December 19, 2002
Write one argumentative essay on each of the following claims. Each essay will count for exactly 50% of the exam, and you are therefore advised to devote no more than 90 MINUTES to each. An ideal essay will consist of a clear argument, supported by plentiful evidence as well as sound reasoning, and will draw both from lectures and reading assignments. It will also be nuanced and allow for the complexity of the historical phenomenon in question. One way to write a nuanced argument is to be precise about the extent to which you agree or disagree with a given claim, rather than simply arguing pro or con. Alternatively, you may wish to argue forcefully in favor or against a given statement, but in this case you should acknowledge and address possible counter-arguments.
1. One of the greatest self-congratulatory myths about Western Civilization is that it is a humanistic civilization. On the contrary, if humanism is understood as the belief that human beings can and should be masters of their fate, then the history of Western Civilization from ancient times to 1715 only confirms the virtual absence of this way of thinking.
2. Western men subjugated women completely from ancient times to 1715. During this period men managed to prevent women from having any control over or voice in politics, society or cultural and intellectual life.
Common pitfalls to avoid:
1) repeated assertions without demonstration through specific examples
2) providing more detail than is necessary to prove a given point
3) relying exclusively on class notes at the expense of the readings
4) spending too much time on style and eloquence