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History Questions and Answers on France Essay

1.How far did Napoleon Bonaparte maintain the ideals of the French Revolution during the period 1799–1815?

The key issue is the relationship between Napoleon Bonaparte and the French Revolution. ‘How far’ invites candidates to consider the extent and limits of the claim that he maintained revolutionary ideals. These ideals can be summarised quickly as ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’. The Revolution had sought greater equalisation between classes, the rule of law and the end of secular and religious privilege. The focus should be on the period from 1799 to 1915 and there is no need for long narratives of the period from 1789 as long as answers can put Napoleon into context. Napoleon maintained that he was the son of the Revolution and his Code incorporated some measures that ensured the rule of law.

He encouraged promotion by merit rather than by birth. He confirmed the changes to property ownership that had taken place. On the other hand, the Code benefited the middle classes more than the peasantry and the emphasis on authority in the family returned to pre-1789 values. His rule was authoritarian and the establishment of the Empire was a contradiction of republican principles. Opponents were prosecuted by an active police system, headed by Fouché. Government institutions were not independent and Napoleon was able to nominate those to high offices. Lesser officials, although elected, could be removed.

There is no need for long narratives of foreign policy but it will be relevant to explain how far it was driven by personal, rather than revolutionary, motives. Answers worth 22-25 will consider both sides of his rule and come to clear conclusions. 19-21 answers will be mostly secure but will miss some possible lines of discussion. 11-13 answers will show a basic knowledge of his rule but will be very narrative or descriptive, but sometimes incomplete. 14-15 can be awarded to fuller descriptions. 16-18 answers will make some salient points of comment in otherwise largely descriptive accounts.

2 How far did Napoleon Bonaparte achieve his aims in domestic policy?

The key issue is Napoleon’s success in achieving his aims in domestic policy. The question is deliberately worded to exclude discussion of foreign policy and this will be irrelevant unless referred to briefly in an introduction or conclusion. For example, a good point would be that Napoleon achieved power largely by conquest and was then was brought down by failure abroad, not by internal opposition. But this does not mean that victory and defeat abroad must be described in detail. Answers can be awarded 11-13 marks when they contain relevant but basic descriptions of domestic policy. These answers will give little consideration to Napoleon’s aims and will probably be very uncritical.

Fuller descriptions but with a similar approach can be awarded 14-15 marks. The 16-18 band will require some specific study of aims although these might be treated broadly; the description will be quite full. The discriminating factor for the 19-21 band will be the concentration on aims and their achievement although the essays will contain some gaps. For example, they might be very one-sided. More complete assessments that consider alternatives can be awarded 22-25 marks.

Napoleon aimed at personal power and he secured this from 1799, with the Consulate, and then 1804, with the Empire, until 1814. But candidates should note his abdication before his unsuccessful return. Credit will be given when candidates consider how far he wished to continue the reforms of the Revolution. He sought to maximise his support and offered promotion by merit. However, political opponents were treated harshly by the police system under Fouché. His attempts to stabilise the economy can be examined as can his relations with the Roman Catholic Church, which he stabilised. Candidates should consider the importance of the Code Napoleon.

3.The aims and methods of Cavour were completely different from those of Mazzini.’ How far do you agree with this judgement?

The key issue is the comparison of Cavour and Mazzini. Answers should be reasonably balanced in their treatment of the two men. 60:40 either way can deserve any mark band; 70:30 will normally lead to the award of one band lower than would otherwise be given. The 11-13 band will require a basic knowledge and understanding of one man. Answers in the 22-25 band will be fully comparative. They will differentiate between aims and methods and support the argument by sound knowledge. Most candidates, even in this band, can be expected to agree with the claim in the question but credit should be given to candidates who are aware of some common ground, e.g. both wished to make Italy an independent state and saw Austria as the major stumbling block. 19-21 answers will show good qualities but will be less impressive, perhaps by lacking a distinction between aims and methods or by pursuing a more uneven comparison.

There will be some comparison in the 16-18 answers but the approach will be mostly descriptive or narrative. The emphasis on narrative will probably be characteristic of answers in the 11-13 and 14-15 mark bands. In their aims, Mazzini always sought the unification of all of the Italian peninsula. Cavour began by seeking to make Piedmont a more important and extended state in northern Italy and was initially reluctant to embrace the southern states. Mazzini was a democratic republican. Cavour was a monarchist whose ideas of democracy were more limited. Mazzini wished Italians to gain independence by themselves; Cavour aimed to win European support for his designs.

In methods, Mazzini embraced revolutionary methods, for example in the 1830s and in 1848. He tried to build an alliance of all classes although he failed to do so. Cavour began by strengthening Piedmont. He opposed revolutions but manipulated plebiscites to give the appearance of popular support for his policies. Diplomacy, especially with Napoleon III of France, was a vital means of isolating Austria and supplementing the weak Piedmontese army. To the dismay of Mazzini and Garibaldi, Cavour was willing to surrender some Italian territories to gain his wider ends (Nice and Savoy to France). Although not an ally of the Roman Catholic Church, Cavour saw the importance of not alienating the papacy, unlike Mazzini.

4.How far was Napoleon Bonaparte an oppressive ruler in his domestic policies from 1799 to 1815? The key issue is the assessment of Napoleon’s domestic policies. Foreign policy will be irrelevant unless mentioned briefly in an introduction or conclusion. For the highest marks, 21 – 25, Examiners will expect answers to consider the case for and against the claim that he was oppressive, coming to a clear conclusion. For 11-13 marks, answers should be expected to demonstrate a basic knowledge and understanding of the main elements of domestic policies. Some policies might be seen by some as oppressive and by others as liberating. 1799 marks the appointment of Napoleon as First Consul after the fall of the Directory. Especially during the Consulate, he implemented many reforms such as the Code Napoleon and the Concordat (1801).

The former helped to restore administrative order to France and guaranteed certain rights but it also strengthened Napoleon’s authority. The latter was a reconciliation between France and the Papacy/Roman Catholic Church. This pleased many French people who retained their religious views but it afforded Napoleon a considerable measure of control over the Church. The Empire (1804) saw Napoleon achieve even more power and he was dominant over every aspect of French life. Candidates can explain administrative measures that cemented the authority or oppression of the Emperor. Officials were nominated rather than freely elected. The most successful candidates should be able to note and assess the reasons for the continuing opposition to Napoleon within France which was controlled to some extent by a harsh police system.

Answers worth 11-13 marks should display basically acceptable knowledge but there will be little considered assessment. 14-15 marks can be awarded to answers that are relevant and more detailed but still more dependent on narrative and description than assessment and comparison. 16-17 marks might be awarded to answers that contain more analysis and assessment but where the assessment might be largely implicit. 18- 20 marks will be appropriate for answers that focus on the key issue but in which there is evident imbalance and unevenness. The discriminating factor in the 21-25 mark answers might well be their success in providing convincing assessments.

5.‘From 1789 to 1799, who posed the more dangerous threats to the French Revolution: its internal or its external enemies? The key issue is the threats or dangers to the French Revolution. Candidates should note that the question ends in 1799 with the coup d’état of Brumaire, the end of the Directory, and Napoleon’s accession to the Consulate. No particular ceilings are suggested for incomplete answers but answers that end in 1794-95 with the fall of the Jacobins might be worth at least one band lower than would otherwise be awarded. Candidates should consider both internal and external threats. Answers that discuss only one aspect and completely ignore the other cannot expect more than a mark in a middle band.

However, examiners will not look for an even balance in even the best essays; a reasonable balance but one that is weighted to one side can score very highly. The quality of the argument will be of prior importance. Internal enemies included the King and court to Louis’ execution in 1793. His recognition of the Revolution, and the concessions that he agreed, were half-hearted. Royalists within France and those who left the country (émigrés) continued to agitate. The influential Church was hostile. Conservative regions of France, especially the more rural areas, were hostile to the changes, such as the Vendée. From 1795, the Directory tried to draw back from the alleged excesses of previous years but was unsuccessful in controlling disorder until the advent of Napoleon.

France had to face foreign enemies from the inception of the Revolution and open war broke out in 1792 against Austria and Prussia. The danger of overwhelming defeat and the fall of the Revolution seemed very real. Foreign enemies later included Britain, Holland and Spain. Although unsuccessful at home, the Directory had more success abroad, especially through the victories of Napoleon in Italy. Weak answers will probably be vague about the threats and might be confined to very general accounts of the Revolution. Answers in the middle bands might focus on threats but deal with them in a highly descriptive manner, lacking assessment and comparison. The most successful answers can be expected to be analytical, focused on assessment and supported by appropriate factual knowledge

Why did Louis XVI’s policies from 1789 fail to prevent his execution in 1793? 
The key issue is the assessment of Louis XVI’s policies as a reason for his execution. The question asks ‘Why…?’ and examiners will award the highest marks to answers that are analytical, providing a series of reasons for the execution of Louis XVI. However, excellent answers can be organised chronologically because the period from 1789 to 1793 saw many changes that can be examined sequentially. Candidates might examine his reluctance to accept the comparatively moderate changes that were demanded by the Third Estate in 1789. He sided with the First and Second Estates until he was forced to concede.

He was forced to accept the Declaration of Rights and the Civil Constitution of the clergy. Suspicions that he wanted to overturn the concessions, probably with foreign assistance, were reinforced when he fled to Varennes. Answers in Band I should also consider the impact of other factors that led to the King’s execution. These included a worsening economic situation and the rise of political radicalism, leading eventually to the (brief) triumph of Robespierre and the Jacobins, who were directly responsible for Louis XVI’s execution. War and counter-revolution in the provinces threatened the gains of the Revolution and had an impact on the King’s situation. The Grand Peur, the Terror and the influence of Paris and the sans-culottes might be seen as evidence of the burgeoning influence of the urban lower classes. Some candidates might consider the reputation of the Queen, Marie Antoinette, and the royalist supporters.

7. ‘The divisions among the revolutionaries were the most important reason why Austria was able to suppress the revolutions in Italy and Germany in 1848–49.’ How far do you agree with this claim? 
 The key issue is the reason for the failure of the revolutions of 1848–49 in Italy and Germany. Examiners will expect a reasonable balance in the discussion of the two regions for marks in Bands 1 and 2 (18–20; 21–25). 60:40 either way will be acceptable. An understanding of the revolutions in one region will be required for Band 5 (11–13). Candidates can argue that other factors were more important than divisions among the revolutionaries, for example Austrian military power, but the stated factor should normally be given some attention for Band 5. In Italy, the revolutionaries had different aims.

For some, local grievances were most important. For example, Sicily resented rule by Naples. Mazzini and Garibaldi aimed at wider issues when they established the Roman Republic. Piedmont’s leaders had a different agenda. In Germany, Liberals demanded constitutional reform but disagreements appeared, for example over the role of Prussia. There was no coordination between the movements. Religious divisions between Catholics and Protestants were important. Candidates might explain the failure of the Frankfurt Parliament. On the other hand, Austria’s army was stronger than any force that the revolutionaries could muster. Their generals were more capable; answers might mention Radetsky in Italy.

8. How far did Napoleon Bonaparte ensure liberty and equality in his domestic government of France? 
The key issue is the nature of Napoleon’s government of France. The question clearly refers to domestic issues; discussions of foreign policy or the impact of Napoleon’s rule on other countries will not be relevant unless they are a brief part of introductions or conclusions. One would expect answers in Bands 1 (21–25) and 2 (18–20) to consider arguments for and against Napoleon’s support for liberty and equality. However, examiners should not require an equal balance. The balance will reflect the argument. For example, it might reject ’liberal’ measures as of minor importance.

Answers in other Bands might plump for an argument that accepts or rejects ’liberty and equality;’ without considering the alternative at all. It will be relevant to discuss the Code Napoleon (1804), an attempt to unify the diverse laws of France. Its confirmation of equality before the law and the end of privilege, and religious toleration would point towards Napoleon’s liberalism. Careers were open to talent. However, associations of workers were banned and women were given fewer rights than men. Napoleon kept a tight hold on power through his autocratic rule. Officials were nominated and the Empire ensured Napoleon’s personal rule. Opposition was suppressed and reference might be made to the work of Fouché as Minister of Police. Equality was limited by the restriction of promotion to Napoleon’s supporters.

9. Why was Napoleon Bonaparte able to become Emperor of France? 
The key issue is the creation of the Empire by Napoleon Bonaparte. The Question asks ‘Why’ and examiners will be looking for analysis when awarding the two highest Bands. It will be relevant to explain the background to Napoleon’s rise to show his appeal after the instability of the previous decade. However, surveys need to be linked to the Empire to get a high reward. Napoleon offered military success in the revolutionary wars especially against Austria; the failure of the Egyptian campaign was offset by propaganda. He also gained support because of his ability to put down insurrection and disorder within France.

He managed to out manoeuvre colleagues in the Consulate and caught the imagination of France by establishing the Empire, promising to safeguard the ideals of the Revolution and maintain order. He had pursued populist policies, for example in the Codes and through the Concordat. War was not a heavy expense for the French people but made Napoleon‘s reputation. Even the Egyptian expedition did not reflect badly on him. It will not be necessary, and probably irrelevant, to narrate the developments of foreign relations and campaigns but candidates can point out the resulting popularity within France. Although the Empire contradicted the republicanism that was at the heart of the French Revolution from 1792, it promised to maintain the ideals of the Revolution whilst, at the same time, ensuring order and efficiency. Some, such as extreme royalists and Jacobins, were not reconciled but Napoleon’s autocracy and the establishment of the Empire were not seriously threatened by other people or alternative ideas.

10 How far was France a police state under Napoleon Bonaparte from 1799 to 1814? 
The key issue is in the phrase ‘police state’. The question asks ‘How far..?’ and candidates should examine both the extent and limits of the claim. However, examiners will not expect balanced answers. The French were completely free under Napoleon but many candidates might judge that France was indeed a police state and therefore devote most of their time to this argument. An uncritical acceptance of this view might be worth up to Band 2 (and Band 1 might be achieved by excellent discussions) but normally answers in the highest band might be expected to consider both sides. Napoleon seized power in 1799, reduced the other Consuls to impotence and then declared himself Emperor in 1804.

Although these changes were approved by plebiscites, and were genuinely supported by most French people, they represented authoritarian rule and the results of the plebiscites were rigged to produce even larger majorities in favour. Fouché headed the Ministry of Police. Letters of arrest very similar to the Bourbons’ lettres de cachet were used. Opponents were detained. The press was heavily censored and the state itself engaged in widespread propaganda.

Napoleon’s governments under the Consulate and Empire gave him considerable power over central and local administration. The Codes might have guaranteed some freedoms but they were also a device to bring order and obedience to France. The Concordat with the Papacy (1801) recognised the need to conciliate the Roman Catholic Church and it also allowed some toleration to Protestants but its justification to Napoleon was political rather than moral. On the other hand, it can be argued that police action was not indiscriminate. Many French people found conditions improving. There is no need to compare Napoleon’s rule with other revolutionary regimes (or other police states) but brief comparisons can be given credit.

11Why was Louis XVI executed in 1793? 
The key issue is the reasons for Louis XVI’s execution. The question asks ‘Why?’ and candidates should provide a series of reasons. Most candidates can be expected to begin in 1789. It will be difficult to make material before 1789 relevant. Some might take a narrower approach with the rise of the Jacobins. As always, the main criterion in assessment will be the quality of the argument. The question can be tackled chronologically. It is easy to underestimate the support for Louis XVI in 1789. The decision to convene the Estates General was popular. The number of republicans was negligible.

Nevertheless, his popularity continued to decline until his execution at a time when few monarchists in France dared to protest. Louis’ personality can be examined. He was well-meaning but lacked political skills. He had a strong sense of duty and monarchical obligation. He believed in divine right. Together, these made him reluctant to accept the (comparatively moderate) reforms that were demanded, such as the issue of voting in the Estates General, the August Decrees and Declaration of Rights, until he was forced into concessions, which consequently made him less, not more, popular. His defence of privileged classes was an important factor. He held out against the Civil Constitution.

There were suspicions, not wholly unfounded, that he was angling for foreign intervention to regain power. The King was seen as sympathetic to the émigrés. Whatever the truth about Marie Antoinette’s attitudes and actions, she was widely hated. The ill-fated flight to Varennes can be examined. It will be very relevant to show how extremists hijacked the Revolution. The dangers from war, internal unrest as in the Vendée, and economic pressures led to the victory of extremists such as Robespierre and the defeat of moderate revolutionary forces. Louis’ execution was important in its own right but it was also a reflection of rivalries between different groups of radicals.

12 Who of Cavour, Garibaldi and Mazzini contributed most to the unification of Italy by 1871? 
The key issue is the comparative contributions of three leaders of Italian unification. Band 5 (11–13) will need a basic understanding of the work of one man. However, even the best answers do not need to show an even balance between the three. Candidates can spend most time on their preferred choice but answers in the two highest bands will need a sound knowledge and understanding of all three. There is a comparative element in the question (‘contributed…most’) and answers in Band 1 (21–25) will be clear when offering their reasons. Answers in lower bands might be relevant, well informed and clearly argued but they will probably not justify their choice.

A problem might be when candidates interpret the question as an invitation to write about only one leader – the most important. These answers might show the candidates to be capable of writing well but they will be incomplete. Such answers might be limited to a ceiling in Band 3 (16–17) although, as always, the overriding factor will be the quality of the argument. Cavour laid a firm foundation for unification by re-organising Piedmont. He was a successful politician who managed Piedmont with a combination of skill and bribery. He was a realist and ensured that he obtained foreign assistance, especially from Napoleon III’s France, before confronting Austria.

He preferred to extend Piedmont’s influence by plebiscites, apparently democratic but actually carefully managed. It might be argued that unification went further than he intended but his acceptance of Garibaldi’s gains in the south confirmed his pragmatism and he was careful not to confront the Papacy. By the time of his death (1861), Italy was unified with the exceptions of Venetia and Rome. Garibaldi made his name in Italy and outside by his contribution to the failed revolutions of 1848–49. He did as much as anybody to popularise the cause of Italian unification.

The 1860 invasion of the south was successful militarily and had knock-on effects by forcing Cavour to recognise the momentum of pressure for a larger Italy. Although his later career was less successful, his particular claims were to push for the unification of the peninsula as a whole and to win the support of the lower orders. Mazzini led the cause in the 1830s and 1840s, for example through the Carbonari and the 1848–49 revolutions. It might be claimed that his ideas were unrealistic: a secular democracy achieved by Italians alone. However, although he was to be less successful in practical terms than either Cavour or Garibaldi, his claim to have been the most important contributor depends largely on the way in which he began the struggle. Except for the monarchy, the final shape of Italy closely resembled his programme.

2 Was Robespierre more a success or a failure than a revolutionary leader?

Robespierre soon gained a reputation in the Estates General of 1789 as a lawyer who defended the interests of the poor. He became a leader of the Jacobins and was one of the first to demand the establishment of a republic and the execution of King Louis XVI after the Flight to Varennes (1791). He opposed the war in 1792 because he feared that it would result in the rise of a dictator. Robespierre and the Jacobins (or Montagnards/Mountain Men) defeated the Girondins and dominated the new Committee of Public Safety (1793-95). While in a dominant position, he did not merely seek power for himself and was believed not to be corrupted by power or wealth. He was the ‘Incorruptible’. He believed the problems facing the republic (including external war, internal counter-revolutionary groups and inflation) could only be solved through the use of terror.

The terror acted against real and suspected enemies of the revolution and extended into every corner of France. Victims were mostly the aristocracy, bourgeoisie and members of the clergy but also included members of other classes. In all, perhaps 40,000 people were executed. Robespierre advocated a Republic of Virtue. He took the anti-clerical policies of the revolution further by inaugurating the cult of the Supreme Being, based on Reason. He also took severe steps to solve the dual problems of inflation and food shortages.

Assignats and price fixing were introduced but both were unsuccessful. Robespierre took on board Carnot’s proposals for mass conscription to fight the war against counter-revolutionary kingdoms. By 1794, the opposition was able to gather sufficient support to bring him down and he was executed. Answers in the higher bands will consider both successes and failures although answers need not be evenly balanced because arguments can stress either. Was he more a success than a failure? Successes might be seen in the defeat of counter-revolution from within and outside France. The establishment of the republic was a short-term success. Robespierre’s leadership of war was decisive. Failures might include the brief period of his rule. Enemies were paralysed briefly. His socio-religious and economic policies did not work.

14 ‘Italian unification was more a victory for Piedmont’s power than for nationalism.’ How far do you agree with this claim? After 1815, Piedmont emerged as the major Italian state to oppose Austria’s power in Italy. However, its leadership was not accepted universally and was unpopular in some quarters. Other places with their leaders had claims, e.g. Rome and Venice. Charles Albert of Piedmont played a controversial role in 1848, seeming to lead the resistance to Austria but in the narrower interests of Piedmont and being willing to exploit the problems of risings elsewhere. After 1848 and under Victor Emmanuel, Piedmont became the more obvious candidate for leadership of Italy.

It was independent of Austrian influence, with a constitution including the Statuto, was the wealthiest state in Italy and possessed an army which, although not equal to that of Austria, was stronger than that of other Italian states. Responses might build on this to examine the particular role of Cavour. He aimed to modernise Piedmont and then win allies to help to weaken Austria. By his death in 1861 his policies were successful in expanding Piedmont’s role in the north and in the Duchies. Garibaldi’s success in the south led him to go further than he probably wanted. But by 1861 Venetia and Rome were still outside the new kingdom of Italy in which Piedmont was the most powerful state.

Italian nationalism was diverse in its aims. Mazzini aimed at the unification of the entire peninsula but he was foiled in the 1830s and in 1848-49. Other leaders such as Manin in Venice and, briefly, the Pope in 1848-49 had very limited success. None of these gained universal support from inside or outside Italy and crucially lacked military power. However, the role of nationalists, especially Garibaldi, should not be underestimated. Garibaldi played a crucial role in Cavour’s later years and he continued to aim at the incorporation of Rome. Candidates might point out that the final stages of unification (Venetia in 1866 and Rome in 1870) owed little to either Piedmont or to other Italian nationalists. To achieve the highest bands answers need not be evenly balanced between Piedmont and nationalism but should be sound on each.


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