Monday, June 6, 2011

Final History 111 Spring 2011

My final was scheduled for Shavuot so I decided to simply give an online final. I just sent it out to my students. Here it is.

Pick three of the following essay questions and write 2-3 page responses. Each question is worth 50 points. Feel free to make use of your notes and do research online or in books. Your work, though, has to be your own. I will be on the lookout for plagiarism. I strongly advise everyone not to talk to their classmates about the final as this will likely cause your essays to sound too much alike. When you are finished, please email your finals to You have until Thursday midnight to finish.

You have been hired to write a screenplay about either the battle of Thermopylae, Robin Hood or pirates. Please write a summary of your proposed screenplay in order to hook a skeptical, but historically illiterate film producer into providing $100 million dollars for the making of this movie. What historical liberties do you plan on taking? Defend your decisions in terms of “narrative thinking.”

Describe life in the Middle Ages as it related to government and law enforcement. Why was life in the Middle Ages so violent despite the fact that almost everyone, at least on paper, was a Christian? What role did nationalism play in people’s minds? Give specific examples.

Does religion make people intolerant of others and hostile to democracy? Give examples from ancient Rome, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism. In each of these cases, consider the role played by the specific content of their religious beliefs in the type of decisions made.

The study of history requires a great degree of skepticism. Is this skepticism absolute? What is the ironic conclusion of absolute skepticism? Is there a difference between claiming, as a historical fact, that Persia invaded Greece twice in the fifth century BCE and Mohammed spoke to the angel Gabriel?

What is “Occam’s Razor?” Why is this concept so important in one’s day to day life? What role does Occam’s Razor play in the study of history? Give an example.

What were some of the major technological innovations in warfare from antiquity up until the eighteenth century? How did some of these innovations advance the cause of democracy; how did some of them hinder democracy? What does it mean to have a “citizen’s army?” Why is it so important for the formation and maintenance of democracy?

Bonus: “Everything I needed to know in history (and life for that matter) I learned from watching Monty Python.” Defend this proposition with practical examples from the wisdom of this great British comedy team. (5 pts.)

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