I have been having some trouble with the format of the DBQ for AP World History, so I decided to practice some more. The only problem is, it’s inevitably biased to grade my own essay, so I was wondering if anyone out there on this wonderful forum could give me some insight as to how I’m doing and where I could improve.</p>
The prompt (from Princeton’s review book) was:
- Given the documents below, compare and contrast the preambles of several modern constitutions. What other additional document(s) would help give a fuller picture of how the constitutions of these countries compare to the constitutions of other countries?</p>
It is clearly evident from the documents presented that the preambles of most of the 20th-century national constitutions were founded upon democratic and/or nationalistic principles. However, inevitably, in the various preambles there were marked differences arising from differing national backgrounds. Documents 3, 5, and 6 in particular emphasize national unity and identity; documents 1, 2, and 4 strongly showcase liberty and equality.</p>
An additional document that would elicit further comparison of the preambles of modern constitutions would be one from the Soviet Union. This would provide a starkly contrasting viewpoint to those presented, since during the 20th century, the USSR was strongly socialist. Also, a preamble to an Oceanian constitution would be useful in providing a more globally complete picture.
One of the characteristics of modern preambles was emphasis on strongly democratic ideas. For example, the preamble to the French Constitution rehashes the slogan “liberty, equality, and fraternity” from the French Revolution (Doc. 4), and then ensures that these principles are applied to overseas territories. This represents the point of view of a nation determined to come out of an era that was perhaps less democratic, so the constitution of 1958 served to reaffirm basic principles that had nominatively been in place since 1789. Similarly, halfway across the world in India, a preamble from 1949 explicitly called for “justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity”; although justice is not explicitly stated in the French preamble, it is implied by the reference to the Declaration of the Rights of Man (Doc. 2). Finally, the Japanese constitution of 1946, which represents the point of view of a society that was previously following a strict closed-door policy, emphasizes a republican government in order to establish peace. This is different from the other preambles thus far examined in that the Japanese strongly focused on national honor and long-lasting peace, which was not mentioned by the French or Indians (Doc. 1). The point of view of Document 1 explains why this is so; the Japanese wanted to make up for its decidedly cold attitudes towards foreigners that were present during the Tokugawa period.</p>
National unification and identity was also a theme presented in many preambles- namely, those of West Germany, Vietnam, and the Congo. West Germany, for example, asserted that all of the various German states, of which there were many, together achieved national unity; it also uses the term “German people,” which implies a common national identity. This reason for this is that the constitution was written after World War II, which was in large part a strongly nationalistic conflict (Doc. 3). Also, the term “Vietnamese people” is used in a similar fashion in document 5- to laud them for building a united nation. Finally, the Congolese constitution is in many ways similar to its West German and Vietnamese counterparts, although its tone is different in that it emphasizes the PROBLEMS that arose as a result of single-party rule (Doc. 6). However, there is evidently a strong sense of nationalism, as well as proponation of justice, liberty, and peace present in the Congolese preamble, which makes it similar to all of the other five constitutions that have been analyzed.</p>
A common, underlying theme that epitomized modern preambles to constitutions was nationalism, in addition to emphasis on the people as the ultimate source of a government’s power. However, each exhibited each of these themes to different degrees, dependent on the recent histories of the nations that the preambles represent.</p>