[DBQ] Outline + Thesis

This week students have another opportunity to practice drafting a response to a DBQ. I recommend that students outline their arguments before writing, but this outline should be very brief. We will use a new DBQ on Revolutions in the Americas. Click here to see it. Join the Cram Session on Tuesday May 19th, two days before the exam, to discuss this and see exemplary responses (could be you!).

Develop an argument that evaluates the extent to which revolutions in the Americas between c. 1770 - c. 1825 successfully challenged social hierarchies.

Your task. In 20 minutes or less, read the document, and:

  1. Outline arguments you would make, using LESS than a full sentence for each
  2. List, but DO NOT describe, evidence, both documents and outside evidence
  3. Write a thesis based on these arguments

Note: on the actual exam spending more than 20 minutes on this will not leave you with enough time to complete what you plan!

Here’s an example of this process for a Mongol DBQ that we used earlier.

  1. Violent disruption: Doc 2, destruction of Baghdad
  2. Did not change Eurasian societies: Docs 3, 4, 5; Il Khanate
  3. Mongol cultural curiosity and tolerance: Doc 1, Buddhism

Initially Mongol states disrupted Eurasian societies through violent conquest, but, in the long term Mongol states did not change Eurasian societies. Mongol rulers tolerated and sometimes even adopted the cultures of the societies that they conquered.

Important notes :

How to Submit
Reply to this thread with a list of claims and supporting evidence, plus a thesis.

Deadline for submission:
May 12th, 2020 → May 16th, 2020
Responses submitted after the deadline are not guaranteed a response (unless you’re a cram student)

Feel free to give other students feedback, too!

Mr Beckman the college board gave me 100 min to take the exam (IEP Kid) so how much time should i give myself if i have that much time

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40 minutes, then, Dan.

Thesis: Although the revolutions in the Americas themselves were successful, they did not successfully challenge social hierarchies because the lower class people including the Black and mixed races and the slaves still dealt with prejudice and the Whites stayed in power. However, there was some successful social hierarchy change for the Whites because a new class of Whites did gain more political power.

Lower classes and Prejudice continued: Doc 2, Doc 4 (Only Creoles benefited, slavery continued) Doc 5

White Creoles gained power: Doc 3 (Bolivar was a Creole, Hidalgo and Mexican Revolution)
But, still great divisions among social classes–> underdevelopment + neocolonialism

(My thesis starts with “although” but that was not what I was trying to set up the complexity with. Would I still need to prove that the revolutions themselves were successful? If so, I would use doc 1 for that).


Revolutions in the Americas that took place from 1770 - 1825 were generally extremely successful at challenging established social hierarchies, as they diminished the power of traditional elites and led to the liberation of formerly enslaved peoples, mainly African Americans and their descendants. However, In some areas such as Latin America, the new elites that arose from revolutions to replace the old, leaving the rest of the social hierarchy intact.

Diminished Power of Elites: Doc 5, Doc 3, American Revolution (Freedom from Monarchy), French Revolution
Freed Enslaved People: Doc 1, Doc 2, Haitian Revolution
Social Hierarchy Intact: Doc 4, Creole Revolutions (Creole replace Peninsulares)


Thesis: Although revolutions ranging from 1770-1825, made a profound effect on social hierarchies at the time through freedom of slaves and the destruction of monarchies in Britain, they did not last for the long term in most regions such as Latin America as the continuance of racism towards people of dark skin and harsh as well as inconsiderate ruling dominated these new changes.

Freedom of slaves: 1, 2
Destruction of monarchies: 3
Continued racism: 4
Continuance of harsh/inconsiderate ruling: 5

Could my complexity have to do something with racism still persisting in modern-day or would that not give me the point?

Hello @Sana

  1. A way to improve your thesis would be to indicate a specific revolution which corresponds to your description.
  2. As for your question, about complexity, that nuance could contribute to complexity but that itself is not complexity.
  3. Overall your structure looks good to me, but for your first paragraph you could be a bit more narrow. Prejudice against the lower classes? Race or labor based prejudice? Narrow that down.

Hello @2022nielswil Here is some feedback.

  1. Your thesis is sufficient. If you want to make it better you could consider using hedging and qualified language such as the types of hierarchies reinforced/challenged (Labor, race, class)
    2 Your essay structure looks fine, but if you are running out of time consider combining paragraphs 1 and 2.

Hope this helps keep practicing.

Thesis: Although few states got rid of existing social class systems as a result of independence, most states maintained the tradition of having an elite class of aristocrats and still thought themselves as superiors to Native peoples.

  1. Getting rid of class systems: Docs. 1,2,3; Haitian Revolution, Toussaint L’Overture, Creoles
  2. Maintained aristocratic class: Doc 4; Peninsulares, Creoles
  3. People thought themselves superior to Native people: Doc 5; Manifest Destiny, Trail of Tears
1 Like

Thesis: Although the revolutions in the Americas successfully overthrew the direct rule of the European monarchies and led to an emergence of creoles who came to power, social inequality still plague the lower class peoples of the newly liberated nations and the obstacles of forming a fair government amidst the grievances of the mixed race and indigenous people did not greatly contribute to change the preexisting social structures.

  1. Social inequality: Docs 2,4; continued to enslave African Americans in North America
  2. Obstacles of forming a fair of government: Doc 5; instability and poor governance=poverty and economy dependent on former colonizer countries
  3. Creoles gaining power: Docs 1,3; Simon Bolivar, Jose de San Martin

And also, are there more than one definitive, and correct answer to this prompt? I’m worried about misinterpreting the documents on the exam, thus leading to a non-historically defensible essay. :slight_smile:


Thank you for the feedback Mr. Liddle!

I think I would change my thesis a little to make it more clear:

Although some revolutions in the Americas resulted in the successful change in class divisions such as greater freedom for former lower classes (slaves and creoles), many states still continued racial discrimination and most states maintained an elite aristocratic class that had most of the political power.

Successful change for some slaves and creoles: doc 1, Haitian Revolution, Napoleon tries to stop it, Doc 3, Simon Bolivar = creole, Hidalgo and Mexican Revolution

Racial Discrimination: doc 2, slavery continued, doc 5

New Aristocratic elites: doc 4


Although steps towards freedom amongst all levels of the social hierarchy resulted in backlash amongst multiple higher authorities. The American and Mexican revolution proved to be a great success in challenging social hierarchies because it not only influenced other revolts globally, but it allowed for the freedom of slaves and established independence through the rise against imperialist powers.

End of Slavery, established independence through the rise against imperialist powers.

  • Documents 2,5 (document contradict themselves)

Freedom of slaves, allowing for social mobility.

  • Documents 1,3,4

Thesis: Although revolutions in the Americas between 1770-1825 did not successfully challenge social hierarchies in that blacks were still inferior to the whites because of the blacks’ subjugation including unfair rights and treatment as compared to the whites, overall, revolutions in the Americas between 1770-1825 did successfully challenge social hierarchies more in that blacks rose to power as they gained freedom from the Europeans.

Counter argument: blacks’ subjugation: Documents 4 and 5
Predominant argument: blacks gaining freedom: Documents 1,2,3, and 5 (cx)

Although revolutions in the Americas between 1770 to 1825 were successful in challenging higher classes’ authority and rights, they only completely affected a portion of the revolts, specifically whites with money and high ranking, while other lower classes with less money and power suffered under similar conditions prior to revolutions. Therefore, there were some changes in social hierarchy due to additional political power gained but only limited to the Whites.

Document 1, 3: Challenging higher classes’ power and authority (Abolishing taxing without representation?)
Document 2, 4, 5: Conditions remained unchanged for other lower social classes. (Slavery in America after the American Revolution)

I just have one question: When you write your thesis, how specific would go for your groupings? Thank you very much for your time.

Hi @victoriasb2004,

  1. This thesis does a good job setting up your claim (the word “profound” works well here) and your line of reasoning. It’s clear what you plan to develop for your argument in your body paragraphs.
  2. As you practice with DBQs, consider how you might bring documents together in your body paragraphs. This outline works, but a stronger (and easier to write) outline might find ways to bring documents together under a common argument and keep your overall essay to just 2 body paragraphs.
  3. Complexity isn’t about bringing in modern examples necessarily. That skill point is about developing a complex argument throughout the whole essay. Think about how you could connect all of your ideas together throughout the paragraphs and fully explain your ideas. That will get you closer on many points, whether or not it earns that one complexity point.

Hi @Paul530442! Welcome to Fiveable community - we’re glad you’re learning with us!

  1. The thesis here does address the prompt, and it would work for this prompt. If you wanted to strengthen it, you might consider addressing how or why these developments occurred. You’ll explain it further in your body paragraphs, I’m sure, but mentioning it briefly in your thesis can help establish what the College Board calls a “line of reasoning.”
  2. These body paragraphs seem well-thought-out. I’d be careful with the word “aristocrats,” here because that often refers to a hereditary nobility, which the newly-independent Latin American states didn’t have. Elites, yes. Aristocrats/nobles, not so much.
  1. Change in social order that successfully established new elites: Documents 1, 3, Latin American Revs, Mexican Rev
  2. Social order for lower classes remained: Documents 2,4, and 5 French Rev(Congress of Vienna trying to restore monarchy)

Thesis: Although, there was a establishment of new elites in some states, the social order for lower classes remained the same. Therefore, in the period 1770 to 1825 the extent to which revolutions in the Americas challenged social Hierarchy was varied.

Not part of assignment (Just a question): I’m confused on how to connect the sourcing to my argument. I get what it is, but how do I do that? I’m so confused!

Hi @Gnemiy!
To start, I’ll address your question. Yes, there are multiple correct answers to this prompt (and any DBQ). The questions and document sets are designed to allow students to successfully defend any of a variety of claims. If your claim fits with your knowledge of history AND your understanding of the documents, it will likely count as “historically defensible.” (Basically, don’t stress it - you’ve got this!)

  1. This is a really sophisticated thesis that addresses both political and social ideas. It looks like you know that to make the political/governance stuff work, you’ll need to connect it to social hierarchies. Good work.
  2. I’m glad to see your body paragraphs include multiple documents. That’s the fastest/easiest way to be sure that you’re using them and actually developing an argument. Keep it up!
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After re-reading Doc. 4, I see why you’re using it to address an aristocracy. I still think it’s more accurate to think of a more general “elite” group here, rather than nobility, especially if you want to extend that idea beyond the one document, but I wanted to acknowledge that I see where you’re coming from.

Hi @Sana - I like what you’ve done to clarify your thesis based on Mr. Liddle’s feedback. Nice work!

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