Exam preparation materials

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Cracking the Document-Based Question (DBQ)

IT’S ALL IN THE DOCUMENTS

The first essay you’ll see on the essay portion of the AP World History Exam is the document-based question (DBQ). As the name implies, this question is based on a bunch of documents (typically 4–10) that cover one topic, usually in or around a particular period of time. For example, your DBQ may require you to analyze a set of documents about trading practices before and during the Age of Exploration. The documents may include a map of trade routes, a letter from a merchant to his ruler at home, or some codified laws regarding particular trade agreements. Your job is to work through the documents to determine how they relate to each other, what changes can be seen over time, how the author’s background may have influenced the contents of the document, and so on.

Before the start of the essay portion of the exam, you will be given ten minutes to read the documents for the DBQ. To do well on this essay, you need to know exactly what to do with those ten minutes. And to do that you need to know exactly what you are expected to write. Let’s begin by looking at the directions and the scoring rubric for the DBQ.

WHAT THE DIRECTIONS SAY

Here is a sample of the directions for the DBQ.

Directions: The following question is based on the accompanying Documents 1–9. The documents have been edited for the purpose of this exercise. Write your answer on the lined pages of the Section II free-response booklet.

The question is designed to test your ability to work with and understand historical documents. Write an essay that:

· Has a relevant thesis and supports that thesis with evidence from the documents.

· Uses all of the documents.

· Analyzes the documents by grouping them in as many appropriate ways as possible. Does not simply summarize the documents individually.

· Takes into account both the sources of the documents and the author’s point of view.

· Identifies at least one type of additional document.

You may refer to historical information not mentioned in the documents.

WHAT THE DIRECTIONS MEAN

Here’s what the directions are really asking you to do:

1. Create a relevant thesis and support that thesis with the documents. Did you answer the question that was asked? Make sure that your thesis directly addresses the question posed and accurately describes the contents of your essay. Be sure that the documents can be used to support your arguments—students often make the mistake of creating an interesting thesis only to find that the documents don’t really support that thesis.

2. Analyze the documents. Your analysis must acknowledge the source of the documents and the author’s point of view, which means that you must demonstrate that you understand who wrote each document and when it was written. You should also be able to explain the following:

• What was the context (historical, political, or cultural environment) in which the document was authored? What else was going on around the author at the time this was written?

• How does this author’s perspective affect what he or she wrote and why? What is the author’s position in society (gender, age, educational level, political or religious belief system)? How do these attributes inform what the author writes?

• How does the content and tone of the document relate to that of the other documents? What does one document say that another doesn’t? What accounts for these differences?

• When was the document written? Who was the intended audience, and what was the author trying to express?

3. Group the documents in at least two different ways, but preferably in three different ways.

4. Identify and explain at least one, but preferably two or more, additional types of documents or points of view that are not represented in the documents and how they would add to your argument.

• What types of documents offer information that is not already present?

• What points of view are missing that would make your argument stronger? Consider groups typically not represented (women, working class, peasants).

• Why is this additional document or point of view important?

So to write a decent DBQ essay, you need to write an essay that opens with a thesis, support that thesis with all of the documents, then analyze and group the documents together (more on this later), and include additional documents or points of view.

HOW THE DBQ IS SCORED

The DBQ and all the AP World History Exam essays are first read for a basic core of items fittingly called the Basic Core. In order to score at least a 7 (out of 9) on the DBQ, your essay must contain all of the following:

Basic Core Rubric for the Document-Based Question Essay

Basic Core Rubric for the Document-Based Question Essay

Note: Even though the official AP guidelines call for only one additional document, AP graders tell us that they are really looking for two such documents.

While knowing how essay graders score your essay is useful, this doesn’t tell you much about how to actually write your essay. Below, we’ve provided a checklist of questions you should always refer to as you work, which is intended to make all of this information easier to understand.

Document-Based Question Essay

Document-Based Question Essay

If you are now thinking, “Well, that’s nice, but I want a 9,” no problem. If the person who scores your essay can answer yes to all of the Basic Core items, he or she will then look for Expanded Core items in your essay. If your essay contains two or three of the Expanded Core items, you get an 8 on the DBQ. If it contains more than 3 of the Expanded Core items, and it is exceptionally well written, you get a 9 on your essay.

Expanded Core Rubric for the Document-Based Question Essay

Expanded Core Rubric for the Document-Based Question Essay

HOW TO EARN EXPANDED CORE POINTS

Remember: Graders only look to the Expanded Core if you have already earned all 7 possible points of the Basic Core elements. To move beyond that takes some extra work on your part.

Notice how several of the items in the Expanded Core are simply more detailed versions of the Basic Core. To get an 8 or 9 on your essay, concentrate on doing a great job with at least two of the things that are in both the Basic Core and the Expanded Core. For example, in our interpretation of the directions, we tell you to group the documents in at least two different ways. The Basic Core only requires that you group the documents in one way, but the sixth rubric of the Expanded Core is about analyzing the documents in additional ways such as groupings. By always grouping your documents in two or more different ways, chances are you will earn this Expanded Core point.

To earn another Expanded Core point, focus on improving your thesis. To get an extra point from the Expanded Core, you need a thesis that is “comprehensive, analytical, and explicit.” If you don’t feel you have written a great thesis but know the topic well enough to add some additional historical evidence, add it. Just to be sure, choose another item that is in both core lists and make an extra effort on that item as well.

The point is that you do not need to write an essay that accomplishes all the Basic Core and all the Expanded Core items; instead, choose at least three Expanded Core items and be sure to include them in all the essays you write. That way, as long as you don’t miss any Basic Core items, you should earn an 8 or 9.

THE DOCUMENTS

Of course, before you can write anything, you need to work your way through the given documents. Effectively working the documents (not just reading them) is almost as important as writing the DBQ essay. Let’s spend a few minutes learning exactly how to process the documents so that you can put together that 7+ essay.

GIVE ME TEN MINUTES AND I’LL GIVE YOU THE WORLD

Is ten minutes really enough time to get through the documents? That depends on how well you know the topic. Most testers need at least the full ten minutes to work through the documents and prepare to write the essay. But what if the proctor says “go” and you are not yet finished planning your essay? Keep working the documents. The actual writing of your essay will take less time if you are well prepared when you begin. Use the ten minutes you are given plus any additional time you need (up to ten more minutes) to plan your essay. Once you’ve gotten a handle on the documents and organized your thoughts, it will probably take you only about 20 to 30 minutes to actually write the essay.

WORK THOSE DOCUMENTS

When the reading period begins, open to Part A (the DBQ). You do not need to read the directions thoroughly—you will have them memorized before you get to the testing room. Circle the total number of documents you have to read (contained in the first sentence of the directions). Next, scan the directions quickly—they should be just like the ones you’ve used for practice, but make a quick scan just to be sure. You may not be instructed to use all of the documents, but you should anyway, just in case. Then get to the question.

Step 1: Process the Question

You cannot begin to think about the documents until you know what you are being asked to do. Read the question carefully. Underline the important stuff (such as time period, culture, location) and circle what you are supposed to analyze and the actions you need to take (e.g., compare and contrast, change over time, etc.). Also note what the additional document is supposed to do.

Look at the following example of a DBQ:

  1. Using the documents, compare and contrast the attitudes toward women found in various cultures from about 1800 B.C.E. until the early 200s, C.E. Are there indications of change over time? What kinds of additional document(s) would be most helpful in furthering your analysis?

Based on the question, what do you know the documents are about?

Attitudes toward women in various cultures during various periods.

What are you being asked to do?

Compare and contrast the attitudes and look for any changes over time.

What could an additional document do?

Clarify how existing attitudes affected women’s daily lives.

BUT WHERE?

For the essay portion of the test, you will receive a green booklet that has the essay questions in it plus space to plan your essays, and a sealed pink answer booklet. Use the spaces in the question booklet to do your prep work—outlining, summarizing documents, brainstorming. Don’t be shy about what you write in the green booklet—the scorers won’t see your notes. In fact, it is good to remember that you will only receive credit for what you wrote in the pink answer booklet. Even if your teachers in school sometimes give you credit for outlining, AP readers will not.

Step 2: Build a Framework

Once you’ve gotten a handle on the question, use it to create a framework for processing the documents you are about to read. For example, if a question asked you to compare and contrast two major religions, you would create a compare-and-contrast chart of the two religions in question. You can fill in the chart as you work through the documents. If the question asks you if there was any change over time, create a space in which you can easily note any changes you come across. In the example above, the question asks you to both compare and contrast attitudes of different cultures and to look for any change over time. Your framework for this question might look like this.

Changes in attitudes toward women?

These first two steps should take about two minutes. Then it’s time to hit the documents.

Step 3: Work the Documents

Notice we didn’t say “read the documents.” Reading is too passive a word for what you need to do. As you read each document, summarize and analyze it in light of your framework (what you need to use it for). For example, look at the following document that goes with our example.

Document 1

Source: Christian Bible, Old Testament (Deuteronomy), primarily written in seventh century B.C.E. but based on ancient religious code.

When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a bill of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter husband dislikes her and writes her a bill of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she had been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring guilt upon the land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance.

First, circle the source, making note of the writer and time period or other relevant information. This document came from the Old Testament. What was the attitude toward women at that time? Clearly women were little more than possessions. A husband had the ability to hand his wife her walking papers pretty much at will and would only commit a sin against God if he took her back after her second husband dumped her.

Let’s see how this compares to the second document.

Document 2

Source: The Code of Hammurabi, 1792–1750 B.C.E.

If a man’s wife, who lives in his house, wishes to leave it, plunges into debt, tries to ruin her house, neglects her husband, and is judicially convicted: if her husband offers her release, she may go on her way, and he gives her nothing as a gift of release. If her husband does not wish to release her, and if he takes another wife, she shall remain as servant in her husband’s house.

If a woman quarrels with her husband, and says: “You are not congenial to me,” the reasons for her prejudice must be presented. If she is guiltless, and there is no fault on her part, but he leaves and neglects her, then no guilt attaches to this woman, she shall take her dowry and go back to her father’s house.

This document came from the Code of Hammurabi, written from 1800–1700 B.C.E. What was the attitude toward women under the Code of Hammurabi? While women still seem to be considered possessions, they have a few more rights. For example, if she tells him he is a jerk and is proven right, she gets to go home with her dowry, guilt-free. Notice, too, the increased level of judiciary involvement. The decisions seem to be less at the whim of the husband.

Try working the next three documents.

Document 3

Source: Plutarch, excerpt from “Women’s Life in Greece and Rome,” Moralia, 242 C.E.

27. When music is played in two parts, it is the bass part which carries the melody. So in a good and wise household, while every activity is carried on by husband and wife in agreement with each other, it will still be evident that it is the husband who leads and makes the final choice.

Document 4

Source: Ban Zhou, leading female Confucian and imperial historian under Emperor Han Hedi, from Lessons for Women, an instruction manual in feminine behavior, 100 C.E.

If a husband be unworthy, then he possesses nothing by which to control his wife. If a wife be unworthy, then she possesses nothing with which to serve her husband. If a husband does not control his wife, then the rules of conduct manifesting his authority are abandoned and broken. If a wife does not serve her husband, then the proper relationship between men and women and the natural order of things are neglected and destroyed. As a matter of fact the purpose of these two [the controlling of women by men, and the serving of men by women] is the same.

Document 5

Source: Excerpt from “The Laws of Manu,” the Rig Vedas, 100 B.C.E.–200 C.E.

[In the Rig Vedas (collection of hymns to the Aryan gods) of Classical India, Manu is the father of humanity.]

74. A man who has business (abroad) may depart after securing a maintenance for his wife; for a wife, even though virtuous, may be corrupted if she be distressed by want of subsistence.

75. If (the husband) went on a journey after providing (for her), the wife shall subject herself to restraints in her daily life; but if he departed without providing (for her), she may subsist by blameless manual work.

76. If the husband went abroad for some sacred duty, (she) must wait for him eight years, if (he went) to (acquire) learning or fame six (years), if (he went) for pleasure three years.

77. For one year let a husband bear with a wife who hates him; but after (the lapse of) a year let him deprive her of her property and cease to cohabit with her.

78. She who shows disrespect to (a husband) who is addicted to (some evil) passion, is a drunkard, or diseased, shall be deserted for three months (and be) deprived of her ornaments and furniture.

What did you notice about these documents? Any differences or changes? Document 3, written in Greece and Rome in the third century, shows clearly the attitudes of that time and culture—husband and wife are partners, but the husband is in command. Document 4 is the only document so far that was written by a woman. Notice how in Document 4 the woman is still subservient, but the discussion is about the responsibilities of both men and women? Document 5, which was written about the same time as Document 4, has far more detailed laws regarding the conduct of husbands and wives. Again, women are clearly subservient, yet men are charged with definite responsibilities to their wives.

You get the idea. A typical DBQ would have a few more documents, but let’s just use these five to walk through the rest of the steps.

Step 4: Frame Them and Group Them

Once you’ve worked the documents (or as you go along), fill in your framework from what you’ve read. For example, using the four documents we just read, try filling in the compare-and-contrast chart.

Your chart should look something like this:

What are the changes that have occurred over time in our example so far? Women went from being mere possessions with men free to make decisions (like to divorce their wives) without any judicial involvement, to more laws governing male conduct and more rights for women (though meager). Although the question doesn’t specifically mention it, we should also be aware of the influence of culture when it came to the treatment of women. Some differences that appear in these documents may be a result of not only a change in thought process over time but also a differing attitude of a particular culture (e.g., Document 3). If we were to read the rest of the documents that accompany this question, we would likely see even greater changes in the attitudes toward and treatment of women.

Putting Them Together

In addition to filling in your framework, you also want to begin grouping the documents in at least two different ways. For this example, you can group the documents by the ones that pertain to specific rules or laws governing a husband’s conduct versus ones that simply discuss roles and responsibilities. If we were to read the remaining documents, we may find a few more that were written by women and look for the similar characteristics in those documents. You may also wish to group the documents to clearly delineate changes that occurred over time. Remember that grouping the documents at least two different, insightful ways can help you earn up to four Basic Core points and one Expanded Core point: one point for using all the documents; one point for supporting your thesis with the document groupings; two points for grouping them in at least two different, insightful ways (this can get you one Basic Core point and one Expanded Core point); and one point for demonstrating that you understand the meaning of the documents through your ability to group them in various ways.

Step 5: Analyze and Add

In order to get all the Basic Core points, you must analyze at least two documents for bias or point of view, and you must answer the additional document part of the question.

Point of View

Choose one document to analyze for point of view. To select the best document to analyze, pay close attention to who wrote the document and when it was written. Both can influence the author’s point of view. Choose a document that clearly expresses a point of view and also one for which you can indicate an alternate interpretation of the information. For example, in our sample documents, Document 4 was written by Ban Zhou, the leading female Confucian during the Han age in China. Could the fact that she is a woman coupled with the fact that she was a Confucian have influenced what she chose to write? Absolutely. Look at her document again.

Document 4

Source: Ban Zhou, leading female Confucian and imperial historian under Emperor Han Hedi, from Lessons for Women, an instruction manual in feminine behavior, 100 C.E.

If a husband be unworthy, then he possesses nothing by which to control his wife. If a wife be unworthy, then she possesses nothing with which to serve her husband. If a husband does not control his wife, then the rules of conduct manifesting his authority are abandoned and broken. If a wife does not serve her husband, then the proper relationship between men and women and the natural order of things are neglected and destroyed. As a matter of fact the purpose of these two [the controlling of women by men, and the serving of men by women] is the same.

She tended to focus on worthiness and the interaction between husbands and wives. She even put their responsibilities on equal footing, something that we did not see in any of the other documents. She did not live in an age in which women questioned their subservient role. Therefore, instead of challenging the roles, she tried to find a way to make sense of the subjugation of women. The period in which she lived clearly influenced her point of view. These are the types of issues you want to bring into your analysis of point of view.

Point of View

Try to analyze for point of view in each document. Typically a number of the documents will read in a way that indicates strong or slightly skewed opinions. So pay attention to who wrote them and when they were written. From among our sample documents, which would you consider easy to analyze for point of view? How about Document 3? It pertains to Greek and Roman societies and was written in the third century. Take a look at it again.

Document 3

Source: Plutarch, excerpt from “Women’s Life in Greece and Rome,” Moralia, 242 C.E.

27. When music is played in two parts, it is the bass part which carries the melody. So in a good and wise household, while every activity is carried on by husband and wife in agreement with each other, it will still be evident that it is the husband who leads and makes the final choice.

It reads almost as advice from one to another about how a marriage should be. Interestingly, the attitude of the Greeks and Romans toward women seems positive, yet clearly considered their role as secondary in a marriage. Could that be perhaps a result of the time and culture? Absolutely. The person (presumably a man) who wrote this was likely giving loving, caring advice to a friend, yet he does not acknowledge what a more modern reader would likely think about the subjugation of the woman in the marital relationship. This form of bias was imbedded in the culture of that time. This is therefore a good document to use to exemplify how context and culture can clearly influence a person’s perspective.

Now find at least two, but preferably three, more documents and analyze them for point of view.

Additional Document

So as not to forget this step, make a note of it now, and then plan to include it as part of your opening thesis.

In our example, the additional document part of the question asked the following:

What kinds of additional document(s) would be most helpful in furthering your analysis?

In order to assess how the attitudes of a culture affected women’s daily lives during a certain period, what type of document or documents would be helpful? What about either more documents written by women that reflected their thoughts or daily experiences, or a document that chronicled the daily responsibilities of women in the given period? Should they be everyday-type documents, like shopping lists, or letters to a family members? Should they more formal, like instructions on how to do something?Be sure to explain why you feel these documents will add to your analysis; just describing a document will not earn you the point.

Step 6: Organize the Documents

So far you’ve processed the question, built a framework, worked the documents to fill in that framework, grouped and regrouped the documents, analyzed the documents for point of view, and determined the type of additional document you need and why. (Whew! You must be exhausted!) Now it’s time to organize your documents so that you know which ones you are using as support, which ones you are analyzing and exactly how you plan to group them. This last step will act as the outline for your essay.

Use the following chart to organize your essay.

Thesis

You will open your essay with a thesis. In your thesis, reference the strongest supporting documents. As part of your outline, decide which documents represent the core of your thesis and include them in your opening paragraph. Also, jot down a few brief notes about your thesis before moving on. (Be sure to make your notes on scratch paper—not in the essay booklet.)

Support

List the documents that you plan to use to support your thesis. Include all the documents you mention in your thesis (in the first paragraph). Also feel free to include any other document that will lend additional support.

Group One

First, group the documents in the most obvious way. For example, if you are asked to compare and contrast a set of documents, break the documents into two groups so that each group contains documents with similar features but the two groups clearly contrast each other.

Group Two

Regroup the documents in a way that shows some sort of insight into how the documents relate to each other. For example, if you first created groups by putting together documents with obvious similarities, regroup them in a way that shows something different or less obvious about the documents. If the question asks about change over time, regroup the documents to show how things changed over some period.

Point of View

List the documents you have chosen to analyze for point of view. Plan to discuss them after one or both of your groupings. Decide how you can compare and contrast them with your point of view document and/or with your thesis.

Number of Documents

Use this as a checklist to be sure you include all of the documents in your essay. List the number of documents you’ve been given, then go through each category and check off the document number as you come to it. If you finish your check and realize that you omitted one (or more) documents, go back to that document to determine where you can use it (support, analyze, or group).

Additional Documents

Once you’ve grouped your documents, consider what other kind or kinds of documents would add something interesting to the analysis of the question posed. Be sure to include reasons why a particular extra document would be useful.

Use our sample documents to fill in the organizational chart below.

How did you do? Your chart should look something like the following:

Remember that you will have more documents to use, which will make your essay groupings more diverse. The way you group the documents should support your thesis and show changes or contrast as well.

HOW LONG IS TEN MINUTES?

Right now this process may seem as if it will take two hours as opposed to ten minutes. You need to practice doing it a few times to get a feel for how much time to spend on what. You may find that you can fill in your framework as you analyze the documents, or identify the documents’ point of view as you go. The more you practice, the more efficient you will become. Remember, however, that analyzing the documents is as important as writing the essay. If you need to use the first five to ten minutes of your writing time to finish your analysis or outline, it will be time well spent.

DBQ Thesis

To create an effective thesis, you must first make sure that you are answering the question asked. As we talked about in the intro to AP essays beginning here (if you didn’t read it before, now’s a good time), there are some basic rules of good AP essay theses.

Give ’Em What They Want—Answer the question by restating key phrases from the question. Don’t simply rewrite what you were given; rather, write your response as an answer, but be sure to include the important phrases that were in the question.

Show ’Em Where You Got It—AP World History Exam essays are all about the evidence. Use your framework to support your assertions right from the beginning. Remember that evidence in your thesis is merely introductory—save the details for the body of the essay.

Help ’Em Get There—Make a clear transition from your thesis to the body of your essay by using a phrase like, “To better understand the differences between these two societies …” or “To better understand the changes that occurred …” One way to earn your Basic Core point for additional documents is to suggest, describe, and justify the inclusion of the additional document as part of this last sentence. That way, you won’t forget to include it and it makes for a good transition.

For our example, your thesis would flow something like the following:

From a review of the five documents presented, it is clear that the role of women in various cultures from 1800 B.C.E. into the 200s was primarily one of servitude or worse in comparison to our contemporary ideas about the rights of women. However, there is also evidence that over time, women were seen less as subject only to the rule of law laid down by an individual (usually a husband) and more as people whose (albeit limited) rights were overseen by the rule of law. In earlier eras, women were seen more as property than as people, and that only men reserved the right to divorce with no lingering responsibility to care for their wives. However, some societies began to hold men more accountable for their treatment of women, a trend which eventually came to other societies as well, though at different times. With this added protection of the law, women are not only more protected, but are also held more accountable for their own conduct.

When you write your thesis paragraph, imagine that a reader will only read your essay if they are convinced to do so by your first paragraph (no pressure). Then, use your framework to write the body of your essay. Your framework can act as both your outline and your checklist—once you’ve written the bulk of your essay, quickly scan through to make sure you didn’t leave anything out. Finally, close with a recap of your points and get on to the next essay.

Before going on, try writing your own thesis and the rest of this DBQ essay on a separate piece of paper. When you have finished, take a moment to “grade” it using the DBQ rubric, or ask a classmate or parent to evaluate it using the rubric.

HOW LONG SHOULD THIS GO ON?

The AP folks suggest 50 minutes for the DBQ—10 minutes of prereading time and 40 minutes of actual writing time. Remember that the 10 minutes of prereading time is a set thing—you cannot begin writing during that period, and you wouldn’t want to anyway. Once the proctor says you can start writing, you may begin writing if you are ready, or simply continue with the six steps if you have not yet finished them. But how long is too long? We recommend you spend no more than 10 additional minutes working through the documents and planning your essay. In other words, you need to begin writing by 10 minutes into the essay-writing part of the test. As we mentioned earlier, you can write a great DBQ essay in 20 to 30 minutes, but you don’t want to cut into writing time for the other two essays.

AP essay graders tell us that spending too much time on the DBQ is an obvious problem for many students, who often end up earning only 1 or even 0 points on the other two questions. Blowing off the last two questions will seriously endanger your score! Remember: all three questions count the same, so be sure to leave yourself adequate time to get to the other two questions.

PUT IT ALL TOGETHER

Now it’s your turn to try out the DBQ process. Below is another sample DBQ. Remember to use all the steps and not to shortchange the prework on the documents. The more comfortable you are with the documents, the easier it will be for you to write this essay. If you wish, you can keep track of your time. Do not time yourself. Rather, note your start time, then note how long it took you to analyze the documents. When you are finished with the essay, note the time you finished. This will give you a rough idea of how much time you would like to have for the essay and how much time you need to shave off in practice (remember, the DBQ can take up to 50 minutes—10 minutes for prereading and 40 minutes of the 120 minutes you have for writing).

When you have finished, ask a classmate to score your essay using the scoring rubric at the beginning of this chapter.

Directions: The following question is based on the accompanying Documents 1–6. (The documents have been edited for the purpose of this exercise.) Write your answer on the lined pages of the Section II free-response booklet.

This question is designed to test your ability to work with and understand historical documents. Write an essay that:

· Has a relevant thesis and supports that thesis with evidence from the documents.

· Uses all of the documents.

· Analyzes the documents by grouping them in as many ways as possible. Does not simply summarize the documents individually.

· Takes into account both the sources of the documents and the authors’ points of views.

· Explains the need for at least one additional type of document.

You may refer to relevant historical information not mentioned in the documents.

  1. Given the documents below, compare and contrast the preambles of several modern constitutions. What other additional document(s) would help give a fuller picture of how the constitutions of these countries compare to the constitutions of other countries?

Document 1

Source: Preamble to Constitution of Japan, 1946.

We, the Japanese people, acting through our duly elected representatives in the National Diet, determined that we shall secure for ourselves and our posterity the fruits of peaceful cooperation with all nations and the blessings of liberty throughout this land, and resolved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government, do proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people and do firmly establish this Constitution. Government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which is derived from the people, the powers of which are exercised by the representatives of the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed by the people. This is a universal principle of mankind upon which this Constitution is founded. We reject and revoke all constitutions, laws, ordinances, and rescripts in conflict herewith. We, the Japanese people, desire peace for all time and are deeply conscious of the high ideals controlling human relationship and we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world. We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from the earth. We recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want. We believe that no nation is responsible to itself alone, but that laws of political morality are universal; and that obedience to such laws is incumbent upon all nations who would sustain their own sovereignty and justify their sovereign relationship with other nations. We, the Japanese people, pledge our national honor to accomplish these high ideals and purposes with all our resources.

Document 2

Source: Preamble to the Constitution of India, 1949.

We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;

In our constituent assembly this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this constitution.

Document 3

Source: Preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of (West) Germany, 1949.

Conscious of their responsibility before God and men, animated by the purpose to serve world peace as an equal part in a unified Europe, the German People have adopted, by virtue of their constituent power, this Constitution.

The Germans in the States [Länder] of Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia have achieved the unity and freedom of Germany in free self-determination. This Constitution is thus valid for the entire German People.

Document 4

Source: Preamble to the Constitution of France, 1958.

The French people hereby solemnly proclaim their dedication to the Rights of Man and the principle of national sovereignty as defined by the Declaration of 1789, reaffirmed and complemented by the Preamble to the 1946 Constitution.

By virtue of these principles and that of the free determination of peoples, the Republic offers to the Overseas Territories that express the will to adhere to them new institutions based on the common ideal of liberty, equality, and fraternity and conceived with a view to their democratic evolution.

Document 5

Source: Preamble to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Vietnam, 1992.

In the course of their millennia-old history, the Vietnamese people, working diligently, creatively, and fighting courageously to build their country and defend it, have forged a tradition of unity, humanity, uprightness, perseverance and indomitableness for their nation and have created Vietnamese civilization and culture.

Document 6

Source: Preamble to the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1992.

Unity, Work, Progress, Justice, Dignity, Liberty, Peace, Prosperity, and Love for the Fatherland have been since independence, notably under mono-partyism, hypothesized or retarded by totalitarianism, the confusion of authorities, nepotism, ethnocentrism, regionalism, social inequalities, and violations of fundamental rights and liberties. Intolerance and political violence have strongly grieved the country, maintained and accrued the hate and divisions between the different communities that constitute the Congolese Nation.

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