STRATEGY FOR WRITING "O" LEVEL HISTORY ESSAYS
1. Look at the question very carefully: What type of answer does it require? What topics from notes need to be included in the answer?
2. Plan structure of the essay in the following sequence:
a. Mainstream of the Essay (2-6 paragraphs)
(1) Contains main factual content of the essay.
(2) The facts back up the central theme of the essay.
(3) Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence which introduces the facts and relates them directly to the question.
(4) Paragraphs should be linked, if possible, and should follow one another naturally, i.e. in the most natural order.
(2) Should cover any important preliminary details, which cannot be conveniently fitted in elsewhere.
(3) Should be brief, and should not include many facts.
(4) Should be stimulating.
(1) Should tie the threads of the essay together, either by summarising the topics discussed earlier and/or by a general statement.
(2) Should cover any important concluding details, which cannot be conveniently fitted in elsewhere.
(3) Should be clear, concise and stimulating.
The minimum details that a plan should include are the paragraph numbers and their topic headings. The general statements and other details required for the introduction and conclusion should also be noted, but only after the content of the mainstream paragraphs has been determined.
Introduction ...........(General scope etc) .................
1 ........................... (Topic heading) ......................
2 ............................(Topic heading) ......................
3 ............................(Topic heading) ......................
4 ............................(Topic heading) ......................
Conclusion .............(Final statement etc) ................
If notes have been thoroughly learned, most of the detailed information will be triggered by the topic heading.
3. Write the essay, following the plan.
NB: If this strategy is followed, every word in the essay should be relevant, i.e. RELATED TO THE QUESTION.
HISTORY ESSAY EXAMPLE
"What domestic reforms were carried out by Disraeli during the Conservative governments of 1866-8 and 1874-80?"
PLAN - by paragraph heading.
1. Mainstream (NB: Paragraph headings should be the similar to those in notebook.)
Para. 1. Second Reform Bill
Para. 2. Social Reforms
a. Artisans' Dwelling Act 1875.
b. Public Health Act 1875.
c. Factory Act 1874.
Para. 3. Industrial Labour Reforms
a. Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875.
b. Employers and Workmen Act 1875.
c. Trade Union Amendment Act 1876.
Para. 4. Other Reforms
a. Merchant Shipping Act 1876.
b. Enclosure of Commons Act 1876.
c. Education Act 1876.
a. Physical well-being of lower classes (scope of reforms)
b. Details of ministries (preliminary information)
a. Agricultural depression and Disraeli's fall.
b. Summarise reforms showing sensitivity to needs of lower classes.
NB: In the essay the paragraph headings of the mainstream paragraphs will become topic sentences.
ESSAY - following plan. (NB: topic sentences are shown in italics. Links to the previous paragraph or paragraphs are underlined.)
Benjamin Disraeli was remarkable as a Conservative Prime Minister for the amount of domestic reforms that he introduced. These reforms indicated his real concern for the physical well-being of the lower classes. Chancellor of the Exchequer under Lord Derby in 1866-8, he became Prime Minister for a short time in 1868. It was, however, in his famous second ministry of 1874-80 that most of his reforms were carried through.
In general, Disraeli showed little enthusiasm for political reforms, but in 1867 he piloted the Second Reform Act through the Commons in an attempt to outdo the Whigs. The Act extended the franchise to all rate-paying householders and £10 lodgers in the boroughs and to £12 leaseholders in the counties, and also carried out a redistribution of parliamentary seats that recognised changing population patterns. The Act doubled the electorate, adding a million voters to the rolls; for the first time, members of the working classes received the vote.
Having given political power to some of the working classes, Disraeli set about wooing them in his ministry of 1874-80 with a programme of social legislation aimed at improving the living and working conditions of the urban poor. His Home Secretary, Richard Cross, carried through the Artisans' Dwelling Act of 1875, which empowered local authorities to pull down insanitary dwellings and build others, and in the same year a Public Health Act was passed. This act compelled local authorities to appoint Medical Officers of Health and Health Inspectors, and to implement new regulations concerning drainage, sewage-disposal, refuse collection, water supply and infectious diseases. The Factory Act of 1874 at last succeeded in limiting the working day to ten hours, while the Factory and Workshops Act of 1878 brought workshops of less than fifty workers under Government inspection.
Parallel to their social legislation, Disraeli and Cross carried through a number of laws that reformed and regularised industrial labour relations. The Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act made an action of a group of workmen legal if it were legal for one man; this act therefore legalised striking. The Employers' and Workmen's Act of 1875 ended the disparity by which employees who broke their contracts were liable to criminal penalties, whereas employers were only liable to civil penalties for doing so. The Trade Union Amendment Act in the following year assisted the legal position of trade unions by defining them clearly.
Other reforms, also testifying to Disraeli's concern for the interests of the poorer classes, were passed during his second ministry. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1876 reduced the risk to seamen by securing the compulsory acceptance of loadlines for ships - the 'Plimsoll Line', named after Samuel Plimsoll, the MP who led the campaign for it. The Enclosure of Commons Act of 1876 prohibited the enclosure of common land, unless it were shown to be in the public interest; this act saved Epping Forest as a recreation area for the people of London. The Education Act of 1876 took a step towards compulsory elementary education by making parents who kept their children away from school liable to fines; consequently school attendances rose.
By the time he fell from power in 1880, an occurrence closely connected with the severe agricultural depression of the late eighteen-seventies, Disraeli had carried out an extensive programme of social and industrial reforms that indicated his sensitivity to the needs of the poor and his belief in the duties of the governing classes.