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Peter The Great Biography Essay Questions

This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level: 6-8, 9-12
Subject area: world history
Understands how European society experienced political, economic, and cultural transformations in an age of global intercommunication between 1450 and 1750.
(6-8)Understands the emergence of strong individual leaders, monarchies, and states in Europe between the 16th and 18th centuries (e.g., the character, development, and sources of wealth of strong bureaucratic monarchies; the significance of Peter the Great's westernizing reforms; the emergence of the Dutch republic as a powerful European state; the reign of Elizabeth I and her efficacy as a leader and builder of a strong nation-state; the governmental policies of Catherine the Great; why St. Petersburg was called the window on the West).

(9-12)Understands the accomplishments of significant European leaders between the 16th and 18th centuries (e.g., the success of Russian expansion in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Siberia, and the success of the czars in transforming the Duchy of Moscow into a Eurasian empire; the life and achievements of Louis XIV, and elements of absolutist power during this period; how Peter the Great and Catherine the Great expanded Russian territory; major achievements in the reigns of Frederick the Great, Catherine the Great, and Joseph II, and which of these leaders displayed the features of an "enlightened despot").

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: geography
Understands the forces of cooperation and conflict that shape the divisions of Earth's surface.
Understands the changes that occur in the extent and organization of social, political, and economic entities on Earth's surface (e.g., imperial powers such as the Roman Empire, Han dynasty, Carolingian Empire, British Empire).

  1. For at least a century before the reign of Louis XIV, what trends in Europe had been preparing the way for monarchical absolutism?
  2. Explain the relationship between the growth of absolutism and the "iron century" in Europe.
  3. What factors, if any, limited the exercise of complete absolutism?
  4. What elements within European states were most likely to oppose absolutism? What tactics did the rulers use in dealing with these elements?
  5. Describe Louis XIV's use of theater to centralize state power in the royal person.
  6. What did the Quietists and the Jansenists teach? Why did Louis XIV consider these groups a threat? How did he deal with that threat?
  7. How did Colbert's policies as finance minister illustrate the objectives of mercantilism?
  8. What aspect of Colbert's reform program was most successful? Why? Did his sovereign master help or hinder its success?
  9. What were the difficulties in the way of establishing absolutism in Germany? Did these difficulties discourage the various princes from trying?
  10. By what instruments did Frederick William, the "Great Elector," make Brandenburg-Prussia a strongly centralized state?
  11. Which elements of society under absolutist regimes were best able to retain their privileges in succeeding eras?
  12. How did the absolutism of Peter the Great (Tsar Peter I) differ from that of his western European counterparts?
  13. Describe some of the outward displays of monarchical authority used by European rulers to illustrate their ideas of royal authority.
  14. Both Charles II and his brother James II favored absolute rule. Why did revolution come under James rather than under Charles?
  15. How did the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 and its aftermath ensure that the English monarchy would henceforth be limited?
  16. What aspects or consequences of the Revolution of 1688 could be considered as less than "glorious"?
  17. On what grounds did John Locke establish the right of revolution? Why were his theories particularly useful to the leaders of the English Revolution of 1688?
  18. What is meant by the emergence of a "state system"? How did this differ from what preceded it?
  19. The growth of foreign ministries and embassies in European capitals reflected a desire to achieve international stability. Why was diplomacy also "a weapon in the armory of the absolutist state"?
  20. How was the character of warfare changing during this period?
  21. What wars resulted from Louis XIV's threat to the European balance of power?
  22. What were the stakes at issue in the War of the Spanish Succession?
  23. Summarize the provisions of the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713. What particular advantages accrued to the British?
  24. Explain the term "enlightened absolutism." How did it differ from its predecessor? To what extent did the absolutism of eighteenth-century rulers become enlightened?
  25. Why did the Catholic rulers Maria Theresa and Joseph II enact measures restricting the liberties of the Church?
  26. Why was Catherine the Great able to establish a more nearly total absolutism in Russia than were contemporary Habsburg rulers in Austria?
  27. How did the role of the English gentry in local government differ from that of the Continental aristocracy? By what means did they maintain their preponderant influence in the central government of England during the eighteenth century?
  28. What significant shift in the European balance of power occurred in the second half of the eighteenth century? What brought about this shift?
  29. Summarize the provisions of the Treaty of Paris of 1763.
  30. What is the significance of the Treaty of Paris signed by the British in 1783?
  31. Although seemingly essential to the maintenance of a European balance of power, Poland was unable to retain its independent existence. Explain why.
  1. A longing for stability after exhausting crises and conflicts helps explain popular support of, or tolerance for, absolutist rulers. Does the rise of totalitarian regimes in our own day offer a parallel? Develop this theme as concretely as you can, making reference both to historical precedents and contemporary affairs.
  2. The year is 1689. You are twenty years old and live in London. How does the prospect before you differ from the one that would confront you if you were living in Moscow?
  3. To what extent was the English Glorious Revolution a conservative revolution? To what extent is it appropriate to call it a "revolution" at all?
  4. Make a critique of "enlightened absolutism" as exemplified by the personality, character, and rule of Frederick the Great.
  5. Study the career of Catherine the Great and assess the effects of her rule.

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