Fall of the roman empire: document based question (dbq)

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World History Name________________________Date_______Per._____

The purpose of a Document Based Question is to incorporate your previous knowledge on a topic with the information derived from written documents on the topic to answer a “big picture” question. You will read and analyze several excerpts from documents on the fall of the Roman Empire, defend a thesis statement by answering the “big picture” question, and organize your supporting arguments into a well-organized paragraph (10-15 sentences).
Historical Context:

In the third century A.D.Rome faced many problems. In addition to internal decay, the invasion by Germanic tribes seemed to sound the death bell for the Western Roman Empire. Historians have examined both the internal conditions that weakened the expansive empire and the external force of the barbarian invasions and have presented a variety of explanations for the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Directions: The following question is based on the accompanying documents in Part A. As you

analyze the documents, take into account both the source of the document and the author's point

of view. Be sure to:

  1. Carefully read the document-based question. Consider what you already know about this topic. How would you answer the question if you had no documents to examine?

  2. Now, read each document carefully, underlining key phrases and words that address the

document-based question. You may also wish to use the margin to make brief notes. Answer

the questions which follow each document.

3. Based on your own knowledge and on the information found in the documents,

  1. Formulate a thesis that directly answers the question.

  2. Organize supportive and relevant information into a brief outline (using the chart provided in part B).

4. Write a well-organized paragraph proving your thesis. The paragraph should be logically

presented and should include information both from the documents and from your own knowledge outside of the documents.

Question: What caused the fall of the Roman Empire?

Part A: The following documents address the causes for the fall of Rome. Examine each document carefully, and answer the questions that follow.

Document 1
This excerpt is from a textbook, The Course of Civilization by Strayer, Gatzke, and Harbison (Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1961).

The basic trouble was that very few inhabitants of the empire believed that the old civilization was worth saving. . . the overwhelming majority of the population had been systematically excluded from political responsibilities. They could not organize to protect themselves; they could not serve in the army. . . . Their economic plight was hopeless. Most of them were serfs bound to the soil, and the small urban groups saw their cities slipping into uninterrupted decline.

What were the basic problems facing the Western Roman Empire according to these authors? Write this as a summary of the excerpt (paraphrased) in your own words.

Document 2
This is an excerpt from The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon.

The decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness [large size]…The introduction…of Christianity, had some influence on the decline and fall of the Roman empire. The clergy successfully preached the doctrine of patience; the active virtues of society were discouraged; and the last remains of military spirit were buried in the cloister; a large portion of public and private wealth was consecrated to the…demands of charity and devotion…..

Paraphrase (summarize in your own words) Gibbon’s two causes for the fall of Rome.

Document 3
This excerpt is from Uses of the Past by Herbert J. Muller.

First the economic factors…While the empire was expanding, its prosperity was fed by plundered wealth and by new markets in the semi-barbaric provinces. When the empire ceased to expand, however, economic progress soon ceased…

The abundance of slaves led to the growth of the latifundia, the great estates that…came to dominate agriculture and ruin the free coloni [farmers] who drifted to the cities, to add to the unemployment there. The abundance of slaves likewise kept wages low.
What economic issues does Muller identify as causes for decline? Explain.

How was slavery a cause for the decline of the Roman Empire?

Now, paraphrase (summarize in your own words) the excerpt above:

Document 4
This excerpt, from The New Deal in Old Rome by Henry Haskell blames the decline on the heavy taxation required to support the government's expenses.

…Part of the money went into…the maintenance of the army and of the vast bureaucracy required by a centralized government…the expense led to strangling taxation…The heart was taken out of enterprising men… tenants fled from their farms and businessmen and workmen from their occupations. Private enterprise was crushed and the state was forced to take over many kinds of business to keep the machine running. People learned to expect something for nothing. The old Roman virtues of self-reliance and initiative were lost in that part of the population on relief [welfare]…The central government undertook such far-reaching responsibility in affairs that the fiber of the citizens weakened.

Why did the Roman government have large expenses?

What was the effect of high taxation on the people?

What effect did the establishment of a governmental welfare system have on the people?

In one or two sentences, paraphrase the arguments made by Haskell in Document 4:

Document 5
This excerpt, from Romans Without Laurels by Indro Montanelli, blames the fall on "internal decay," specifically that of the military.

Rome, like all great empire was not overthrown by external enemies but undermined by internal decay…The military crisis was the result of…proud old aristocracy’s…shortage of children. [Consequently] foreigners poured into this…void [lack of soldiers]. The Roman army [was] composed entirely of Germans."

Paraphrasing what the author has written, what does this author identify as the cause of problems in the military?

Document 6
This map shows the barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire prior to 476 CE.

According to the map above, what was the cause of the fall of the Empire?

Was this a unified attack?

**From your reading notes, give details on the Huns’ invasion of Rome.

Part B: Essay.
First, create a thesis statement on the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire using the template below:
The main causes of the fall of the Roman Empire were…________________________


Second, use the diagram below to help you organize your thoughts.


Main Point #2:


Main Point #1:


Main Point #3:


Main Point #4:


Lastly, write your paragraph defending your thesis below. Start out with 1) Your thesis statement and follow with 2) your support as organized above. Write clearly in full sentences, and CITE the document you are getting your support from (using the author’s last name).

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