidence can we draw from it, what has the mapmaker avoided including, how does the map add to or contradict what you already know?

Document #2: quote rfom Haile Selassie (Ethiopian emperor, 1892-1975)
Throughout history it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most that has made it possible for evil to triumph,”


  1. What is the perspective of the author? What events might have cased the author to think as he does?

  2. Why might the author be making this statement? For what audience? For what purpose?

  3. How does this quote relate to the colonization of Africa? Explain.

Document #3: “On French Colonial Expansion” a speech before the French Chamber of Deputies, March 28, 1884, by Jules Ferry (1832-1893): Ferry was twice prime minister of Frans, from 1880-1881 and 1883-1885.


  1. Who is the author of this piece of evidence? What is his viewpoint?

  2. What justifications does he offer to support his viewpoint?

  3. Why might he be giving this speech? What is the purpose of the speech?

  4. What does this speech tell you about life and attitudes at the time?

Document #4: Technology and Imperialism Chart


  1. When was most of the technology in this chart invented?

  2. Which technology cured a disease? Which technology developments gave Europeans armies an advantage over African armies?

  3. Which of the invention do you think would have been the most important for spreading European influence in Africa?

  4. How could this document be used to explain the primary cause of European imperialism in Africa?

  5. Are technological factors more of a primary cause of European colonization in Africa than [political reasons (glory)?

Document #5: Technology and Imperialism Chart


  1. What European industries benefited from African resources?

  2. If you owned a textile mill, which colony of colonies would you want your country to rule?

  3. Which European country do you think had the most valuable colonies? Why?

  4. How could this document be used to explain the cause of colonization in Africa?

  5. Are trade and markets more important reasons for colonization in Africa than politics (glory) or technology (natural resources)?

Document #6: “Gustave Freensen: In the German South African Army, 1903-1904” This story is by a soldier in the German army telling of his experiences in the campaign againse the indigenous people of southwest Africa in 1903-1904.


  1. Who is the author? Whose perspective does his writing reflect?

  2. Who are the “old Africans”? What is their viewpoint on Germany’s involvement with African colonization? Why do you think they this viewpoint?

  3. What do you think is the author’s attitude? Does he agree or disagree with the “old Africans”?

  4. What social or economic benefits or problems does this letter explain about German colonization in Africa during the Age of Imperialism?

Document #7: “The Rhodes Colossus: Striding from Cape Town to Cairo” Published in Punch, of the London Charivari, December 10, 1982. Artists: Linley Sambourne


  1. Where and when was this political cartoon published? What impact might this have on its perspective or bias?

  2. Examining the title of the political cartoon. How does this clarify the purpose or understanding of the political cartoon? What meaning does the title give to the illustration? Why might the author have chosen the words he did – colossus, striding, Cape Town & Cairo?

  3. What is being depicted in this political cartoon? Who is the man? What objects do you see?

  4. What is the artist’s viewpoint? What evidence from the political cartoon support your claims?

DAY 2 DIRECTIONS: Based on your analysis of the previous documents, explain the social and economic effects of European Imperialism and colonization of Africa in a short, but well-written essay. Be sure to include details and evidence from the documents as well as your prior knowledge to explain your understanding of the topic.
Criteria for Success:

Your essay MUST include:

  • THREE Paragraphs – At least!

  • An introductory paragraph with CLEAR thesis

    • A thesis presents your argument

    • Thesis is ALWAYS the last sentence in your introduction!

  • At least ONE body paragraph that PROVES your thesis

  • A concluding paragraph

  • Follow the guidelines outlined on the provided rubric

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