Day 6: The best DBQ?

My revised version of the 2009 legacy DBQ: 2009 Revised DBQ

In my opinion, and the opinion of the chief reader, this was one of the best DBQs that the College Board has put together.  According to the scoring commentary,

“Unlike the pattern of most recent DBQs, these documents could not be simply “jigsawed” into categories of response. Many of the nine documents (most notably 3, 4, 6, and 7) had internal evidence that demonstrated multiple African responses. Given the richness and diversity of the sources, students could use individual documents in a variety of ways to represent different African responses to European imperialism.”

I kept all of the documents with this internal evidence that provides obvious opportunities to demonstrate complexity.  I ended up cutting documents 2 and 9 from the legacy DBQ.  This seemed to leave most of the common groupings intact.

The prompt has been modified from the original “actions and reactions” to the more general “responses,” and from the “European Scramble for Africa” to “European imperialism during the last nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”  The idea of the “Scramble” seems like something that students will have to provide in their own writing on the broader historical context of the DBQ.


Let me know what you think of this revision!

DBQ Day 5: Five Rings to Rule Them All

It’s Olympic time!  2008 Revised DBQ

With the summer games this year in Rio, our students should have at least some idea of the modern Olympic movement in the back of the minds.  The 2008 legacy DBQ has 10 documents and plenty of visuals, so creating a new DBQ was only a matter of trimming.  I briefly considered adding this picture of London’s Olympic mascots as a visual document…
creepy mascot

…but then decided the AP exam already gives students enough nightmares.

Thinking more broadly, the old annotated rubrics put together by Angela “The Mad WHAPchatter” Lee and Bill “Free Billy” Strickland presented in this article on World History Connected were essential to my students learning how to write the essay.   Students found the four-sided analysis organizer particularly helpful, especially on early essays.

annotated document

What might be on the four sides of an updated organizer for the new exam?

DBQ Day 4: A Song of Salt and Iron

A comparative DBQ!  The 2007 exam asking students to analyze Roman and Han attitudes toward technology is an outlier in our corpus of legacy exams.  First, the official grading guidelines never require students to compare any similarities and differences between attitudes in the two empires, effectively making this two separate mini-DBQs.  Second, the documents are not in chronological order, but are instead broken into “Han Documents” and “Roman Documents.”  Everything is so compartmentalized that, honestly, students may be better off watching Dragon Blade with Jackie Chan and John Cusack!  At least that movie has some China-Rome interactions!

dragon blade

2007 Revised DBQ

Our example DBQ in the new course guidelines tips the College Board’s hand in that these types of essays are now going to ask for a specific comparison between two places (not to mention broader global contextualization for some of the high-bar points).  I’ve modified the prompt accordingly and removed documents to get us down to six text sources.  For our visual source, I was troubled as to how to find a map, chart, graph, or object that would express “attitude” towards technology.  There are a lot of medieval or Song or Ming depictions and recreations of Roman or Han technological inventions.  However, considering that students will likely have not encounter these periods (and the baggage they bring) when we give them this exam for practice, I decided against this.  Even though I think that crazy seismograph invented in the Han is beyond cool.

In the end, I went with a modern picture of Roman road.  While this doesn’t show an explicit attitude, students are going to have to connect attitudes with imperial planning, construction and labor, and engineering that can be gleaned from the picture and their own knowledge of world history.  Or, you could just have them watch Dragon Blade.  Until tomorrow!

DBQ 3: Mattwell’s Silver Hammer

For today’s revised DBQ (the 2006 exam on the global silver trade), I wanted to think a little more about how to prepare students to analyze context, both the smaller context of each individual source and the larger historical context of the whole essay.  Back before the changes, I think this was the essay that both I and my students really learned how to teach or write DBQs, all thanks to Angela Lee and Bill Strickland’s excellent annotated rubric for this exam.

Update: Here is the revised revised 2006 DBQ, based on your feedback! 2006 Revised DBQv2

Old draft: 2006 Revised DBQ (Working Draft)

Teaching Context: Teacher Resources

What can get you ready to plunge down the silver rabbit hole?  I’ve got a few suggested reading, some long and some short, to get you started.  

Andre Gunder Frank, an economic historian who helped create the “dependency theory” of global economics and leading thinker of the world-systems school, wrote a provocative and quite good book on the early modern world economy.  In ReOrient (heh, I see what you did there Andre), Frank argues that East (and South) Asia had always been the center of gravity of the world economy.  And in fact, these regions remained the center throughout the early modern era.  The age of exploration and the first imperial age can be told as a story of backwards Europeans “hitching” a “third-class seat” onto the powerful Chinese economic locomotive.  How did they pay?  Silver.  Africa’s role gets a short shrift, but, overall, ReOrient is brilliant survey of the mechanics and dynamics of global trade up to about 1750.  ReOrient is popular enough that you can find it at most good public libraries.  Be warned, it’s 350+ pages!

Frank, Andre Gunder. ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998

Frank draws upon a pair of articles (both quick and easy reads) by two economists, Denis O. Flynn and Arturo Giraldez, that argue that the first truly global economy was forged out of silver.  Their first article in the JWH tracks these flows in an accessible paper.  In fact, I (and I believe many others) would reccomend using this article with students.  This could be even more useful since the new multiple-choice section is likely to have arguments by historians.  Their follow-up piece shows the varying bimetallic ratios across the globe and identifies two main periods to the silver trade.  The first, dominated by silver from Potosi, ended with the general crisis (Dutch independence, Thirty Years War, Qing conquest of the Ming, etc) of the mid-seventeenth century.  The second, dominated by the Zacatecas mine in New Spain, ended with Latin American independence and the rise of opium exports to China.  

Flynn, Dennis O., and Arturo Giraldez. 1995a. “Born with a ‘Silver Spoon’: The Origin of World Trade.” Journal of World History 6, no. 2 (Fall): 201­22.

———. 2002., “Cycles of Silver: Global Economic Unity through the Mid-Eighteenth Century,” Journal of World History 13, no. 2 (Fall 2002): 391–427.

In looking for the global significance of all this American (and Japanese!) silver, it’s often easy to forget the local and regional consequences of the silver trade.  Carlos Marichal’s chapter in From Silver to Cocaine does a great job of tracking the circulation of silver pesos within Iberian America.  

“The Spanish-American Peso” in From Silver to Cocaine: Latin American Commodity Chains and the Building of the World Economy, 1500-2000. Ed. by Topik S, Marichal C, Frank ZL.  Durham, N.C: Duke University Press; 2006.

Zooming in even closer, I would also recommend Jane Mangan’s chapter in Race and Identity in Colonial Latin America.  The chapter examines the flexible and contested roles of indigenous and mestizo women in the markets of Potosi.  

Jane E. Mangan“A Market of Identities: Women, Trade, and Ethnic Identities in Colonial Potosi”  in Race and Identity in Colonial Latin America ed. by Andrew B. Fisher and Matthew D. O’Hara. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

What about the Pacific?  Matt Matsuda’s Pacific World examines this period with a focus on Oceania, Southeast Asia, and Japan.  Encounters between Pacific Islanders and the Spanish, the VOC and Javanese traders, and the Dutch and Japanese, can all be traced, in part, to links forged by the silver trade.  Each chapter, I would recommend 5, 6, and 7 for this topic, is short and might even be appropriate for students.  

Matsuda, Matt K. Pacific Worlds: A History of Seas, Peoples, and Cultures. Cambridge;New York;: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

*Bonus recommendation: 1492 by Charles Mann, has some great and engaging writing on Spanish Manilla and the effects of the Columbian exchange in China.  

Teaching Context: Student Lessons

What about for our students?  The biggest change, as I see it, to the new DBQ, is that the essay is on something that students are expected to know a good deal about.  There are already a good deal of resources on the the global silver trade.  Personally, I would recommend that students read a section from their textbook on global trade (chapter 14 from Strayer’s Ways of the World is quite good) and perhaps an additional secondary source, such as a short chapter from Pomeranz (may he live long and prosper) and Topik’s popular The World that Trade Created.

Students should also get some practice (since this is definitely going to be taught first semester) analyzing these documents in the context of what they just learned.  Part 15 of Bridging World History just can’t be beat here.  They’ve got a short video on the silver trade and its consequences, along with some activities analyzing some great primary sources.

Bridging World History, Unit 15 “Global Commodities:”

Document Activity:

*East Asia for Educators also has some short readings on the silver trade:

Checklist: What terms/concepts should students know before they write this DBQ?

  • Ming Single Whip System
  • Ming-Qing Transition
  • The Magellanic Exchange
  • Manilla
  • Tokugawa Japan
  • Spanish Colonial Labor and Race Structures
  • Mid-Seventeenth Century European (or Global) Crisis
  • Mughal India and European trade in the Indian Ocean
  • “Arbitrage” Trade

Adding Visual Documents to the DBQ


1616-de-bry-potosiI like this woodcut of the miners in Potosi, but the information given is too much in-line with the Spanish source on the same.  I do love how similar this sixteenth century visual is to La Capilla del Hombre in Quito, Ecuador.  

ming_moneyMaybe some Ming paper money.  But the only person I know who would translate this for me was not returning my texts. Damn!

1888_México_8_Reals_Trade_Coin_SilverWikipedia delivers!  Unfortunately, these are from the nineteenth century.

jacques-le-moyne-pack-train-of-llamas-laden-with-silver-from-potosi-mines-of-peru-by-theodore-de-bry-1528-98_a-g-1342321-8880731I love llamas.  This woodcut (a De Bry, I think) is based off of a drawing (now lost) by a Frenchmen.  I love that we have an American domesticated pack animal, Andeans, and Spaniards all in one shot!  


I settled on an embroidered wedding coverlet I found on the Met’s website.  Many of the above readings discuss the availability of Chinese silks and Porcelains in Spanish America.  The coverlet shows the meeting of European fashion, household handicrafts, mexican cloth, Chinese silk, and traditional Aztec and Central American dyes!  Boom!  I think this document shows both an economic and social consequence (rich/middle class folks in European dress with access to Chinese goods, evolving art and tastes, and the role these goods (paid for with Zacatecas silver) played in the household).

Finally, the new DBQs seems to have a lot of charts and tables.  I put together a chart from Garner and Tepaske’s data on Latin American silver production.  I think it clearly shows the two “phases” of American production.  Students might guess as to what the cause/consequences of the drop in the mid-seventeenth century or as to the shift to Mexican sources had for the both the Spanish, Americans, and East Asians.  

Poll: Who will make the cut?

You may have already noticed I have 8 documents, not the required 7, in the file posted.  The original essay had 8, with ZERO visual documents.  I felt like original documents 1 and 5 were the weakest and most repetitive.  But if we want visual sources, we need to get rid of one more!  So here is a quick poll?  Which of the remaining documents should get the ax?  And why? Thanks again for your help and feedback! I’ll post a trimmed-down version after the poll and feedback comes in.  

Link to the poll (AP WH teachers only!)

Update: Thanks for the feedback!  I removed both the de Mercado document from the original, and replaced the colcha (which would be great document analysis practice) and added the de Bry engraving of the llama pack-train!

*One more thing!  If you think the final document should be in a different format, such as, a single graph with two lines or a chart by decade and by viceroyalty, this is something I can make!

DSC00062Having to spend a summer at the Sevilla archive ain’t all bad!


DBQ Day 2: The DBQuickening

The 2005 Legacy DBQ:

My revised 2005 DBQ: 2005 Revised DBQ v2


This essay is a doozy.  The Legacy DBQ from 2005 is 6 documents, all from the political-leadership class, all men, and all folks from the Southwest and South Asia.  My goals in modifying the documents are: (1) add a visual source (chart/art/map) to bring it up to the new guidelines, (2) add documents that have obvious ways to do “sourcing” using the AP course outline, and (3) expand the temporal and thematic scope so that students can conduct the synthesis portion of the new rubric.  

I settled on a propaganda poster from Nasser’s early days as a visual source.  Not only does this add a document from right after independence/the end of British occupation (a context that the students should know), it also adds a type of source that students have some practice with.  I was tempted to go with a photo but decided against it since we have some photos in other legacies I’ve revised so far and we have an example that posters will be used from our second example DBQ.  

nasser poster Time to turn the page!

I have a hunch that one new trend will be more documents from “famous” people and organizations.  By this I mean, the new DBQs seem more likely to include sources from or to well-known historical figures or organizations.  Unlike the legacy DBQs, I’m guessing in the future students will be more likely to recognize something from the “source” line in the documents from a key concept or an illustrative example from the AP framework.  In the Russia/Japan example, we have a letter to Tsar Nicholas 2.  In the Gender/Communism example, we have a speech by Fidel.  Maybe I’m overthinking this, but a quick glance at my wall covered in yarn, old DBQs, and every third letter of the past 15 years of reports from the chief reader suggests there is conspiracy, err…connection.  And so, I put in two famous-ish folks: the O.G.W. (the Original Gray Wolf) Ataturk and a poster from Nasser’s government.  Students should recognize one of the two.

p23-Ataturk The O.G.W. “The Original Gray Wolf”

The original six documents have the following temporal spread: 1900, 1907, 1912, 1938, 1935, 1985.  And geographically: India, Egypt, India, Egypt, Algeria, Algeria.  The new DBQs are supposed to tie into lots of Key Concepts (the example lists 9!).  I don’t think this legacy quite makes the cut.  I saw three possible ways to expand the thematic scope.  First, go old, back to period V’s colonialism, resistance, and early nationalism.  Second, go new, and add more post-independence documents.  Third, go global, and add documents from SE Asia, and SS Africa (and then decide to stick with countries with a large muslim population or not).  After much consideration, I went with the easiest option.  It is almost always faster to find some documents from the very recent past.  Perhaps, the third (the global) option is more in line with the gender/communism example, but I think that would require almost rewriting the DBQ from the ground up (saving only 1-3 documents from the legacy).  

The Docs

A couple documents didn’t make the cut.  

Document 2, is out, replaced by a similar promotion of Nationalism by Ataturk.  I made this change (1) allow students to make the connection to both the First WW and to the Ottoman empire.  This allows for the inclusion of like 5 more KC in this essay.  Ataturk’s modernization programs or the Ottoman’s role in WWI are two great outside contexts to bring in.  The risk of some deadly, deadly MISREADS (Turks are Arabs, Turkey is part of the Pan-Arabism, Turkey was directly controlled by European empires) is worth the opportunities for sourcing/context afforded here. We also have a slightly later document (post-WWI) and this might encourage students to write about the pre-WWI context of Doc1’s India, especially if they learned about the role of WWI in galvanizing the Indian Independence movement.

Document 3, another pre-WWI, seemed the least useful.  It can fit with a moderate “grouping,” but we aren’t really doing those anymore and we already have several other documents that express compromise or moderation in some form.  The downside is, now we only have one Indian document.  I add a much more recent document (1988) from Hamas, issued during the first intifada.  

The bonus new document is the previously mentioned poster.  Special thanks to my friend Zaid Al-Momen for the translation.  I am a little worried about having the source presented this way with the English at the bottom.  Is this something the CB does?  

zaid Our local cat loves Zaid.

Alright, time to take a step back and survey our times and spaces.  We have: 1900, 1927, 1935, 1938, 1950s, 1985, 1988.  I switched the position of the ‘35 and ‘38 documents that the legacy DBQ inexplicable had out of chronological order.  Spatially, we have: India, Turkey, Algeria, Egypt, Egypt, Algeria, Palestine.  We’ve lost our clear 2/2/2 spread, but, again, since we don’t have grouping as a point, I think this is okay.  

The KCs

What KC does this essay hit upon?  Can we get up to NINE?!
6.2.I, 6.2.II, 6.2.III, 6.2.IV (maybe?), 6.2.V, 6.3.I, 6.3.I, 6.3.III

6.3.II is an  iffy one.  I considered adding a document on OPEC, on the Egypt-Syria unification, the Arab League, or on the Anti-Aligned movement.  However, given that most of the documents get down to several of the sub-points of the KCs and given that period 5 has four major topics and so the example DBQ can get to 9 of those KC more easily.  I am concerned that this doesn’t touch upon KC 6.1 at all, but so it goes.

Okay, let’s say you taught every single illustrative example given in the AP curriculum.  Students would have the following to draw upon:

Period 5

  • Tanzimat movement
  • Muhammad Ali’s econ. projects
  • British strenghen control over India
  • French settlers in Algeria
  • Independence from the Ottomans in the Balkans
  • Indian Revolt of 1857
  • The Lebanese merchant diaspora

Period 6

  • Negotiated Independence of India
  • India/Pakistan Partition
  • Violent Independence in Algeria
  • Jinnah in India
  • Pan-Arabism
  • Migration of Algerians to France
  • Armenians in Turkey, Genocide during/after WWI
  • Al-Qaeda
  • Nasser’s econ policies
  • Right of women to vote in Morocco (1963)
  • Islamic renewal movements in Egypt and Saudi Arabia

What about synthesis?  This is a mondo opportunity (see all the examples above) to make comparisons to back to period 5.  There is also plenty of work to do in the 20th century beyond the ME & SA to the rest of the former colonial world.  Student might also make note of a comparison to the Global War on Terror, to the Arab Spring/Election of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or to the resurgence of Turkish nationalism/Turkey-EU negotiations.  Can we cross the disciplines?  Connections to government/political science are obvious.  And it’s more difficult, but a connection to economics (Doc 4) is possible.  By theme? This is a hard Theme 3 SB essay, but students should see the strongest connections are to Theme 2 CUL and Theme 5 SOC.


First, let’s dump the historical context section from the legacy DBQ.  Students are now responsible for this.  

My first thought was something like this:
Question 1a: Using the documents and your knowledge of world history, analyze at least two relationships among nationalism, religion, and state-building in Middle East and South Asia during the twentieth-century.

But as David Dues and some other great teachers pointed out, the new DBQs can have both COMP and CCOT style prompts.

Question 1b: Using the documents and your knowledge of world history, analyze the changing strategies of resistance and governance in the Middle East and South Asia during the twentieth-century.

Question 1c: Using the documents and your knowledge of world history, analyze the changing conceptions of nationalism and religion in the Middle East and South Asia during the twentieth-century.

1c is adaptation of last year’s Euro prompt, but I think that overall 1b fits best with the state-building theme.  


Matt revisits his trauma at Archivo General de Indias and various other moldy libraries in order to brave the 2006 Silver Trade DBQ.

P1020243 I swear I didn’t rip this.