Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Why did an iron curtain descend across the Continent after WWII?

Document 1: extract of a speech given by Winston Churchill in 1946

From what I have seen of our Russian friends and Allies during the war, I am convinced that there is nothing they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness. For that reason the old doctrine of a balance of power is unsound. We cannot afford, if we can help it, to work on narrow margins, offering temptations to a trial of strength. If the Western Democracies stand together in strict adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter, their influence for furthering those principles will be immense and no one is likely to molest them. If however they become divided or falter in their duty and if these all-important years are allowed to slip away then indeed catastrophe may overwhelm us all.

Document 2: 1947 political cartoon by Jay Darling

Advice on how to prepare your oral presentation

What will the jury be judging you on?
  • Your knowledge (of the information contained in the documents and of the historical or geographical context);
  • your capacity to analyze the documents (who, what, where, when, how, why?);
  • your capacity to present the information clearly.
Explain the documents to the English teacher (though do not ignore the History-Geography teacher!); this will force you to explain everything and be clear about it (as he/she is not an expert).

You can adopt an “American” style of presentation (i.e. lively, questioning, more personal) or a more formal “French” style (do not hesitate to “signpost”, i.e. say what you are going to say, say it, then say what you have said).

Make sure you state the general theme the two documents relate to (for example: “The USA and the World since 1918”) and what – very briefly – that theme is all about (how US foreign relations with the different parts of the world have evolved in the 20th century, etc.).

What elements of the title can you (briefly) describe? The title is an insight into the contents of the documents (“iron curtain”, “Continent” and “WW2” in the title: “Why did an iron curtain descend across the Continent after WW2?”). If the title is also a question, make sure you answer it (and say how the documents help to answer it).

The documents are an insight into the period you have to describe.

Analyze the nature of each document (if it’s a speech extract, say what a speech is, if it’s a cartoon, say what a cartoon is, etc.).

Start with document (1), then do document (2), then explain the link between the documents (in relation to the question in the title).

Document (1) is a speech: by whom (Churchill, give biographical details, especially in relation to the date of the document), when (March 1946); where (Fulton, USA, why?); for whom (the students and teachers in the audience, to the VIPs, but especially the media, i.e. the world); why (what was the purpose of his speech, what was its impact, how was it perceived)? What was the name given to the (famous) speech?

Give the historical context: what was the situation of the world in 1945-50? What was the US’s attitude to the rest of the world (you are reminding the jury of the general theme, i.e. the USA and the World since 1918)?

What does the speech extract actually say (in summary)? How many themes of the speech as a whole are found in the extract (and which are not)?

Do not hesitate to comment the orator’s style (its impact on the audience).

How does the document answer the question in the title? (it is Churchill who described the “iron curtain”, it is his speech which made the USA and the world aware that the USSR was totalitarian, anti-West, and expansionist; the speech in many ways defined the relations between the two enemy blocs).

Document (2): its nature (a cartoon is intended often to make you smile, and always to think and react!), date, cartoonist (do you know his importance?), target, newspaper in which published (Left or Right-wing?), how perceived/impact?

Describe in some detail the cartoon (the different elements one in relation to the other, the situation).

What is the MESSAGE of the cartoon (why is it “funny”/ironic, who or what is it mocking/criticizing and why, what does the cartoonist want done about the situation)?

What is the link between the two documents? Do they say the same, the opposite or complementary things?

Conclusion: answer the question in the title (once again), put period into greater historical context (say how what happened then had an impact after, maybe how the period is remembered today, for example how a new “iron curtain” has gone up between Russia and the rest of the world recently).

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