Position Paper Topics
OF THE MODERN WORLD
Reformation and Religious War
ItÕs easy it is to find fault with the way things are, but difficult to agree on a replacement. Explore how the Protestant movement fractured into so many separate sects. Did the fractures result more from differing religious beliefs, such as those on communion, or from the impact regional and national differences?
Exploration and Exploitation
Compare serfdom in Russia with slavery in the United States. The two forms of Òunfree laborÓ have much in common, but they also have fundamental differences. In what ways might one of these groups have been better off than the other – or were they both equally victimized?
Transformations in State Power
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Netherlands, England, and France all dethroned their kings – and in England and France the kings were tried for treason and executed. The kings said they were answerable only to God. Choose one of these three countries and discuss: Were the people empowered by the removal of the king, or was his dethronement just one power group (nobles) attacking another (the king)?
Enlightenment ideas are often credited with making possible modern representative democracy. Choose a specific set of Enlightenment ideas – for example, those associated with a particular author – and discuss: Is modern representative government (as practiced in, say, the United States or a Western European country) really in tune with Enlightenment ideals?
In 1787, the proposed federal Constitution was passionately argued for – and against, largely in terms of the benefits of small local government versus strong central government. Which arguments over the Constitution are more compelling in terms of what would be best for the American people – the Federalists, or the Anti-Federalists?
The Industrial Revolution emerged most profoundly in the British textile industry, which expanded production exponentially. Choose one of the following questions and discuss: (1) Were the results of this rapid expansion beneficial or harmful to the people of Britain? or (2) Was this expansion beneficial or harmful to India?
The Ferment of Ideology
Karl Marx provided, more clearly than any other reformer, a blueprint for the achievement of a new society. Why did MarxÕs vision not come to pass in the industrialized west?
Nation-Building and the Nation-State
Prussia, led by Bismarck, rapidly absorbed most of the German-speaking peoples of central Europe in only a few years, creating a new German Empire. Was this an example of nationalism – the German peoples coming together from below – or of nation-building – Prussia imposing unity on diverse, unlike peoples from above?
Imperialism and Mass Politics
Jules Ferry argued that France must pursue a policy of colonial expansion: France would be better off as a result, and so would the colonized nations. In what ways was the colonization of a specific place (such as, for example, India) beneficial, and for whom?
World War I
The Versailles Treaty after the war contained a Òwar guilt clauseÓ that explicitly assigned Germany full responsibility for World War I having taken place. Was Germany to blame for the war?
Depression and Fascism
The Roosevelt administrationÕs attempt to fight the Depression resulted in a number of New Deal ÒEntitlementÓ programs – for example, Social Security – that were passionately debated. Examine the arguments for and against one of these programs and discuss: Was this program an effective or beneficial response to the Great Depression?
World War II
World War I and World War II are often credited with loosening gender roles in the United States and Europe. Choose one of the two world wars and discuss: How, specifically, were womenÕs roles different after the war compared with before?
The Cold War and the Postcolonial World
In the 20th and 21st centuries the worldÕs economies and cultures have been moving toward globalism. Does globalism build the economic future and share the benefits of civilization, or does it do more to erode and destroy local economies, cultures, and values?