Historical Writing Project

Short Paragraph Assignment

HIST 135

Northern Virginia Community College


For the course, you have to answer two short essay questions (each in a long
paragraph) before you take the midterm exam and move on to the module assignments.
The first question is: After reading chapters 11-13 in the textbook, Why did
communism change from being an attractive political ideology after World War Two to
being a political liability by the 1990s?
The second question is: After reading chapters 14-17 in the textbook, How has
democracy, as a political system, changed since 1945 with the emergence of more
independent countries in the world?
First let me make some general remarks about answering both questions, and then I
will make some specific remarks about each question.
Your answer to both questions should be in the form of a single, long paragraph of
approximately half page to maybe a page at the most. You need to make sure that
your focus is on the world and not just on North America or the Western world. This is
particularly important with the first question, as most students make the mistake of
answering only in terms of what happened in Russia and not considering what
happened throughout the world over the last fifty years. So, to repeat, for both
paragraphs focus on the entire world. Another important point to remember is that you
need to cite evidence for your conclusions, for your thesis, for both paragraphs.
Evidence could consist of historical events, persons or movements, ideas, or speeches;
whatever you can find either from the textbook or the web that supports the conclusion
that you reach. Also please be aware that there is no single right answer for each
question, but there are a variety of ways that you can answer each question. Validity is
dependent upon how much evidence you can muster for your answer.
OK, now for some specifics.
The first question asked to examine the history of communism and the communist world
since 1945. Read the question closely. In many respects it is a trick question, and I'm
not going to give away the trick. That is part of the fun of grading the paragraph.
Again, look very closely at the question and think about it. You might want to consider
the idea of the domino theory of foreign policy which was widely prevalent in the United
States in the 1950s and 60s. The domino theory held that the entire world would "go"
communist, one country at a time, like falling dominos, but then things changed in the
OK, for the second question which asks you to look at the changing nature of the
democratic world since 1945, you might first wish to approach this question from a
macro-level, from a global or United Nations perspective and then examine the
question from a regional perspective, for example, sub-Saharan Africa or North
America, and then finally from a single country's perspective. There is an awful lot of
ground that you can cover with this question, so it is absolutely paramount that you
focus on some specific thesis, or some specific point (Same advice for the first
question.) that you want to make that answers the assigned question.

Assignment developed by Prof. C. Evans of Northern Virginia Community College