What is a useful approach while analyzing an HL Contemporary History essay question?


What I like to do first is to analyze the essay question, what they are asking for and how you should write down the information needed. After I have done this, I like to use what I call the “Iceberg Method”. Why iceberg? Because you start with what you can see, which is the smallest part. In historical terms, that would be the concept, the event and the action/process. Then you proceed to the less evident, the larger concepts and the more complicated aspects. This would be the reasons behind a specific event or idea in historical terms, eg. ideology, economy, geopolitics etc.


What role did militarism play in the development of WWI?

Breakdown the question:

What role = how important was this concept

Militarism = the main concept within the essay

Development = approach the question via historical events surrounding the concept

WWI = when/where the concept takes place

Brainstorm using the Iceberg Method:

What is evident = First explain the concept of militarism, state the definition – the culture of arms and military in the country. Amy bigger and center point in Europe and a bigger sense of nationalism.

Nationalism, Weltpolitic, Arms Race

What is less evident – Ideology, the creation of nations, supremacy.

What is least evident – To fuel militarism you need a strong economy – industrialism and imperialism

The outline:


Thesis statement – Militarism played a major role in causing the outbreak of WWI due to the Weltpolitik in Germany, the arms race between powers, and a growing sense of nationalism by the end of the 19th century in Europe.

Para 1 German Weltpolitik and Nationalism

Topic sentence – German Weltpolitik was a major policy in the 1890s up to the breakout of the war in 1914. The concept of Weltpolitik was based on taking aggressive means in order to make Germany powerful and rise beyond other European superpowers by means of colonization and unifying all German speakers

Para 2 Arms Race

Topic sentence – The arms race between the great powers was not only a result of Weltpolitik in Germany but also the industrialization of Britain and its effect on nations like Russia and France

Para 3 Imperialism

Topic sentence - Another factor behind the outbreak of WWI could also have been imperialism.


The German ideology of wanting to be a superpower caused rivalries and many crises among competing powers.

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