Ironically, practice multiple-choice questions can provide students with little bites of historiography. When I use secondary sources as stimulus for a set of practice questions, I often include longer and/or more difficult texts than students might see on a test. Doing this allows me to generate discussion of a historical topic whether in a class or when working one to one as a tutor. I use excerpts from books or articles that I have read, in part to model life-long learning and revision as an inherent to producing historical knowledge. I’ll be sharing some of these questions on this blog as a resource for students and teachers.
The example below uses an interpretation of the European Renaissance that, while far from controversial amongst historians, is at odds with presentations in many textbooks and classrooms. I like using this with AP European History students whom I tutor so that we can discuss how interpretations of the Renaissance have changed and how thinking about the European Renaissance may be more complex than they’re hearing in class. More than 20 years ago Jerry Brotton wrote The Renaissance Bazaar, a very readable book on how Afro-Eurasian exchanges were a key component of many cultural expressions consider as part of the European Renaissance. This excerpt can also be used to introduce the idea of a European Renaissance. The questions are interpretative and do not require much prior knowledge.
Bram Hubbell’s wrote about using Brotton’s books to Globalize the Renaissance in his world history classes. He includes excellent lesson ideas that use art, include the Bellini painting reproduced above, to show students the global nature of the European Renaissance. Bram’s use of the paintings influenced how I use them students.
Jerry Brotton, British historian, The Renaissance Bazaar, 2002, p. 1.
The Renaissance Bazaar describes the historical period starting in the early 15th century when eastern and western societies vigorously traded art, ideas, and luxury goods in a competitive but amicable exchange that shaped what we now call the European Renaissance. The eastern bazaar is a fitting metaphor for the fluid transactions that occurred throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, when Europe began to define itself b7 purchasing and emulating the opulence and cultured sophistication of the cities, merchants, scholars, and empires of the Ottomans, the Persians, and the Egyptian Mamluks. The flow of spices, silks, carpets, porcelain, majolica [style of Spanish pottery], porphyry [luxury stone], glassware, lacquer, dyes, and pigments from the eastern bazaars of Muslim Spain, Mamluk Egypt, Ottoman Turkey, Persia, and the Silk Road between China and Europe provided the inspiration and materials for the art and architecture of Bellini, van Eyck, Dürer, and Albertini. The transmission of Arabic understandings of astronomy, philosophy, and medicine also profoundly influenced thinkers and scientists like Leonardo da Vinci, Copernicus, Vesalius, and Montaigne, whose insights into the workings of the human mind and body, as well as the individual’s relationship to the wider world, are often still seen as the foundation of modern science and philosophy. It was the complex impact of these exchanges between east and west that created the culture, art, and scholarship that have been popularly associated with the Renaissance.Jerry Brotton, British historian, The Renaissance Bazaar, 2002, p. 1.
1 The author’s argument regarding the development of the Renaissance most directly challenges which of the following historical interpretations? (choices paraphrased from Brotton’s introduction)
- European Crusades in southwestern Asia stimulated trade and exchange that contributed to the Renaissance.
- Italian rediscovery of lost Greek and Roman texts in the late 14th Century led directly to the Renaissance.
- There is no single, unified understanding of what the European Renaissance was or how it began.
- Various generations of historians have produced varying versions of the Renaissance.
2. Which of the following events BEST supports Brotton’s argument in the passage?
- In 1345 scholar Petrarch discovered a letter by the ancient Latin orator Cicero in a Verona (Italy) library
- In 1367 Neri di Fiorvanti’s dome design, based on classical models, was chosen for the Florence Cathedral.
- In 1485 Botticelli painted The Birth of Venus inspired by classical Roman statues of the goddess.
- In 1487 the Egyptian Mamluk Sultan sent an embassy to Florence that astonished Florentines with its wealth.
3. Based on the passage and the historical context in which Brotton’s book was published, which of the following most heavily influenced the author’s view of the Renaissance?
- Admiration for the secular and nationalist values of the French Revolution
- Fall of the Soviet Union and the end of communist rule in Eastern Europe
- Growth of mass politics and imperialism following industrialization
- Increasing globalization creating more cultural and economic exchange