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Scade last won the day on February 13 2011

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  1. Scade

    The Oxbridge Guide

    Just a note, as people have been talking about the IB offers. While Cambridge generally gives slightly harder offers it also varies according to course and college rather significantly. For example Christ's is one of the colleges that give generally the hardest offers. However, I have to say that you should choose your university and college for other reasons (obviously keeping in mind what you can achieve) since there are also large differences in course content in the two universities. @Desy, I hate to be harsh, but with that attitude I wouldn't necesssarily apply to Oxbridge. University in general, and Oxbridge especially is about having to learn the stuff for yourself, rather than being guided on how to do it. Obviously you get supervisions and lectures, but lectures really cover the more basic information, and supervisions are to go through your work and mistakes. For either of them to be advantageous you will have to have a lot of self-discipline and be able to learn individually (ie. picking up a book, and reading it, or going through the problems on your own or whatever), that is the core of the learning process at Oxbridge, your academics won't be guiding you through everything, as it is assumed that you are smart and motivated (ie. both capable and willing of learning on your own), and they just push you that extra bit/give the elementary knowledge you need.
  2. Scade

    The Oxbridge Guide

    As said above, in order to get in, you must be interviewed (I don't know if there are any extreme cases where they wouldn't, but its safe to asssume that there aren't). If you're from Europe, chances are that you will have to fly to England and have your interview at Cambridge or Oxford. I don't know if it is possible to arrange for a skype interview, might be possible, but not sure. With extra-European students they tend to have interviews at specific locations, for example Singapore, or Hong Kong (just examples, don't know precisely), as opposed to the interviewers flying around the world after individual applicants.
  3. Scade

    Bolshevik Revolution

    Well, there are obviously differing interpretations on the Treaty of Brest-Litovks. However, I would be very careful about advocating the view that peace was forced on Russia. The Bolshevik party largely gained their success through their promises of peace and the condemnation of the continuation of war by the Provisional Government. Hence, peace was certainly on their agenda. On the other hand, it might be said that the specific and rather harsh clauses were indeed forced on the Bolsheviks. It was especially Trotsky who was responsible for the peace negotiations. In many ways his strategy can be seen as that of trying to buy time and neither saying yes or no to the peace, however, German impatience and their further advances made this impossible, and the Bolsheviks had to concede to a peace perhaps on harsher terms than they'd wished. On the grand scale, this did not matter in their eyes, as advocates of 'permanent revolution' (Trotsky), and in the hope of an international uprising by workers, they perceived that in the end things would turn their way.
  4. 'To what extent was Hitler’s Nazi-Soviet Pact merely a continuation of Bismarck’s foreign policy?' You could reformulate, or redirect this question in many ways. I'm not saying that you should. Fundamentally I think your approach boils down to the fact whether Hitler's foreign policy was a continuation of Bismarck's idea of the balance of power. It is easy to see that at least in one fundamental way they differed, whereas Bismarck believed that due to the power and disruptive nature of the new German nature they should be punching below their weight, and Hitler basically believed the opposite. Therefore I think that in many ways it is hard to say that they were following the same things. Hmm, somehow I turned into giving my answer instead of proposing ideas, but I guess my point is that you might want to slightly alter your approach because the answer seems rather obvious. You might want to do something on 'To what extent did Hitler follow the principles and methods of Bismarck's foreign policy?', it might give a little more interest to your topic since you would be able to maybe argue that while he adopted some methods, his principles were different or something like that. One other idea is that instead of Bismarck, to what extent was Hitler following the principles of the Schlieffen plan. If you don't know the Schlieffen plan was a strategy formulated by some members of the German General staff on how they might fight a possible war on two fronts. This was done before WWI, and there is some (well a lot of) debate on whether the plan was followed, intended as a blueprint, or just a general idea, etc. However, I think it might provide an interesting approach to Hitler's foreign policy, since I believe its fundamental idea is that Germany should knock-out France and then turn towards Russia. Therefore you might argue that the Molotov-Ribbentrop was a way of buying the time to do this without Russia starting to mobilize and so on. However, it is your own EE, and I'm sure you will eventually find out for yourself what you want to do. The difficult thing in giving advice to others on their topics is that people (well certainly I) tend to direct towards the kind of stuff they would do, but not necessarily what you would do. Oh and the debate on whether the topic is too narrow or broad, again slightly a matter of tase, but also the fact that we haven't tried how well it fits into 4000 words, that's your job, and if it doesn't you can always modify your approach. However, 4000 isn't that long, and in an EE where you analyze stuff in detail and length the topic has to be surprisingly narrow.
  5. The first question is definitely too broad, and not framed in a way that would allow for detailed enough analysis, and I am afraid that it would be a failure. Instead if you want to do something on opportunism, you should pick some figure and assess whether he was one, or was following a detailed programme. Then again, doing this on Lenin/Stalin/Hitler (or any of the common leaders) would not be very original, and possible too broad. 2nd question, again too broad. With the EE you have to concern yourself with the specifics. Anyway, trying to find a general theory of history or something like that is bound to be a failure. Again, look at one war, and one aspect of social change (preferably in only one or two countries), eg. WWI on women/family/gender. 3rd question, again too broad, not very original or anything. It seems to me that all the first three questions are more like something you would find in an IB exam, not in your EE. The two are not the same thing. While the EE might prove helpful for your exam, it is through investigating something in detail, not just trying to kill two birds with one stone and doing an 'exam question' as your EE. Likely you will fail in your EE and the exam question won't even turn up. The 4th question is again too broad. No way you will be able to sufficiently deal with a topic like that in 4000 words (yes in an exam you might be able to provide an answer, but this is different) In fact, I think I will be repeating this for almost all of the questions. The last one does have some potential, but again might be too broad. The Versailles treaty might be doable, but I'd refine it more. All in all, you have some general good ideas on what kind of things you want to investigate. The thing is that you have to do that through specifics. Therefore you should try to zoom into the specifics, keeping your general ideas in mind, but do them in a much more constrained context. There is no other way you will be able to deal with them succesfully in an EE.
  6. I wouldn't do the one asking how their personal beliefs led to revolutions as I think that it is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that the Russian/French revolutions were majorly caused by them. It is definitely better, and I don't think it is more challenging, to look at the image created of them in the public. I have to say that I am slightly doubtful about whether you should do a comparative EE, or just concentrate on one of them. It might limit your analysis slightly as you have to deal with two figures, and I am afraid that the examiner might think that it is slightly simplistic, because you would really have to stay away from the 'bad wives of rulers cause revolutions' approach. However, at least for the tsarina there should be plenty of material to dig into. You would obviously have to look at the whole Rasputin affair and stuff like that. I still think that it would be good to incorporate her personal beliefs and the letters, etc. she wrote (going a bit against what I said above ), because they provide really good primary source material, which should make your essay seem more sophisticated. I might even go for something like 'How did the attitudes and actions of the Tsarina affect the public image of the Tsarist rule?'. See what your history teacher thinks about the comparative approach, maybe I am just being too condemning. However, I think that the topic I proposed would allow you to explore a wealth of material and dig into your own interests, there are plenty of cases you can incorporate, and in my opinion the topic is significant enough to be explored, and I definitely think that there should be enough to say with only one case, but that is your own judgment.
  7. Choosing the topic is always going to be difficult, and it will shape as you go on. I can't say that I was any better, I completely changed my topic a week before the final submission of the EE. Thinking about diaries/letters and your interest in Russia one thing instantly jumps to my mind. The Tsarina wrote many letters to the Queen of England (they were related, although I don't remember exactly how) where she discussed the status and role of the Tsar and his family in Russia and made some comparisons to the corresponding role in England. I don't know where you can get access to this letters (they were written in English so that shouldn't be a problem), but I imagine that they should be printed somewhere. You might also use the diaries of Tsar Nicholas II, on many occasions it is interesting on how he concerns himself with trivial issues while there are huge changes going on. The topic might be something about looking at the private attitudes of the tsarist family and how it might have been a problem for their own rule. With diaries and letters you have to bear in mind that while the might seem more earnest and honest they are also a place where people vent out their feelings, etc. So you really need to pay attention in the analysis of their nature, and not just take for granted that they are more accurate. Think about the audience they are writing to (diaries are not only made for the people themselves, especially those of the famous people). If you want to do something more historiographical, or related to views of Lenin or changing histories of the USSR, I would recommend using the material to look at what it tells about the changes in the regime. In a way all the leaders used to say that they were the ones really going back to Lenin and so on. You might want to look at how history writing in the USSR changed after Khrushchev's de-Stalinization speech, or how Gorbachev's glasnost changed the historiographical debate and so on. In terms of reading and who you might want to look for ideas, I think the two historians you might be most interested in are Orlando Figes and Stephen Kotkin (from those I have encountered), as they are the two rather big figures who write also on a more personal level. Figes's A People's Tragedy and The Whisperers are both fantastic works. The first one looks at the Russian revolution on a broad scale, but at the same time zooms into how it changed the lives of individuals. The second one is a work concernign the Stalinist repression and how private families and persons coped. Of Kotkin's works The Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as civilization is an absolutely fantastic work about the construction and complexities of the Magnitogorsk steel plant (might sound a bit dry at first), but he deals with the topic in an engaging and brilliant way, with some very revealing insights and so on. His other works Steeltown goes into the Gorbachev era, also from the perspective of Magnitogorks. Both Kotkin and Figes are absolutely brilliant in the way they write, and their work is enjoyable to read. Obviously these are western historians, not really relating to your topic that well. There's some ideas on how you might develop your original ideas.
  8. Scade

    Tongzhi Restoration vs Meiji Restoration

    Being absolutely ignorant about Japanese history I maybe shouldn't dip into this, but well I can't resist Just looking at the question it does sound like a rather broad topic so I would narrow it down. Just look at the format in which you're supposed to do your IA; it places huge limits on the topic. Secondly, you should be thinking about sources. What kind of source material are you planning to use? It doesn't really seem like your topic gives chances for an extensive treatment and comparison of various sources. I would definitely recommend a topic which allows you to use primary source(s). And yeah, the answer to your question should not be obvious. You need to give things a bit of twist to be in the top margin. If the answer is somehow obvious, your topic should have some other kind of novelty or significance, which would be using interesting sources from an unexpected angle, but might arrive at a more or less obvious conclusion. Perhaps not to abandon the idea completely, you might want to take a look of some works on the topic, which might give you more ideas and get you towards more original thinking. Perhaps find some one aspect, which you could compare, or examine something else than simply the effectiveness of the two restorations, but still compare the two (if you absolutely want to be doing something comparative).
  9. Well I'm not that surprised you haven't heard of it, and wouldn't worry about it. It isn't really the standard thing paraded in books that most IB-students would be using for history, and it isn't something your history teacher might bring up. Many don't seem to give much attention to it actually, while it is in certain ways understandable, it is a shame, because it helps shed light on the Tsarist system (something that often seems to miss from accounts explaining the February revolution). Because of that it would be a good topic since it is a rather novel one, but there still should be material on it and even if there isn't it is something that is rather easy to weave into the general line. Something you might also want to think about is the whole rural vs. urban situation in pre-1917 Russia (and why not afterwards). It would be interesting to look at the fact that since about 1880-90 (if I remember correctly) rural education jumped up. As it is argued this developed a novel way of thinking amongst the younger peasants, emphasizing modernity instead of the rural backwardness and promoted abstract thought. Consequently it would be the same generation that most fully engaged in seasonal work in industry and the larger urban centres. This brought about a whole new exchange between rural and urban values, also adding to the unrest, etc. Really, you can choose almost any aspect, and just shape the approach so that it interests you. The disdain towards military and labour discipline among rural workers not used to such things, the way in which the Tsarist police system affected the actions of the Bolshevik revolutionaries (some argue that the brutality they experienced made them more brutal in turn, others that they disdained the lax system where they were allowed to read books and enjoy relative comfort while in prison and were determined not to repeat this mistake, etc.). Those are just some ideas, there is an absolute wealth of material you can dip into according to your interestes. Be bold, but bear in mind your limitations (access to sources, and so on). I'm rather tired so these are just some suggestions, not really developed to any extent, but things I've encountered while studying the Russian revolution.
  10. Well, of those I only really have knowledge of the Russian revolution. There is definitely plenty to choose from if you want to look at the portrayal of history, mental factors, and its relevance to the present day. The communist propaganda is a rather straightforward topic so I might shy away from that and do something more original. One idea would be looking at the Tsarist era. I might especially consider the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty and its celebrations. There is plenty to dig in with this topic, as it was a magnificent propaganda event, but really only seemed to assure the Tsarist family, and not the people. There were active attempts at trying to reinvent the past, and emphasize the idea of a 'Good Tsar' and his people, etc. What you want to do with the topic in the end (if you choose to do something along these lines) is obviously up to you, I am not going to give a ready made question, as I have no doubt that you will be able to come up with something you will have more ideas about and more interested in. I would suggest just doing some reading first, and then think about your final question instead of deciding a question first only to notice that it doesn't really fit the topic. I would suggest that you start with Orlando Figes's A People's Strategy to begin with. The first couple of chapters or so are especially relevant. I'm slightly busy now, but I can try to think more books to suggest later on. Obviously it is also a good idea to look at what works Figes himself has used, and so on. Anyway, as we're talking about Russian revolution there will be plenty of interpretations by various historians, and you will need to get to grips with at least a couple of them. I think that I have some other ideas besides this one, but I'll formulate them later on.
  11. As said above, there is no point in taking 9 subjects, it is hardly worth it and won't really add that much to your university application. Instead consider which subjects you like the most and are the most relevant for your future university studies. Seeing that you want to study English I don't see any point in studying three sciences, and since the workload seems to be too much for you just drop them. Instead of trying to be good at everything, concentrate in excelling in fewer subjects. Although I might have somehow misunderstood your subject presentation, I don't think there is HL TOK (at least not when I was doing IB), but its same for all. When it comes to tips about relaxing, well I don't know how helpful I can be since I did the normal 6 subjects. In general I didn't find IB too difficult or stressful (the workload at Cambridge has definitely put anything I did during the IB into perspective). However, the key thing in my opinion is to balance your work and free-time well. And as harsh as this might sound, you don't need to do all tasks perfectly, learn to put more effort into stuff that actually matters, and some stuff you can just do more quickly and with less effort. Save your strength for the final year, no need to exhaust yourself during IB1.
  12. Scade

    Questions about IB

    IB definitely isn't that hard. I didn't have to do any all-nighters and things worked out fine for me. When it comes to social life, I kept doing plenty of stuff, going out, partying and all other kinds of stuff, so IB didn't really prevent me doing any of that. In fact, I would say that if you have a balanced social life and do your work sensibly you will probably do better in the IB, than if you just work frantically all the time. Some people did that, and seemed really exhausted by the end of it, whereas I enjoyed my time and was able to put effort into the right things.
  13. Scade

    HI Topics

    The first question is too broad in my opinion, and I don't recommend dividing your IA question into two parts, you have barely enough space to answer one question. As has been mentioned, you have to be careful with the 10 year rule. If you want to do something along those lines I would recommend that you look at Reagan, Gorbachev or Bush (I would choose only one of them due to space limitations), and analyze the way in which the chosen person attempted to portray the end of the Cold War, and how well was his interpretation received, and did it help the chosen person in his domestic policies, etc. Don't know about Bush or Reagan, but at least with Gorbachev the end of the Cold War was clearly domestically damaging to him, while abroad he obtained a lot of popularity, etc. I guess Reagan would be an interesting case, since there is a clear (while not necessarily accurate) historical interpretation that his hard line brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union, and I imagine this is something used to his credit, etc. The second question, again, is in my opinion too broad. While it is difficult to look at Glasnost and perestroika separately, doing both of them is probably too much. You won't be able to go into enough detail, and sufficient analysis. There is a ton of material on this period so you should definitely seek to narrow your topic down. Maybe do some reading, and then see if there are any points you are particularly interested in (having recently done an essay on Gorbachev and the downfall of communism, I have a rather extensive range of books I could recommend to you). If you want to combine the foreign and domestic policies you're looking at in your two questions you might investigate to what extent Gorbachev's foreign policies (successes?) brought about his (and communism's downfall). Here you might either have a more power political approach, looking at how the more staunch communists became more and more disillusioned with Gorbachev's foreign policy and eventually reacted against him. As a consequence of the August coup, the communist party lost its remaining credibility, and so on. So you'd basically have to evaluate how strongly were the communists reacting specifically to his foreign policies and the loss of the satellite countries, or were they just another bit along his domestic policies. You might also take a more structural/ideological approach. Since letting Eastern Europe decide for itself basically meant giving up two important communist principles - the leadership of the party, and the world revolution - this also meant the dismantling of communism. As the nationalist groups of the Baltic states, Ukraine, etc. demanded that this be imitated at home (actually the clause about the leadership of the party was removed already earlier), it eventually came to mean the dismantling of the whole regime. Now that I think of it, it might be a good idea to look at the removal of the clause about the leadership of the party, and what it came to mean for communism in the Soviet Union. If I remember correctly, Archie Brown argued in his book The Gorbachev Factor that actually Gorbachev was abandoning all the chief principles of communism one by one. This would provide a good ground for historiography, give you some nice primary sources as I'm sure that there should be some primary sources available concerning the clause and its removal. On the other hand, if you're still keen with perestroika and glasnost, I might recommend reading Gorbachev's own formulation of one of them, and look at its implications on the Communist ideology and so on. So yeah, in general whatever you do there are a couple of things you might want to keep in mind. Be specific, formulate a question that allows you to specifically focus on some person/event/source, and then use that to highlight wider implications, try not to have a broad unfocused question. Think about the sources when choosing the topic. Evaluation of the sources forms an important part of the IA, so you should try to have at least some contemporary sources (I don't really like the term primary, since it mostly leads to confusion) that you can then compare with various interpretations. As you're doing a rather political/ideological topic speeches should be good, various formulations by the key figures and obviously the specific political amendments etc, interviews (not exactly contemporary, but good enough), and so on. Always keep historiography in mind, whatever you do try to bring in various views and compare and evaluate them.
  14. Scade

    Soviet Union in Animal Farm

    I believe the question to what extent was cold war interrupted by the second world war to be a valid one. You might want to be aware of the interpretation that the cold war really started in 1917, not post-WWII. There would be plenty of evidence to support this: foreign involvement in Russian civil war, the Soviet attempts at world revolution, Stalin's 'socialism in one country' and his statements on the need to catch up with the west, the popular front governments formed after Hitler's rise to power, involvement in the Spanish civil war, etc. etc. However, I do not believe that the interpretation is completely accurate, just saying that it does have some solid points. When it comes to formulating the question I suggest you try to narrow it down a bit more, since the IA is a rather concentrated piece of work, and I believe that you would have difficulties in dealing with such complex interpretations involving a vast range of historical material. If you want to continue along the lines of the Cold War and the way in which it goes back to 1917 I might recommend that you choose a more limited approach. Concentrate on one event/historical figure or something along those lines. With this in mind I would either suggest something related to the early stages of the revolution and the civil war, or something related to Stalin's policies. But yeah, I guess you should figure that out on your own/with your teacher, but I'm happy to comment/develop ideas. When it comes to your original question, I did my IA on the accuracy of the portrayal of the February revolution in Eisenstein's film October. However, that had the wider implications of how it related to Soviet ideas, propaganda, etc. In that way Orwell's Animal Farm might be a bit more difficult. Simply looking at the accuracy of the novel is not going to produce great results, and might borderline on not being historical enough (the IBO can be bitchy when it comes to IA's not clearly falling into the subject category). So I suggest that you try to find something more concrete on the Animal Farm if you really want to do that. You might want to look at the context in which it was written and published, its reception, etc. How it falls into the international debate about the Soviet Union, and so on. In this way you might even combine the two approaches, looking at the development of cold war atmosphere through the kind of literature published or something.
  15. Scade

    History SL/HL Help

    My favorite books my teacher has had us study from for Russian history are: Reaction and Revolution: Russia 1894-1924 by Michael LynchThe Great Powers 1814-1914 by Eric Wilmot (this isn't all about Russia, but it's got some important stuff)Communist Russia under Lenin and Stalin by Chris Corin and Terry Fiehn But since Scade is in college, I bet he's got some more suggestions... These are just the one's I used (I also used Hobsbawm Well since I just happen to be in the middle of an essay on Russian revolution I happen to have a plethora of books I could recommend. However, I'll try to keep it short. Also last week I did an essay on Gorbachev so if you need advice for later period I'll happily give that too, and earlier this term I covered Stalinism, so mainly Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras aren't my thing. I will probably end up listing an excessive amount of books, since it is rather easy to forget that after all you're doing six subjects and history is not your only concern. I would definitely start with Robert Service's A History of Twentieth Century Russia. (Or whatever the title is now, as it keeps changing with new editions, anyway a fairly recent overview of Russian history by Service who is one of the best in the field). Looking at the revolution itself. Sheila Fitzpatrick's S. Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution. This is a classic revisionist work of the field offering some original, striking and quality analysis as well as a good general overview of the period (and it is not too long either!) Orlando Figes's A People's Tragedy is a magisterial work on the topic, but unfortunately also magisterial in size. If you can find it in a library (and any relatively well stocked university library/equivalent should have it) I'd recommend taking a look at it. It's a very enjoyable read, but you might not want to go through the whole of, just look at his argument so you can use it for your essays/stuff. Richard Pipes is the conservative fiercely anti-communist historian of the field, I cannot agree with most of his conclusions and interpretations, but knowing what he says is good, at least for countering his arguments. There should be at least some books that should suffice for the era of the Russian revolution (and most likely well exceed what is demanded). Robert Service is definitely a good bet, because his book covers the whole Soviet period rather plausibly. As I said before, if you want more books on this period just ask. Also just ask if you're doing more on Russian history esp. Stalin and Gorbachev, (the Fitzpatrick book should be pretty good for Stalin also, as her interpretation is that the revolution only ended in the purges of the 1937 and therefore she included collectivization and industrialization in her book). When it comes to the Cold War, it isn't really my special are, but I'll have a go. John Lewis Gaddis's book The Cold War is a decent book to start with, especially his treatment of the origins is plausible (that is really the only period that I have studied). However, he is slightly biased by his western perspective. Not always in interpreting events in favour of the West, but more because he simply doesn't deal that well with the Soviet Union imo. However, in a week or so I'll be doing an essay on the Marshall plan, and European economic recovery so if that falls in your areas of interest I'll be able to give some advice. Also his book We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History is a good one. Tony Judt's Postwar is an amazing book basically covering Europe from 1945 up to 2000 or so. He writes very well, is enjoyable to read and is always high quality in analysis. However, his focus is on Europe, not Cold War per se. I also have to advertise David Reynolds's books, after all he is a fellow at my college, his One World Divisible is a good global history of the period 1945 onwards. Also he has done some work on cold war, for example From World War to Cold War. These are some overviews of the period, again if you want I can try to give some more specific books, but don't know how much you need them. And since I'm mainly studying European history, most of the books might be more European in their perspective than desired. So yeah, there should be something you can dip into, if you want more advice or my views on some areas don't be afraid to ask. After all I'm a pathetic person at university still posting on ibsurvival

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