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History

E.H Carr posed the question “What is History?” in the title of his seminal book, published in 1961. One of his definitions conceptualized History as an ‘unending dialogue between the past and the present.’ Historians examine facts and extract coherent narratives from sources that might explain the decisions and processes which have led to modern-day society. Carr argued that History was inherently a problem-solving discipline. He further argued that historians should embrace the fact that the study of the past can illuminate the present.

Perhaps a more pertinent question to you is, “what is history for?” In short, the world we live in is incomprehensible without understanding the past. This is evidenced by the fact that legislatures and those in power often insist that history curriculums reflect a particular version of the past. Therefore, our conceptions of the past affect how we engage with the present and how we might envision the future. Historians think about the economy, politics and power, cultural ideas, intellectual life, war and society, the environment, and many other themes that explore the human condition throughout time.

Studying History allows students to explore the centuries of human experimentation, innovation, triumphs, and tragedies that have shaped the world we live in today. The study of history highlights that little is ‘inevitable’ about our lives; what we know today is the direct result of the choices, challenges, and contingencies that past generations have faced. With this in mind, the importance of studying history is easily recognizable.

History Course

History’s chronological breadth, geographical range, and topical diversity affords students great flexibility in this subject.

History Exam Tips

Exam papers include a mixture of essay writing and source analysis. To succeed at source analysis, students will need to reference the origins, purpose, and content of individual sources to evaluate their advantages and limitations in relation to their given topic of study. To succeed at the essay writing component, students should avoid sweeping generalizations, lack of detail, or too much narration. A good essay will have a strong focus on the question at hand, accurate and relevant knowledge, and a critical analysis of this evidence to answer the question.

Periods of History

You will have the opportunity to study various topics within the Ancient, Medieval, Early Modern, and Modern periods.

Deep dive: Historians use CE as an abbreviation for the ‘common’ or ‘current’ era, whereas BCE is an abbreviation for ‘before the common (or current) era.’ Periodization might also come in the form of BC – ‘Before Christ’, or AD, which stands for Anno Domini, Latin for ‘the year of our lord.’ The latter has increased in use by historians as a means of promoting religious neutrality in History.

Ancient (6,000 BCE – 650 CE)

Ancient history refers to the period covering the discovery of the earliest written records of human activity until the fall of major empires and civilizations. Included are the Western Roman Empire (the Mediterranean), the Han dynasty (China), and the Gupta Empire (India).

Medieval (476 CE – 1500 CE)

Medieval History refers to a period of history that follows the fall of Rome in 476 CE until the middle of the European Renaissance at the turn of the 16th century.

Early Modern (1500 CE – 1800 CE)

The Early Modern period directly follows the medieval period and is closely related to fundamental global changes in the 15th and 16th centuries. This era saw foundational scientific advancements, the rapid spread of ideas due to the invention of the printing press, a decline of the feudal system, the exploration of the Americas, and the emergence of new theological ideas. The end of the early modern period is associated with the onset of two revolutions: the French Revolution (1789-1799) and the Industrial Revolution.

Modern (1800 CE – Present)

The Modern period follows events from the late-eighteenth century until the present day. This period is often characterized by the heightened importance of science and technology, the demise of European empires, the transition to democracy, urbanization, civil rights, decolonization, and the ideological battle between capitalism and socialism.

Deep Dive: Periodisation, the division of time into specific eras, is a heavily debated topic in History. Historians continue to produce varying opinions on what constitutes the start and the end of a period. As a budding historian, what do you think marks the end of a historical period?

Approaches in History

Students will learn that history is an interpretative field. There are many legitimate approaches to understanding the past, and often the most balanced conception of the past requires us to view it from different perspectives.
Common thematic approaches to the study of history include:

  • Social history
  • Military history
  • Diplomatic history
  • Economic history
  • Environmental history
  • Intellectual history
  • Cultural history
  • Gender history (formerly known as Women’s history)
  • Subaltern studies
  • Linguistic history
  • Ethnohistory
  • Comparative history
  • Marxist history

History topics and learning objectives

The following is an overview of some topics that will be covered in the Studysmarter structure.

The Crusades

The Crusades were a series of religiously motivated campaigns to recapture the Holy Lands of the Middle East. They were initiated by the Catholic Church, although their religious motivations became increasingly entangled with the desire to achieve economic and political power in the East. This topic will evaluate the origins of the Crusades, the importance of religion, and how foreign relations between the Byzantine Empire, Outremer, and the Latin West evolved over the 11th and 12th centuries.

You will learn about the First Crusade (1071-1099) and the internal problems of the Byzantine Empire. You will then study the Second Crusade (1099-1149) and gain an overview of the Islamic response to the Crusader states. Later in the syllabus, the focus will turn to the Muslim counter-crusade and the socio-cultural context of the Crusader states between 1149-1187. The topic will finish with the Third and Fourth Crusades and ask you to consider the legacy of the Crusades in different regions.

Early Modern Spain

This topic will begin with giving you an overview of the social, economic, political, and religious context of Spain in 1469. Understanding the difficulty that Spain experienced during this time is important in tracing its transition into a unified state and eventually Spain’s establishment as a world power. When considering the period between 1516-1556, you will learn about the expansion of the Spanish empire and its conquistadors, its conciliar government, and the impact on foreign relations with European nations.

Following this, students will look at the era that historians term Spain’s ‘golden age’ under Philip II. You will explore the changing relationship between religion and society, the impact of intellectual movements, and Spain’s internal conflicts.

The Tudors

This topic gives an overview of England under the House of Tudor, an English royal dynasty of Welsh origin that ruled from 1485 to 1603. You will trace the rule of Henry VII, Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I against the backdrop of a rapidly changing English society. Articles on this topic will investigate the power of ideology and theology. You will learn about the conflict over religious systems and the development of new ideas that flourished during the English Renaissance. This period also marks the beginning of England’s naval prowess following Henry VIII’s creation of the New Navy.

The Birth of the USA

This topic will explore the American Revolution, a momentous period of radical change that led to the creation of the United States of America. You will explore the context of colonial North America; the Thirteen Colonies, America’s struggle with France, and the economic state of Britain in 1763. As we venture deeper into this topic, you will explore the causes of the American Revolution and the ideologies associated with it, the formation of the republic, and the establishment of the early American political system.

The French Revolution

The French Revolution was a momentous occasion in European and Global history. The revolution began in 1789 and ended with Napoleon Bonaparte’s rise to power. There was widespread discontent against the monarchy, its poor economic policies, and its reinforcement of an oppressive social hierarchy. Revolutionary groups such as the Jacobins and the Sans-Culottes revolted against the absolute monarchy of King Louis XIV and the feudal system which had oppressed them, redesigning their country’s politics to meet the needs of the people.

You will explore the causes of the French Revolution, such as the age of enlightenment and its ideologies, the progress of the reign of terror, and the rise of Napoleon and his impact on France and Europe.

Tsarist and Communist Russia

This topic will cover the nature of Russia’s economic, political, and social life from 1855 to 1964. Throughout the topic, you will learn about the reign of Russia’s last three Tsars: Alexander II, Alexander III, and Nicholas II. You will also learn about one of the most significant events of the twentieth century: the Russian Revolution of 1917, a socio-political upheaval of the oppressive structures that led to Europe’s first communist state. It is not an understatement that this period marked enormous changes for the rest of the world.

Within communist Russia, a new philosophy and worldview arose that shaped the course of twentieth and twenty-first-century world history. You will learn about these changes that were primarily led by Lenin and Stalin. Lastly, you will learn about Khrushchev’s inheritance of an authoritarian state created by Stalin and how Khrushchev ultimately fell from power.

Emergence of the USA as a superpower

Between 1865 and 1975, the USA went through a period of rapid transformation. In 1865, America was an isolationist war-torn nation divided over slavery. However, by 1975, the USA was the dominant world authority. In this topic, you will look at the key developments of each era of US history throughout this period. You will assess the successes and failures of key individuals.

This topic touches on many themes, ideas, and events such as:

  • The Era of Reconstruction
  • The Gilded Age
  • Laissez-faire economics and the rise of large corporations.
  • Populism
  • Progressivism
  • The Great Migration
  • The Jim Crow Era
  • The Jazz Age
  • Post World War II America
  • McCarthyism and the Cold War
  • Civil Rights
  • The rise of American counterculture

Building a German Nation

This topic will introduce you to the political, economic, and social events involved in the transition from Imperial Germany to a unified democratic state. You will learn about how Germany dealt with the political instability and extremism that arose in the early years to arrive at what is known as the ‘Golden Age of the Weimar Republic, 1924-1928. Then, you will follow the Weimar Republic to its collapse in 1933. Along the way, various articles will examine the political developments, reactions to democracy, cultural movements, and economic difficulties the republic faced.

The Nazi regime was established in January of 1933. They rapidly and forcefully established a single-party authoritarian state that would control Germany for the next twelve years. You will learn about Hitler’s consolidation of power, how his dictatorship impacted the lives of ordinary Germans and the methods that the Nazis employed to maintain their power. This topic will also cover the global events which led to the division of East and West Germany and conclude with a series of articles that analyze the journey towards German reunification in the twentieth century.

The Cold War

The Cold War refers to the state of tension and the numerous proxy wars between the USA and the USSR from the end of the Second World War in 1945 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Broadly, you will explore the role of ideology, economic interests, fear, and aggression in shaping the geopolitics of the era. The events of the Cold War continue to shape the way that foreign policy decisions are made today.

You will cover the debates surrounding the origins of the Cold War and explore how conflicting ideologies developed and manifested into the breakdown of the Grand Alliance, hostility, and conflict over Germany. You will then explore how the Cold War became a global phenomenon as the two superpowers involved themselves in conflicts around the globe. You will also evaluate the differences in the foreign policy of individual US Presidents and Soviet leaders. Lastly, you will gain an understanding of how the Cold War came to an end.

Modern Britain

As the title of this topic suggests, you will address the events, ideas, and people that have contributed to the creation of modern Britain. In particular, you will focus on Britain’s reconstruction of society post-World War II. You will look at the various efforts made to establish stability and evaluate the policies of people who played a key role in this transition. Finally, you will also discuss British politics post-1945. Events such as the decline of the British empire, mass immigration, gender politics, the fall of consensus politics, and the resistance against the class establishment are examples of events that spearheaded Britain into the 21st century.

What skills will I gain in studying History?

The study of history will develop your intellectual, analytical, and rhetorical abilities. History requires you to explore the relationship between cause and consequence and craft nuanced explanations and arguments. These actions build skills that have practical everyday applications.

As a result of studying History, students will:

  • Gain strong analytical skills while considering the usefulness and application of textual, oral, and visual sources and assessing the arguments that other historians have made from them.
  • Gain independent research skills that allow them to frame concepts and write persuasively.
  • Gain communication skills by writing concise, clear, and original essays.
  • Learn to manage their time effectively in order to cover a broad and detailed syllabus.

What careers can I consider after studying history?

Studying history is an excellent way to prepare for a wide field of careers, from Law, Governance, Finance, Public policy, Social work, International Development, Journalism, Teaching, Academia, and much more.

History Notes

Here at StudySmarter, our subject experts have created in-depth articles for each of the most popular A-Level topics. Within these articles, you will find all of the factual information necessary to write good essays and an overview of the historiographic debate surrounding different topics.

History Revision

The StudySmarter platform incorporates active recall and spaced repetition, techniques that have been proven to increase your capacity at retaining information for a longer period. Our aim is to help you succeed and fulfill your academic goals. Use our revision guides, quizzes, and notes to ace your exams/quizzes and keep yourself motivated. Alternatively, you can create flashcards and notes to tailor your learning needs and keep yourself accountable with weekly goals.

Tips for parents – What advantage does the app offer my child when studying History?

StudySmarter is a free learning platform that allows students to create and share revision materials. Students can also select from a range of revision tools created by our subject experts, from flashcards to summaries toFAQss.

The app offers a curated learning plan that tracks your child’s progress and motivates them with badges and trophies.

Here are the advantages of using StudySmarter at a glance:

  • High-quality learning content
  • FREE summaries and exercises.
  • Collaborative study.
  • Loads of subjects to choose from.

Final History Quiz

Question

Which regions did the Muslim Umayyad caliphate conquer in the eighth century? (Choose three).


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Answer

Andalusia


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What had happened to the major Muslim strongholds by the thirteenth century?


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Answer

Christians had gained control of most of the major Muslim strongholds apart from Granada, which was ruled by the Nasrid Dynasty.

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What happened to Granada in 1482-92?


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In 1482-92 Ferdinand directed a campaign against the Muslim kingdom of Granada, aiming to reconquer it as a Christian territory. He was successful. A long siege in January 1492 forced the sultan Muhammad XII to surrender the city. The remaining Mudéjars, Muslims, were offered a choice between exile or baptism in 1502.

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Which Religions were forced to convert under Isabella and Ferdinand? (Choose two)


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Catholics

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What was the purpose of the Spanish Inquisition?


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 Isabella and Ferdinand created the Spanish Inquisition with the support of Pope Sixtus IV to root out any non-converters or heretics from Spanish society. Autos-da-fé were ceremonies to try anyone suspected of heresy. Heretics were jailed, tortured, expelled, or executed.


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Which of these countries did Christopher Columbus 'discover'? (Choose three).


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Cuba

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What was the Treaty of Tordesillas?


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The Treaty of Tordesillas was an agreement signed between Spain and Portugal on the division of non-European territories. The Portuguese received everything outside Europe east of the Cape Verde Islands (giving them Africa, Asia and Brazil) and Spain received everything west of this line (giving them control over the western part of the Americas and the Pacific islands).


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Which of these titles did Charles hold? (Choose three).


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Answer

 Duke of Burgundy, Lord of the Netherlands


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Why did the citizens of Castile revolt in 1520?

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Answer

Discontent grew over Charles’ lack of knowledge of Spanish culture and language. The elites wanted more power in government, and they feared the Dutch influence Charles had brought with him.

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Which two explorers discovered which two important countries in the Americas during Charles' reign?


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Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro discovered Mexico and Peru respectively. Wealth came from the Aztec and Inca populations.

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What were the consequences of the discoveries of Mexico and Peru? (Choose three).


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Answer


Inflation

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Which wars did Charles engage in during his reign? (Choose three).


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Answer

 Schmalkaldic Wars


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What instructions did Charles I give Philip II? (Choose three).


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Answer

Conquer more of the Americas


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Why was there a revolt in the Netherlands?


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The Netherlands was under Philip II’s rule, handed to him by his father Charles. The rising popularity of Protestantism, heavy taxation to pay for Charles’ foreign wars, and the desire for independence against Spain, led the Dutch to rebel against Spanish rule.


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How did the defeat of the Spanish Armada affect Philip II’s reign?


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Whilst the Armada was defeated by the English, this did not destroy Philip’s reputation or power. It was merely a setback. Spain remained a superpower for another century.

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Q1. What was the Cold War?

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The Cold War was an ongoing geopolitical rivalry between two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc. It began in the aftermath of the surrender of Hitler’s Germany.

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Give examples of indirect confrontations between the US and USSR. 


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The Cold War was primarily waged through indirect confrontations like propaganda campaigns, espionage, proxy wars, the Olympics and the Space Race.

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Q3. When did the Cold War start? 


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The Cold War is generally considered by historians to have started between 1947 and 1948.

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Q4. What was Raymond Aron’s definition of the Cold War?


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Political expert Raymond Aron perfectly summed up the Cold War system with this phrase: ‘impossible peace, improbable war’.

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Q5. Define the term ‘Cold War’. 


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A “cold war” is a war waged through indirect conflict, based on an ideological and geopolitical struggle for global influence.

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Q6. Who first used the term “Cold War” in modern times? What meaning did they attribute to it?


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The English writer George Orwell first used the term in an article published in 1945 to refer to the hostility between the Western and Eastern blocs. For Orwell, a Cold War was a nuclear stalemate “by which millions of people [could] be wiped out in a few seconds”.

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Q7. Who first used the term “Cold War” in the United States of America?


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The term was first used in 1947 by the American financier and presidential adviser Bernard Baruch.

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Q8. Who were the Big Three? 

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The Big Three were the leaders of the three most powerful Allied nations during WW2: US president Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet President Joseph Stalin.

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Q9. What was the Western Bloc? 


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The Western Bloc was composed of the United States of America as well as its NATO allies, mainly Western European countries.

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Q10. What was NATO? 


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 NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which was signed on the 4th of April 1949. This was a collective-defense alliance between the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the US, Canada and Norway. 


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Q11. Describe capitalism. 


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Capitalism is an economic system in which private actors can own and control the means of production. Capitalism is founded on three principals: private property, profit motive, and market competition.

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Q12. What was the Eastern Bloc?


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The Eastern Bloc was composed of the Soviet Union (USSR) and its satellite republics, states that were forced to accept communism and which had signed the Warsaw Pact.

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Q13. Describe communism. 


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Communism is an economic system in which all property is owned by the community, or state, meaning that private property is abolished. In a communist state, everybody must contribute according to their abilities, but only receive what they need. 


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Q14. What was the Warsaw Pact? 


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The Warsaw Pact, signed in 1955, established a mutual defense alliance to counter the formation of NATO. It was originally composed of the Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania.

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Q15. What was the Non-Aligned movement? 


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The Non-Aligned Movement represented all the countries, mainly newly created states, that did not want to be part of the Cold War and ally with either the US or the USSR.

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Q16. What happened to Germany after the end of WW2?


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After the end of WW2, Germany was divided into four zones, as was Berlin. Each zone was administered by one of the Allied powers, the US, USSR or Britain, and France.  

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Q17. Who was responsible for the Red Scare in the United States?


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The Red Scare, a period of anti-Communist fervour and mass hysteria over the perceived threat posed by communists in the US, was chiefly driven by senator Joseph R. McCarthy. He investigated allegations of “subversive elements” in the federal government and exposed communists working in the film industry.


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Q18. What was the Cuban Missile crisis?


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The Cuban Missile crisis was an intense confrontation between the US and USSR which nearly led to nuclear war. The Soviet Union The Soviet Union had started construction on sites for launching  ballistic nuclear missiles in Cuba and was sending ships with these towards the now -communist country in order to launch attacks on American cities. 


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Who introduced reforms that weakened the Communist Party in the Soviet Union?


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Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991.


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Q20. How many new states were formed when the Soviet Union was dissolved? 


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The Soviet Union dissolved into fifteen independent nations.


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What were the Crusades?


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Answer

The Crusades were religiously motivated wars, initiated by the Latin Church to recapture Jerusalem.


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How was the First Crusade initiated?


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Byzantine Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes felt threatened by the advance of the Seljuk Turks and asked for the help of Pope Urban II. Pope Urban II preached about a new Holy War to recapture Jerusalem and many volunteered to fight in what became the First Crusade.


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Explain the Council of Clermont.

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Answer

The Council of Clermont took place on 27 November 1095 and was organised by Pope Urban II. He preached in favour of a Holy War, saying that it would lead to salvation and the recapture of Jerusalem and the Holy Lands. 


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Who was Peter the Hermit and what did he do?


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Answer

Peter the Hermit was not a cleric sanctioned by the Pope. However, he preached in favour of the First Crusade and gathered many peasant followers. They started their own crusade (known as the People’s Crusade), which set off before the officially sanctioned crusaders. The People’s Crusade caused chaos in the lands it crossed.

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How many Crusader States were set up after the First Crusade?


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Answer

2

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Name the Crusader States that were set up after the First Crusade.


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The Kingdom of Jerusalem, the County of Edessa, the County of Antioch, and the Principality of Tripoli.


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How was the Second Crusade triggered?

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Answer

The Second Crusade was triggered because of the fall of a Crusader State, the County of Edessa, to the Seljuk Turks.


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Which Crusade was known as the Kings’ Crusade?


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The Third Crusade was known as the Kings’ Crusade because of the direct leadership of three of the most powerful European Kings. These were Richard Lionheart of England, Phillip II of France and Frederick Barbarossa of Germany.


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Question

Which King led the Third Crusade to Jerusalem?


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Answer

Urban II

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Question

What was the Wendish Crusade?


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Answer

The Wendish Crusade was initiated by the North German Saxons. They did not want to fight against the Slejuk Turks but wanted to confront the pagan slavs in the Balkans instead.


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Question

Which Kings led the Second Crusade? (Two right answers).


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Answer

Louis VII

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What was the outcome of the Second Crusade?


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Answer

The crusaders failed to retake Edessa. They decided to attack Damascus instead of Edessa hoping it would severely weaken the Slejuk Turks, but they were unable to conquer it. Rumour spread that the Byzantine side had been colluding with the Turkish Empire, which led to divisions.


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Question

How was the Third Crusade triggered?


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Answer

The Third Crusade was triggered after the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187. Pope Gregory VIII called for a new crusade to retake it.


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Question

Why didn't Richard Lionheart attack Jerusalem?

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Answer

Richard Lionheart could not attack Jerusalem because he had been left as the only king leading the Third Crusade. The soldiers he was leading had different alliances, and divisions meant that many refused to continue with an attack. As a result he had to retreat.

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Question

What was the outcome of the Third Crusade?


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Answer

The crusaders failed to retake Jerusalem. Richard Lionheart negotiated an unfavourable deal with Saladin in 1192 in which the crusaders would keep a bit of land in Acre and the Christian pilgrims would be protected from prosecution.


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