968 History questions

'A sterile interlude'. How valid is this judgement on the reign on Mary I?

The 20th century scholar A. F. Pollard used the term 'sterile interlude' to describe Mary Tudor's reign. Pollard's thesis specifically meant that Mary's reign was an unproductive interruption to a Protestant, 'liberal' and successful course in English history. Certainly Mary's popular image has been affected by negative judgements such as Pollard's, exemplified by the legend of 'Bloody Mary'. Yet more recent and closer analysis Mary's religious, economic, and foreign policy suggest that her short reign was more productive than Pollard gives her credit for.
An assessment of Mary's reign requires an understanding of secondary debate between earlier and later historians, as well as approaching the primary evidence. S.T. Bindoff, Pollard's pupil, asserted that Marian England was 'politically bankrupt, spiritually impoverished, and economically archaic.' But since the early 1990s, historians such as Eamon Duffy and David Loades have led a revisionist charge to view Mary's achievements more positively. There is plenty of evidence at parish level, including voluntary monetary contributions from ordinary people and church visitations, to suggest that her restoration of the Catholic faith wasn't sterile and therefore may have been successful if she had lived. Her government provided financial stability unlike her father, not only with Reginald Pole's reforms to church administration but also policies such as the Muscovy Act to improve trading. In foreign policy, despite her loss of Calais and relatively unpopular marriage to Philip, Mary's marriage never put England at risk of Spanish annexation and Tudor England resisted any attempt at invasion. Perhaps most importantly, Mary's campaign in 1553 to gain power in the first place was the only successful revolt against central government in 16th century England. Thus, Mary re-established the legitimacy of the Tudor succession. Even if just for this, Elizabeth should be greatly in her debt. 
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Liam L.

Answered by Liam, tutor with MyTutor

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How can I make sure my essays are well structured when writing under timed conditions?

If you approach essay writing with the right method and complete each one of the following steps, your essay will be well-structured and contain everything it needs to, even if you are under time pressure.
Step 1: Read the question carefully and consider what it is asking you. It is essential that your essay answers it directly. Highlight any key words and dates to establish what kind of evidence you need to be using, and whether there are any terms you need to define in your introduction.Typically, questions will ask you to what extent you agree with a point of view. For example: ‘To what extent was the failure of the Weimar Republic by 1933 due to the weaknesses in its constitution’. Here, the ‘failure of the Weimar Republic’ is a given, it is your job to decide what caused it.
Step 2: Plan your answer.The best essays are answered thematically. When discussing the failure of the Weimar Republic, your themes will be various causes, as identified by the question. The question has already given you one which you need to address (the weaknesses in Weimar constitution), but others you could tackle are, the Great Depression, the role of Hitler and the Nazi party or hostility from the German elites. You should aim to cover 3-4 themes to get enough depth and breadth in your essay within the time limit.Once you’ve established the themes you want to address (and some potential evidence that might go with them) you’ll need to decide what your overall judgement is going to be. For example: ‘The Great Depression was a more significant cause for the downfall of the Weimar Republic, as it exposed the weaknesses in the constitution and gave rise to the Nazi party's success’. It is crucial that you decide this before you start writing your essay, and keep it in mind throughout, as your main argument should be the driving force behind all of your evaluation.
Step 3: Write your introduction. Here you need to directly address the question and what your stance is. You DO NOT need any specific evidence. You should clearly state your judgement, the themes that you are going to address, as well as defining the key terms in the question. With our example, make clear what you consider to be a ‘cause’ (long term, short term) and a ‘weakness’, to establish how you have chosen to interpret the question.
Step 4: You can now write the main bulk of your essay. Here you evaluate each of the themes in turn. Each paragraph should follow the PEEL structure:Point- Start by explaining what the theme is and why it is significant/needs to be addressed. Then offer plenty of evidence (dates, names, statistics, events, quotes) and an explanation of why they are relevant to what you are trying to say. At the end of the paragraph make sure you give a concluding statement by linking the theme back to the question and your main argument. Whilst writing the bulk, keep in mind what your main argument is and don’t deviate too far from it. You can give counter evidence, but none of your judgments should fundamentally contradict what your essay is trying to say. This ensures your essay is clear and coherent throughout.
Step 5: Write your conclusion. Here you should give a summary and offer your final judgement (which should be the same as the one stated in your introduction). You should not bring in any new information or facts, but simply weigh out all the points already made. You do not necessarily have to give a definitive yes or no answer (in some cases it is good to show nuance) as long as you make clear what your point of view is and give enough reasoning to explain how you got there.
This may all seem daunting, but with enough practice this style of writing will start to come naturally!
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Anna M.

Answered by Anna, who has applied to tutor with MyTutor

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Would it be correct to say that the nature of Lenin and Stalin regime were very similar?

The similarities between the nature of Government under Lenin and Stalin are often debated due to their importance in Russian history. It is clear that Lenin and Stalins often resorted to brutal methods to prevent opposition from rising to power. For example, Lenin's Red Terror in 1918 involved the Cheka removing any potential threat to the state, which led to mass murder and terror throughout the country. Similarly Stalin's purges in the 1930s also involved removing opposition or threat by whatever means necessary. Both regimes were involved in dominating the soviet population through the control and restriction in the media, propaganda and the arts. Both leaders need to control the country through preventing rising opposition made the nature of the regime's very similar.
Despite the clear similarities, there are many aspects of both leaders and their regime which made them extremely different. For example, Stalin created a system which was heavily influenced by a personality cult to maintain power. For example, his depiction in propaganda and media portrayed him to be a loving, fatherly figure. Stalin's name became omnipresent and most people idolised him. However, Lenin did not rely on a personality cults to control the country. Another difference in both leaders regime is the commitment to ideology. For example, Lenin's regime was prepared to abandon their ideology in order to remain in power; this is seen with the introduction of the NEP in 1921. Stalin on the other hand was extremely inflexible and this is seen with his collectivisation policies in the 1930s.
It is clear that both leaders need for control and fear of opposition made them similar with their use of brutal punishment. However, their commitment to their ideology portrayed the leaders to have some key differences.
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Remi A.

Answered by Remi, tutor with MyTutor

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How do I use my own knowledge in a Section A source analysis question?

You should use your own knowledge (OK) about the question as a lens through which to analyse the four sources. Instead of simply deploying OK to answer the question directly, use it to examine the provenance and historical context of the sources in order to evaluate their historical credibility. You could analyse their authorship, the date and circumstances in which they were written, style of writing and the purpose for which they were written (you won't have time to do all of these for each one - pick one or two of the most important factors) in order to make a judgement about how valid the opinion in the source is. You could use OK to group sources together and show how their similar context cause them to lead to similar conclusions.
Remember to use OK in a nuanced way - it's easy to pick apart sources and attack them for what they don't tell us. Better candidates will be more subtle and show how their OK interacts with the sources to challenge or support their views. Your conclusion to the question must be directly driven by the content and argument of the sources but the best candidates will use their own knowledge to come to a nuanced and original conclusion. Most importantly be bold - arrive at a firm, confidently argued conclusion.
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Alexander N.

Answered by Alexander, who has applied to tutor with MyTutor

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How did Tsar Nicholas II survive the 1905 Revolution? (6 marks)

The 1905 Revolution shook Tsar Nicholas' power, yet he survived the rebellion by using using two main strategies. Firstly, Nicholas conceded some degree of power to the Russian Parliament, known as the Duma. The October Manifesto effectively established a constitutional monarchy, whereby freedom of speech and freedom of the press were guaranteed. This action satisfied middle class liberals, for example, the Kadets. Furthermore, Nicholas reluctantly lowered taxes, pleasing the Socialist Revolutionaries, who then ceased fighting in rural areas. Therefore, Nicholas survived the 1905 Revolution by conceding some power to a constitutional monarchy.
However, these concessions were not concrete, as the Tsar disregarded the Duma's opinions and recommendations. Furthermore, rioting was still common in urban cities, mainly due to the Bolsheviks' persistent violence. For example, mutinies similar to the Potemkin Rebellion continued into 1906. Tsar Nicholas responded by deploying the Cossacks to crush outbursts of fighting. Therefore, Nicholas II also used coercion to retain power and survive the 1905 rebellion.
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Dan B.

Answered by Dan, tutor with MyTutor

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To what extent was the Royalist defeat in the English Civil War due to Charles I's weak leadership?

When trying to answer a 45 mark A2 level question it is crucial to establish your argument from the outset, so that it remains clear throughout your essay. For this question the student is being asked to examine the factors that contributed to the Royalist defeat in the Civil War, and to judge whether Charles I's leadership can be said to be the most important one. Personally I would argue that it was Charles' leadership that resulted in his defeat, with his lack of political acumen leaving the Royalists unable to counter the increasing strength the New Model Army and their control of London gave Parliament. The two sides were evenly matched at the outbreak of war in 1642, but Charles' failure to exploit Royalist advantages meant Parliament was able to take the upper hand.
With that being my overall argument, I still have to ensure that I am presenting the 'balanced' argument that the A2 mark scheme wants. A 'balanced' argument essentially means that you have to assess other factors and demonstrate why your argument is more valid. For this question some of the other factors to consider are the strengths of the New Model Army and the importance of Parliament holding London. In terms of structure I would assess these two factors after my introduction and then state 'However these two Parliamentary strengths were exacerbated by the weaknesses of Charles' leadership, and therefore it was this leadership that ultimately resulted in Royalist defeat...' and go on to give evidence of this. For A2 essays don't forget to include historiography as this is another key aspect of the mark scheme that ensures you are hitting the top level marks.
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Katy M.

Answered by Katy, tutor with MyTutor

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Using the source below, explain how Stalin dealt with the Berlin Airlift during the Cold War

In Source A, we are able to depict Stalin as being very angry when facing the Berlin Airlift that took place between June 1948 to May 1949. Stalin himself had created the Berlin Blockade in June 1948, in order to prevent raw materials getting into West Berlin. Stalin believed by blocking entry, that West Berlinners would get angrier towards the Americans, allowing him to seize control and therefore manifest his power. However, as shown by the source, the USA was able to outsmart Stalin by flying raw materials into West Germany by using airforce. By January 1949, the USA was able to fly in 6000 tons of raw materials everyday.Source A shows Stalin looking frustrated with the Berlin Airlift, as West Berlin was prospering when he wanted the opposite. It was gaining so much strength in fact, that East Berlin were getting frustrated with Stalin, hence his anger. Therefore, in June 1969, Stalin called off the Berlin Blockade, as it was causing more damage to himself than the USA and West Berlin.
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Charlotte M.

Answered by Charlotte, tutor with MyTutor

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How do I approach primary source evaluation at A-level?

Analysis of primary sources can often seem daunting, especially with Early Modern topics where the language can be difficult to understand. Breaking the analysis down into sections can make it easier – we will look at provenance, usefulness, reliability, and contextual knowledge. Provenance refers to who created the source, where did it come from, who was the intended audience? Usefulness is about the strengths and limitations of a source; what does it tell us about a topic, and what has it left out? Reliability refers to how much we trust the source as evidence. Finally, contextual knowledge is the application of your own knowledge to a source – what is the background and wider situation in which it was written?Let’s look at a source and analyse it using these four sections.
Source A – William Paget, an advisor to Somerset, writes a letter explaining the religious situation in England in the Summer of 1549Look well whether you have law or religion at home, and I fear you shall find neither. The use of the old religion is forbidden by law, and the use of the new is not yet printed in the stomachs of eleven out of twelve parts of the realm.
Provenance – William Paget was a protestant. His writing to Somerset in such a frank way suggests that this was a personal letter not intended for outside eyes, but to give advice.
Usefulness – The source tells us that most of the country doesn’t believe in the new protestant faith, despite it being written after the Act of Uniformity. Despite legal changes, the beliefs and attitudes of the people aren’t changing. The source doesn’t tell us about the Western and Ketts rebellions that took place in the summer of 1549, or that the Act of Uniformity was not completely clear about some areas of religion.
Reliability – The fact that it is a personal letter suggests relative reliability. Also, the fact that Paget is delivering bad news and being honest suggests he is telling the truth and advising Somerset rather than placating him.
Contextual Knowledge – We know that the Act of Uniformity was enforced form January 1549, introducing more Protestant changes. 1549 was also a year of unrest, with the Western and Ketts rebellions both having some religious motivation. William Paget is known to be Protestant because of his involvement with the reformist faction late in Henry VIII’s reign.
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Hannah B.

Answered by Hannah, tutor with MyTutor

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