UCSB Hist 2C, Spring 2003
World History, 1700-present

Prof. Marcuse
May-June 2003

Source Interpretations Used on Midterm and Final Exams

II. Source Interpretation. (15 minutes, 10 points)

MIDTERM: From one of the primary sources in the course reader, Vassa/Equiano's Interesting Narrative, or one of the highlighted primary sources in the textbook (e.g. p. 412, 425, 436, 437, 449, ), I will select a short passage and ask you to answer some specific questions about it.

FINAL: From one of the primary sources in the course reader (#9, 11, 13-26), or one of the highlighted primary sources in the textbook (p. 533, 541, 561, 579, 623, 646, 672, 682, [692]), I will select a short passage and ask you to answer some specific questions about it.

To study for this part, go through your notes from section and jot down the issues you discussed about the sources in the reader. For the sources in the textbook, simply read the discussion accompanying the boxed sources, and the relevant passages of the textbook itself, and jot down why the author chose that source.

Here are the actual source questions used on the midterm, early final, and final exams:


In 1839 Chinese official Lin Zexu wrote the following in a letter to Queen Victoria of England:

"Our Celestial Empire towers over all other countries in virtue and possesses a power great and awesome enough to carry out its wishes. But we will not prosecute a person without warning him in advance; that is why we have made our law explicit and clear. If the merchants of your honorable country wish to enjoy trade with us on a permanent basis, they must fearfully observe our law by cutting off, once and for all, the supply of opium. Under no circumstance should they test our intention to enforce the law by deliberately violating it. You, as the ruler of your honorable country, should do your part to uncover the hidden and unmask the wicked. "

In light of what we have learned about the history of China from the 1400s to the late 1800s, assess this text. Is it more indicative of a past, present, or future situation? Which ones? Why? Equivalently: What parts of it are typical for what periods? What parts of it misconstrue actual conditions? Why? What is the ultimate fate of Lin Zexu's threat? Or: What events transpired to confirm or disprove his assertions?
[Note: some of these questions are multiple ways of asking the same thing.]


In April 1946 Winston Churchill said the following in a public speech:

"A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory. Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international organization intends to do in the immediate future, or what are the limits, if any, to their expansionist and proselytizing tendencies. I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire are the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines. Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them. They will not be removed by mere waiting to see what happens; nor will they be removed by a policy of appeasement."

In this text, what does Churchill see as the forces (causes) driving Soviet policy? What strategies does Churchill implement to counteract the spread of communism? In light of what we now know about the foreign policy of the Soviet Union during the "short 20th century" (1918-1989), how would you assess Churchill's assertions in this canonical text of the Cold War?


In 1923 Sun Yat-Sen wrote:

"In the age of autocracy, the masses of the people were fettered in spirit and body so that emancipation seemed impossible. Those who worked for the welfare of the people and were willing to sacrifice themselves for the success of revolution not only did not receive assistance from the people but were also ridiculed and disparaged. Much as they desired to be the vanguards, they advanced without reinforcement. It becomes necessary that, apart from destroying enemy influence, those engaged in revolution should take care to develop the constructive ability of the people. A revolutionary program is therefore indispensable."

In this text, what does Sun Yat-Sen see as the forces (causes) preventing the revolutionary liberation of the people of China? How do these causes compare with what a Marxist revolutionary would see as the basic determinant of revolution? What strategy does Sun Yat-Sen suggest to propel the revolution to success? In light of what we now know about the success of his movement, was his assessment of the situation correct? (Hint: use the EIEIO mnemonic.)


page created by H. Marcuse, published June 11, 2003
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