IB History – The New Paper 1 Prescribed Subjects

Hi everyone, my name is Jon and I teach history, English language, and English literature at The Edge in Mong Kok.  As you may or may not know, the IB is changing their history curriculum next year and is planning on introducing new prescribed subjects for Paper 1 (Route 2).  I wanted to give you all a quick overview of these so you’ll have some idea of what you’re getting into.

The Move to Global War

This prescribed subject will look at why Japan, Italy, and Germany became expansionist and essentially launched WWII. It will also likely be the one prescribed subject most chosen by your teachers.  For those of you who study “Authoritarian States” and “Causes and Effects of 20th-Century Wars” for Paper 2, expect some overlap with “The Move to Global War.”

Case Study 1: Japanese expansionism in East Asia

Japanese Empire 1942 history

This case study will be somewhat familiar to those of us who have studied modern Chinese history and the Japanese invasion and occupation of China from 1931 until 1945. As some of you may know, this invasion actually took place right in the middle of the Chinese Civil War, and it caused the Guomindang (GMD) (sometimes Kuomintang, KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to call for a temporary truce. However, while Japan was occupying China, it also managed to conquer much of East Asia.

Arguably, the main causes of Japanese expansionism were its increases in nationalism, military power, and desire for economic growth. Japan’s general lack of natural resources, combined with the stresses of the Great Depression, were enough to sway its leaders toward favoring expansion.

Case Study 2: German and Italian expansion

History - Adolf Hitler

The IB has decided to combine the expansionist practices of Italy, under Mussolini, and Germany, under Hitler, into a single case study. This will be a particularly lengthy and demanding unit, but hopefully some of it will be familiar to you beforehand. It will begin with the rise of Benito Mussolini and Fascism, a system of government which gives “full interest in economic, social, and military power to a dominant race or state lead by a single dominant leader” (http://departments.kings.edu/history/20c/fascism.html). This ideology would influence other European leaders such as Francisco Franco in Spain, and of course, Adolf Hitler.

Hitler would later incorporate Fascist ideas into his National Socialist German Worker’s Party or “Nazi” party. Though there are relatively few differences between Italian and German Fascism, one distinction may be that racism was integral to Nazi ideology. In fact, that the Nazis believed in the superiority of their own “Aryan” race was used to justify Germany’s expansionist practices in Europe.

Rights and Protest

Arguably the most positive of the prescribed subjects, this one will focus on protest movements for civil rights that were ultimately successful. The downside of this topic is that most of you might not be very familiar with the first Case Study.

Case Study 1: Apartheid South Africa, 1948-1964

History - Nelson Mandela

In this case study, students will learn about a policy known as “apartheid,” which roughly translates to “apartness.” This policy began shortly after WWII when Daniel François Malan was elected to the office of Prime Minister of South Africa. Malan and the National Party (NP) subscribed to the idea that there were four racial groups in South Africa (white, black, colored, and Indian) and that these four races should be separated. A series of acts (e.g. the Group Areas Act and the Bantu Education Act) resulted in forced “resettlement” and other social injustices. Numerous civil rights activists attempted to combat these policies and some, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela, were punished for their efforts.

Case Study 2: U.S. Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965

U.S. Civil Rights Movement

Much like the first case study, this one on the U.S. Civil Rights movement is concerned with the social injustices against a class of subjugated minorities and the efforts made to spread equality. The launch of this movement is typically attributed to Rosa Parks, a black woman who famously refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white person. This led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, “sit-in” protests, and various marches, including those from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama.

Conflict and Intervention

Okay, this one looks pretty tough. It refers to conflicts that were absolutely horrific and that had to be resolved by the intervention of foreign powers. What’s more, the respective histories of Rwanda and Yugoslavia are complex, and quite new to a lot of IB students. On a positive note, that this prescribed subject deals with relatively recent events might actually make it the most relevant of three.

Case Study 1: Rwanda, 1990-1998History - Tutsi and Hutu people

This case study will cover the history of Rwanda from its early days as a colony of Germany and Belgium, in the late 19th century and early 20th century, to the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. Students will learn about the class conflicts between the Tutsi and Hutu people that were actually originally caused by the Europeans. You see, the Europeans thought the Tutsis were superior because they were only slightly more European-looking than the Hutus. Take a look.

This was enough reason for the European colonizers to give the Tutsis rights over the Hutus, even though the Tutsis were the minority. These two ethnic groups would go to war with each other during the Rwandan Revolution (1959-1962) and the Rwandan Civil War (1990-1994), the latter of which would result in the mass murder of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. This is maybe the most horrific thing to happen in the world during my lifetime.

Case Study 2: Kosovo, 1989-2002

25 Sept 1991The second case study traces the conflict in Kosovo, beginning with the death of Yugoslav Prime Minister Josip Broz Tito in 1980, leading to the rise of Slobodan Milošević (sometimes referred to as “The Butcher of the Balkans”), and ending with his eventual fall from power. The following image shows how Yugoslavia was broken up throughout the Yugoslav War.

This period includes each of the Yugoslav Wars, including the Bosnian War (1992-1995) between the Yugoslav Army in Bosnia and the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Kosovo War (1998-1999) between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Kosovo Liberation Army. Intervention by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was largely responsible for the end to both of these wars, but not before the deaths of some 130,000-200,000 people (www.radstats.org.uk/no069/article3.htm).

So there you have it. These are the key changes to Paper 1 (Route 2) of the new IB curriculum. Studying any of these new prescribed subjects in greater depth will help us better contextualize and interpret the documents we’ll look at on our exams this coming spring. The major keys to success on Paper 1 are understanding how events relate to one another, and how those events are often interpreted very differently.

Before I end this blog, I have to stress that what we’ve looked at today has significance far beyond the IB. I think that studying history so that we can get good grades, and therefore have more opportunities in life, is a perfectly valid reason. However, I ask you to consider that when we study history, we are really studying ourselves. Surely, history has a tendency to bombard us with a lot of names and dates, but if we take the time to look beyond that, we see humanity at its best and its worst. History can serve as a guide, or as a warning. It’s up to us to listen.

Thank you, and I hope to see you at The Edge!

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