The dbq essay counts for 25% of the ap world History exam and will reflect one of the Historical Thinking Skills of the course



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The DBQ essay counts for 25% of the AP World History exam and will reflect one of the Historical Thinking Skills of the course.
It is suggested that you spend 55 minutes on the DBQ essay and 35 minutes on the LEQ, but you are able to move from one to another at your own pace. I recommend taking 15 minutes to read the documents and brainstorm your response.
Question: Analyze the economic and social effects of silver in the period 1450-1750.


  1. Thesis—1 point—This essay is a causation prompt (i.e. relates to causes and/or effects) so an acceptable thesis should include multiple effects. The prompt also mentions “social” and “economic” so your groups need to include both to fully address the question. Acceptable thesis statements:

    1. The new global flow of silver in 1450-1750 had an great effect on the world economy and culture, increasing the economic prosperity of Europe, but ultimately hurting the economies of Spain and China, and leading to a vast cultural exchange between the eastern and western hemispheres.

    2. The global trade of silver in 1450-1750 increased cultural diffusion between the Americas and Europe, weakened Ming China’s economy, and eventually allowed Europe to dominate world trade.

    3. The global trade of silver effected the people of the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Asia through the harsh labor system, the increase in global trade, and the increased interactions it produced.




  1. Argument Development—1 point—In order to earn this point on the exam you need to write a good essay with logical organization and defend your thesis with BOTH the documents and your own information. To help keep yourself organized you should start every supporting paragraph with a claim sentence that reflects one of the groups in your thesis. I also like to end your supporting paragraph by connecting back to your thesis again (not simply ending with evidence). If you do everything else in the essay you should automatically get this point.




  1. Document Content—1 point—For this point you must use six of the document correctly in support of the thesis. This doesn’t mean you can leave out a document. It just means you can interpret one document and still receive the point. It does not count if you merely quote or paraphrase a document. You must actually use it to defend the claim. The key to this is to always connect the idea of the document back to the argument you are making. For example:

    1. The Ming dynasty government was very concerned about the effect that silver had on the economy of China as a whole. The government’s requirement on collecting taxes only in silver led to the scarcity of silver coins, which decreased the price of grain and agricultural production (Doc. #1). Clearly the global flow of silver, and the Chinese desire for it, hurt the economy of Ming China.”

  2. Document Analysis—1 point—For this point you must EXPLAIN the significance of the author’s point of view, purpose, context, and/or audience for 4 of the documents. Here are some examples for each:

    1. Point of View “Wang Xije explained how the Ming dynasty’s policy of collecting taxes only in silver was hurting the economy by decreasing the production of goods (Doc #1). As a high-ranking government official, Han is making the case for why the Ming economy should not rely so heavily on silver to other government officials and likely the emperor.

    2. Purpose “He Qiaoyan explained how the Ming dynasty’s policy of collecting taxes only in silver was hurting the economy (Doc #4). This policy led to a decrease in production of goods and a hording of silver. As a government official, He Qiaoyan, is clearly attempting to highlight the negative impacts of silver in order to influence Ming dynasty trade policy.

    3. Historical Context—In the 16th century a major concern was participation in the spice trade in Asia. Europeans were not only looking for a direct trading route to Asia, but goods to trade that China desired. Europe especially was especially focused on trade with China and many countries were envious of Portuguese merchants (Doc #2) which drove the need to import more silver from their American colonies.

    4. Audience—“The painting Pack Train of Llamas Laden with Silver from Potosi Mines of Peru” by Jacques Le Moyne, a French artist, depicts the harsh treatment of Native Americans as they mine and transport silver for their Spanish masters (Doc. 3). This reproduction of Le Moyne’s painting was likely created to illustrate the harsh conditions and the interactions between Europeans and their Native American laborers.

  3. Contextualization—1 point—This point requires an explanation of the broader events, developments, or processes immediately relevant to the question. This is best accomplished by setting up the historical background in the introduction. For example.

    1. “The 16th century is when Europe started to explore beyond their region in search of way to connect their merchants to the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean was where the most prosperous trade (of spices) of the time period was located. Silver increasingly became an essential component of participation in trade as it was accepted in all regions. “

    2. “Period 4 (1450-1750) is known as the first era of a truly global trade. Prior to the 15th century trade was not global and there was not interaction between the eastern and western hemispheres. Instead the majority of trade was focused on Asia as they had the most desirable goods (cotton, spices). Europeans wanted nothing more than to participate directly in this trade, rather than through Muslim merchants. Silver was a large part of what created and drove this new global trade.

  4. Evidence beyond the documents—1 point—This point should not be difficult. You need to use information for outside the documents to substantiate your thesis. The only thing here is there is a no double-dipping policy. Your context in the introduction or your synthesis in the conclusion can’t also count for outside information. You should try to include as many relevant SFs as policy (at least 3 per group).

  5. Synthesis—1 point—Again this must connect the thesis to another time period or theme after you restate the main point in the conclusion. The guidelines here are the same as for the LEQ. You should first “conclude” your argument, then “extend” it. Here are some examples:

    1. “The effect of the global flow of silver is similar to effect that the flow of other crops and goods from the Columbian Exchange had on the word’s economy and culture. For example potatoes are transported from South America to both Europe, Africa, and Asia. The potato was partially responsible for increasing world population at this time as it was a very nutritious crop and very easy to grow. However, some groups became overly reliant on the potato, just like the economies of Spain and Ming China became overly reliant on silver leading to its downfall. In the late 18th century Ireland suffers a huge famine due to its reliance on the potato. If nothing else the lessons of both the effects of silver and the effect of the potato shows us that while these crops can have some positive effects, over-reliance on any one crop/good is eventually devastating both economically and socially.”


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