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Help History In-Class Essay Tomorrow!

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I'm in IB History Year 1 right now, and we just did WWI. I have an in-class essay tomorrow. The topic was already given: assess the importance of the following causes for WWI: alliances, nationalism, and economy.

I am NOT asking for help about how to write the essay here. I just have a question about historiography. Our teacher kept on saying how we should use historiography in the essay, like, for example, allude to Fritz Fischer's essay and counter that with Gerhard Ritter's essay. She said "no one wants YOUR opinion, we want to see how you analyse THEIR opinion. It's all about regurgitation." But I'm just wondering here: isn't the thesis itself a personal opinion? Then does that mean we cannot formulate our own thesis? And also, wouldn't the entire essay just be a collective analysis of other people's ideas? Is this really the proper way to do historiography?

No...actually, WHAT IS THE PROPER WAY TO DO HISTORIOGRAPHY? Cuz it's my first year in IB history and I have COMPLETELY no idea...


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Stop worrying. Your teacher is right and quite honest in her advice, which, albeit, is a little brutal.

Yes, it is all about historiography. Your "opinion" doesn't matter...as much. It is your opinion though that drives the essay forward because you decide which academic's opinion is the right one.

One thing you realise in historiography, is that every opinion and account has a basis in some academic's writing. So you can say that Professor X thought that a surge in German nationalism was the fundamental root of WW1, Professor Y believed the economic encirclement of Germany, led the Kaiser to expand relentlessly out of financial fears, Professor Z found that the British-French alliance, and the long-term failure of the French-Russian alliance caused WW1. Then you have to decide in your essay whether Professor X, Y or Z is right, or even, that all three of them are wrong! They can be wrong in your opinion because X failed to account for economics fears, Y of alliance systems driving economic encirclement and Z of nationalistic sentiments enflaming the economy for colonial expansion. Or they could be wrong because all of them failed to account for the fact that it was the race for the remaining colonies that was the root, neo-imperialism at its finest.

That kind of add-on analysis to what they've written is where your opinion comes in.

I.e. Your opinion, your thesis in a history essay is not to formulate the causes of WW1 and decide what is right, but to regurgitate what other people have said, and assess and evaluate their opinions; such assessment and evaluation is to be motivated via your own thoughts and ideas.

I hope that cleared things up for you.

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Interesting... my teacher actually advised us not to be using historiography, and that our ideas should all be original.

Your teacher is either (a) not familiar enough with IB History yet or (b) you misunderstood your teacher to some extent.

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