How to produce a Level 7 IB
A L7 essay, like any good essay, has got to get the
basics right. IB examiners are forever reminding students to answer the
question set, to avoid unstructured narratives and to include relevant
factual details. But a top L7 response also needs more than this.
'… the answer will in addition display at least one
of the following features: a highly developed awareness of
historiographical issues; a critical examination of a wide range of
historical evidence; a high level of conceptual ability; a successful
challenge to the assumptions implied in the question.' IBO History
markbands for Paper 2.
Let's look at an example of how you might do this. How
significant was the role of Gorbachev to the collapse of the Eastern
bloc in 1989?
||Historians generally identify three
main causes of the collapse of Eastern bloc: the role of
Gorbachev is most common explanation, followed by the economic
collapse and the role of dissident intellectuals of the
'anti-political movement' such as Havel and Charter 77 in
Czechoslovakia and Kuron and the KOR in Poland.
In order to challenge the assumption in
the question, we could refer to recent historiographical trends
which have sought to emphasise the 'history from below' or the
social history of the revolutions. Rather than focus on the role
of important politicians like Gorbachev, historians like Padraic
Kenney (see further reading) have
examined the nature of the crowd of 'ordinary' people who manned
the barricades and marched through the streets.
Similarly, just as the great English social
historian and Cold War peace campaigner E. P. Thompson argued in
dismissing the explanation of the 18th century food riot, where
worker 'claps his hand spasmodically upon his stomach, and
responds to elementary economic stimuli', (Customs in Common
187) so the social historian of 1989 needs to get inside the
head and heart of those who felt the need to do something.
|For this you will need
to research groups like 'Orange
Alternative', 'WiP' and playful, ironic symbols such
as Tomasz Sarnecki's 'High Noon' election poster. The most
ambitious student might also consider the question in more
philosophical 'TOK' terms, considering the general importance of
individual in history. E.H. Carr's classic text 'What is
History' remains apposite in this respect: 'All effective
movements have few leaders and multitude of followers; but this
does not mean that the multitude is not essential to their
success. Numbers count in history'.
Examine the importance of the secret police in the
maintenance of communist party rule in any Eastern bloc country you have
studied in the period 1945-1989. Consider the essay in terms of
coercion, persuasion and consent as outlined in the last section of this
chapter This will allow you to structure your essay thematically,
whilst referring to both historiographical debate and challenging the
assumption in the question. The security forces are part of the general
coercive power of the state. Historians who favour the 'totalitarian'
view of communist regimes will emphasize coercion. You should be in a
position to challenge this view by recognising the extent to which the
regimes generated genuine consent among their population.
Explain the main challenges facing any two Central
and eastern European states in the transition to a post-communist
regime. Questions which ask students to 'explain' can be a banana
skin. The temptation in explaining is to get distracted into telling
stories which forget the need for analysis and evaluation. This essay
needs to be well planned. Draw up a table that allows you to identify
similarities and differences between two states in their post-communist
experience. Try to identify 'factors' that will make your essay
thematic: political, economic, social and cultural (PESC) factors will
allow you to identify a range of different types of challenge. Finally,
don't forget to identify the challenges that were most important and be
prepared to explain why you have chosen them..