AP World DBQ Sourcing Analysis Practice & Feedback

15 min readjanuary 2, 2021

Melissa Longnecker

Eric Beckman

Evan Liddle

Practicing your sourcing analysis is a great way to prep for the AP exam! Review student document analysis responses for a DBQ prompt from Fiveable teacher Eric Beckman and corresponding feedback from Fiveable teachers Evan Liddle and Melissa Longnecker.

The DBQ Practice Prompt

Develop an argument that evaluates the extent to which revolutions in the Americas between c. 1770 - c. 1825 successfully challenged social hierarchies.
Analyze the sourcing of two or three documents:
  1. Identify an element of the sourcing (Historical situation, Intended audience, author’s POV, or Purpose)
  2. Explain how that element affects the document or how you can use it as evidence.
The Documents:

Student Practice Responses

Student Sample 1

Document 1 illustrated the mass hanging of French officers by revolters. Even though the rioters lacked the weapons possessed by French officers, their overwhelming population allowed them to successfully revolt against the authority that cruelly controlled them. This shows that revolutions gave the oppressed the opportunity to challenge higher power in demand for power and freedom.
Document 4 wrote about the stratified social orders post-revolution in Colombia, describing the difference in treatment between a high-ranking, rich white to a lower-class worker. Written by a mixed person on a broadside, this document served to raise awareness and call for changes before the establishment of a new constitution in Colombia. This Pardo wrote in the purpose to prevent the repeating circumstances faced by mixed people prior to revolutions.
Document 5 described indigenous’ point of view in regarding post-revolution, detailing the refusal to cooperate by indigenous community due to disadvantageous policies created by the newly crowned power. The document reported that the indigenous were taken lightly on their requests concerning land redistribution and taxation. Thus, the petition served to call for the natives’ justice, voicing their concerns that their participation in the revolution would not return them benefits since the new government would continue to ignore them.

Teacher feedback:

For Document 1: do you mean to say that the overwhelming support meant the revolution was popular? Thats what is read like. Also is this context. It reads a bit like context.
For Document 4: Keep in mind Purpose is never to “inform” or “show,” that can be part of it, but what concrete action does the author want to happen?
For Document 5: This is well-done point of view.

Student Sample 2

Doc 1- Historical context: At the time this document was made, many indigenous groups or slaves were revolting against groups who once imperilaized their land and enslaved or limited the freedom of the people. This shows how the American revolutions did challenge Social heirachies because the enslaved Africans rose about the once powerful French colonizers.
Doc 2 - POV : From the authors perspective, a formlery enslaved person, the detail of this horrific event, from the point of view of a enslaved person can be used to show the historical accuracy of the event, as it is most likely unbiased as a result of being written by the group at disadvantage. At the end of the doc you can also see how they slaves successfully fled enslavement showing how their revolutions challenged social hierarchy
Doc 5- POV: The author believed that the new form of government ruling in Mexico is limiting the freedom of the people of Xonacatlan. From the perspective of the Xonacatlan community, they have been robbed of their land and been oppressed with taxes. The community have refused reconginzied these new policies and insteadto asks for rule by republican law, further showing indigenous revolutions in the Americas challenging social heirachies.

Teacher feedback:

For Doc 1: To vague for context. This could describe any number of places. You need to use the word Haiti.
For Doc 2: Being disadvantaged does not automatically make one unbiased, but it can provide insights. Slaves can provide effective insight on slavery. connection to possible argument is fine.
for Doc 5: As a point of view it would be stronger to incorporate some context, such as that natives were oppressed before the revolution. This is your strongest HIPP Statement.

Student Sample 3

Document 2: This document is written by Boston King, a formerly enslaved person. Because of him experiencing up close the traumatic events of slavery, his words are unlikely to be bias due to him wanting to share his experience as a slave. Therefore, we can assume that this document is accurate when it comes to the information presented in it.
Document 1: During this time this visual source as illustrated, the Haitian Revolution was occurring. This revolution consisted of the enslaved people of Haiti, once known as San Domingo, revolting against the white slave owners on the island. This fight was extremely violent, as shown in the document where the African American is hanging the French white man for revenge. This revolt shows how social heicharchies successfully did change due to the switch of power from the white landowners to the slaves.
Document 3: During the time that this document was written, the Latin-American Revolution was spurring due to spread ideas of the Enlightenment, which valued natural rights and liberty. This historical context explains the choices of wording done by the Argentinian politician when he mentions things such as “social order”, an idea by John Locke an Enlightenment philosopher at the time as well as “liberty” which was one of the Enlightenment’s main purposes.

Teacher feedback:

For Document 2: How is this connected to a possible argument?
For Document 1: Excellent Context, well done. Actually, San Domingo was the French Name, Hayti, is the indigenous Tiano name for the island
For Document 3: Also solid context, but how is this connect to social hierarchies?
Keep in mind that the prompt is asking about social change, not political developments. You can incorporate political developments but focus on how it connects to social change.

Student Sample 4

Doc#1(POV)-Because a British officer illustrated this image, he showed that the French seemed weak as compared to the African Americans who are hanging them. Before, there was rivalry between the British and French. Ultimately, this image is depicted to show how the Africans were stronger than the French, which challenges social hierarchy. Slaves were always shown to be weaker and less powerful than the white men.
Doc#3(POV)-Because a formally enslaved individual wrote this document about this personal accounts, it can prove the historical validity of this document. This helps develop the argument of challenging social hierarchy because it is an unbiased account, and therefore challenges social hierarchies by showing that slaves became liberated.
Doc#3(Purpose)- The purpose of this document is to illustrate the writer’s desire to move on from social hierarchy and to make future changes that are beneficial to the country because of receiving independence. By doing this, the document challenges social hierarchy showing that many states during this time received independence.

Teacher feedback:

For Doc 1: Well done, just reword it, it is a bit tricky to follow. I’d recommend discussing typical depiction of slaves before discussing the image. Nice work connecting the politics to social change.
For Doc 3 (2): Being involved in an institution does not make a source unbiased, but it means it provides a unique perspective. Please re-read document 3(2) though, freeing slaves (alone) is not the primary topic of the document.
For Doc 3: Too vague. This could be talking about anyone, anywhere and would not get the reasoning point.

Student Sample 5

DOC 1: the purpose of this document is to show that the African Americans will no longer except the abuses that the imperial nations subject them to.
DOC 4: The historical situation during this time is that when the European nations colonized parts of South America, there were social hierarchies put in place that placed Europeans at the top of the Hierarchy and Natives and African American. Since the natives were unfairly affected by these new caste system, those natives immediately attempted to abolish it as soon as they were independent.
DOC 5: The intended audience of this document is the Spanish Government because the people of the indigenous community of Xonacatlán, Guerrero, Mexico, in 1843 want to send a clear message demanding repayment and moderation of taxes

Teacher feedback:

For Document 1: think about purpose as why this specific document was created, rather than the purpose of the event shown. Why would someone memorialize a hanging with an illustration like this?
For Document 4: this is what we mean by HIPP/sourcing analysis! You’ve identified relevant historical situation and given an explanation of why that is relevant. Nicely done!
For Document 5: you’re right about who the intended audience is, so why is that relevant? See if you can use the structure of your analysis for document 4 to expand on this one.

Student Sample 6

Doc 1 Historical Context This illustration was created in the context of the successful Haitian Revolution, explaining why Black soldiers were in a position to take vengeance against French soldiers. This demonstrates the success of a revolution in challenging a social hierarchy, namely French soldiers and plantation owners, controlling the slave population.
Doc 4 POV As a person of mixed ancestry in Latin America, the author is able to describe their disdain for the inequality between affluent European heritage ‘whites’ and working people without those qualities of wealth or heritage. Their perspective shows in a background of revolutionary change, presence of an enduring continuity of mixed race and working classes remaining in low standing.
Doc 5 Purpose The purpose of this document was to appeal for return of original lands to the native people of Xonacatlán and lessening of taxes levied, by the Mexican Republic since independence was won. This also explains how low class indigenous people even after revolution continued to be disadvantaged under Latin American born elites.

Teacher feedback:

For Document 1: think about the historical situation of the document (the illustration itself) rather than the hanging. What was the situation that might have made someone create this illustration? And why does that matter?
For Document 3: This one is SO close! Why would a person of mixed ancestry specifically be in a position to describe the inequality between races/classes in Latin America?
For Document 5: Purpose isn’t the same as summary - think about why this document was created specifically. Why is this group petitioning the government in this way?

Student Sample 7

Document 2: Because the author has the point of view of a formerly enslaved person, the document refers to America wanting back their slaves using words such as “dreadful rumor…inexpressionable anguish and terror”. This shows that although the slaves had greatly helped the British with their battles in the war and had granted the slaves who worked in the army free, American society still viewed them as property who had to be returned to their owners, showing the lack of significant social change in the American hierarchy.
Document 4: Because the author has the intended audience of mistreated people of mixed ancestry in Colombia, the document discusses the limited rights the mistreated have in their own area. This shows that even if an oppressed person has the correct amount of money to pay for something in a restaurant, they are not welcomed to sit in the restaurant. The author wrote this to persuade their audience to fight for a new Constitution that would give them equal rights.
Document 5: Because the author has the point of view of a Mexican indigenous community, the document includes a demanding tone in the petition for freedom. This shows that although the indigenous community had fought for their independence from their sovereign ruler and were promised liberty, many years later, they were still under control. During this time, the social hierarchy in the Americas did not change.

Teacher feedback:

For Document 2, excellent work, connecting the point of view to the argument.
For Document 4, this is a nice combination of purpose and intended audience, perhaps dig a bit deeper into the nature of this hierarchy?
For Document 5, nice structure, but the specific are a bit vague, those last two sentences, in particular, are not super clear.

Student Sample 8

Doc 1: The purpose of this document is to illustrate that blacks are able to be in similar positions as whites where they are finally not the victims of white soldiers. Before, black people solely served as slaves, while the whites enjoyed high ranking jobs. As can be seen, both the blacks and the whites are soldiers of the same rank, contradicting with the social hierarchy and the idea that blacks can only be mistreated as slaves.
Doc 2 : The POV of this document is from a formerly enslaved person, Boston King, who most likely worked under British colonies in America. Since Britain was notorious for treating enslaved with brutality, it is highly probable that Boston King had experience with the brutality inflicted, yet in 1798, Britain declared that all slaves hidden within the British army should have freedom, depicting a contrast in G.B’s views against its prior emphasis on discrimination towards lower social hierarchal classes.
Doc 3: The context of this document was during the revolutions led by Simon Bolivar. Simon Bolivar’s successful revolutions emphasized enlightenment ideals such as natural rights and “ending of the social order”, which suggests that people are equal and should not be ranked based a particular way, contradicting the social hierarchies that have been present in the Americas since earlier on.
Doc 4: The audience for this document is targeted towards people of mixed ancestry in Spanish America. As the document is extracted from a newspaper, the criticism of the white people having the ability to enjoy more privileges in a cafe would reach out to more mixed cultured people, thus encouraging others to question why whites have luxury of enjoying what they do not have.

Teacher feedback:

For Doc 1, Purpose is never to “inform” or “show,” that can be part of it, but what concrete action does the author want to happen? your description is not purpose.
For Doc 2 How does this point of view impact social hierarchy. You’re hinting at it, especially with the last sentence but I’m not clear why the British’s decision matter?
For Doc 3, Structurally the context statement is excellent, but this was after the revolution not during it. Just keep your dates in mind. Otherwise its the strongest.

Student Sample 9

Document 5: POV giving a true first person view of the feeling of the racist social hierarchies in America even after new ruling And the request for their lands back. By being a petition it is a reliable source
Document 3: historical context of the current social order and POV/purpose of the author being a political meaning he wants to show that the social hierarchy needs change and he will change it for the better
Document 4: POV of a mixed citizens, being a minority, and their current situation which shows the true severity of the restricting hierarchy instead of a countries government trying to make it seem better. There is also notable sarcasm

Teacher feedback:

For Doc 5: Nice way to phrase it. Well done, though its nature as a petition doesn’t make make it more or less reliable.
For Doc 3 This is too vague to count as either context or purpose.
For Doc 4: Well done, though again, quite vague.
In general you’ll need to make clear to the reader that you have read the document so cite information from the document

Student Sample 10

Doc 1 - Since the illustrator is a British officer, this painting, which shows a Black British army, is used as a possible advertisemnt to attract more black slaves to the British army, which as depicted in the picrute, will allow them to get revenge from the people who took their land and cruely treated them as inferior people (the french). This image shows how the colonization of American land led to a continued hierarchy difference of black people compared to the “whites.”
Doc 4 - The author of this document is a free american resident of mixed ancestry, which makes the written text be a sarcastic statement, in which he is hailing the whites who could be only ones to fully enjoy a visist in a cafe owened by a white person. He is addressing that people like him could not enjoy trhe same privileges that the whites enjoyed, making a social hierrachy that put indegenous, mixed, and balck people below the white blooded.
Doc 5 - This a petition, the intended audience is the governemnt that they address within the written text, in order to let the governnment know that the indigenous community will no longer accept their rule and that further actions against their rule will soon be effected by the people. This shows the unequal treatment that the Mexican poeple continued to have, despite the time that have passed since their independence. The social hierarchy have shifted power to the whites since the discovery of the Americas.

Teacher feedback:

For Doc 1: You make a strong case for the purpose of the document, the desired action of bringing in more solider, however this is not the British army being depicted. Examine the document more closely.
For Doc 4: The author’s heritage does not automatically mean a document is sarcastic, though you do support that conclusion in your argument via citing the text. Well done.
For Doc 5: Keep in mind the audience is not necessarily the directly addressed individuals, think more broadly. Who else was supposed to read this? Which class of people was supposed to read this?
Nice work connecting your arguments back to the question fo hierarchy

Student Sample 11

document #1 According to an illustration by Captain Marcus Rainsford, the formerly enslaved sought revenge after the Haitian revolution and fought for what they lost previous to it. The historical situation of this piece is that the Haitian Revolution began in August 1971 under Toussaint L’Ouverture who riled up the slaves, the overwhelming majority of the population, and did not end until 1804. Even after declaring their independence, the battle for the Haitians was not done.
document 4 An 1832 broadside posted in Cartegena, Columbia reveals that after claiming independence from Spain, the Natives were still suffering at the hand of Europeans in the form of creoles. The author of this piece shares the point of view of a person of mixed ancestry, or a pardo. This gives his writing support towards those lacking the privileges won during the revolution and a negative view of the creoles and peninsulares. The Colombian Revolution proved to be a success, but primarily for the creoles; the truly oppressed continued to suffer.
document 5 A petition from the indigenous members of Xonacatlán, Guerrero, Mexico reveals that the ruling system in place is not what was fought for during the 1810 Mexico Revolution. This petition is directed to the current ruler who’s rule is similar to what the Mexicans wanted to get rid of. The Mexican Revolution allowed for independence from Spain, but not true independence from a despot.

Teacher feedback:

Doc 1: Correct about the context being the revolution, though you should make the connection to hierarchy clearer. Also, the Haitian Revolution is 1791. Just watch the dates.
Doc 4: Well done excellent point of view. You connect the point of view with the question of hierarchy.
Doc 5: The structure of this argument and the intended audience are well done. Just make sure it connected to the question of social hierarchy, the prompt is asking about. The prompt is not asking about political revolution

Student Sample 12

In document 2, Boston King explains that after the American Revolution when Great Britain and America were at peace, a report was sent out for the slaves to go back to their masters. As a former enslaved person, he felt worried and seeked refuge with the English. Therefore, in his point of view, the American Revolution did not successfully change social hierarchies.
Document 4 is aimed at people of mixed ancestry in Columbia. This document discusses the mistreatment of these people and is used to persuade the intended audience to rebel against this abuse and form a new constitution in which the social hierarchies would be in their favor.
Document 3 proposes that these new independent states follow a new set of principles and get together with their “mutual desires for order and hopes for liberty”. This shows how the Enlightenment ideals that rose in previous centuries led to the revolutions in Latin America. This document is evidence of the impact that Simon Bolivar had on the causes of this newfound independence of these states. Even though Simon Bolivar’s ideals were spread throughout Latin America, the social hierarchies were not greatly affected and remained somewhat unchanged.

Teacher feedback:

For Document 2, say the last sentence first. Otherwise, that is excellent and succinct and to the point.
For Document 4, again another sound argument. It could be made stronger by elaborating “This document discusses the mistreatment of these people and is used to persuade” perhaps discuss the mistreatment either in or outside of the document to help make the case for the intended audience being those who suffered too.
Doc 3: I can’t tell is this is purpose or context? You write purpose but it reads like context. If it is purpose there is a note on purpose to keep in mind: Purpose is never to “inform” or “show,” that can be part of it, but what concrete action does the author want to happen. What does the author want to have happen in the future

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