Apush Essay Themes Examples

While a number of the most important reform movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries grew out of efforts to combat the negative effects of industrialization, the main focus of their efforts was not the impact of the Industrial Revolution on the natural environment. Although some reformers, such as Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, were deeply worried about the consequences of economic development on the natural environment, the most influential, most effective reformers were primarily concerned with the impact of the rise of big business on small businesses, industrial workers, and consumers, and with corruption in government that reformers believed resulted from the economic power of large corporations.

Farmers were upset at what they regarded as arbitrary and excessive railroad rates and abuses such as rebates to big business like Standard Oil. These farmers were among the first and most outspoken advocates of reform in the late 19th century. Pressure from the Farmers’ Alliances convinced Congress to pass and President Cleveland to sign the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, a piece of legislation designed to regulate railroad rates and prohibit corrupt practices such as rebates. By 1890, these Farmers’ Alliances had entered politics in a number of Southern and Midwestern states and succeeded in pressuring Congress to pass the Sherman Antitrust Act, outlawing all “combinations in restraint of trade.” By 1892, a national People’s Party had been organized, nominating a third-party presidential candidate and electing several members of Congress. The Populist movement, a reform movement attempting to combat the negative effects of industrialization and the rise of big business, was now in full swing.

Beginning at the state level and with strong support in many urban areas, a new progressive movement reached the national level during the first years of the 20th century. Supported by President Theodore Roosevelt, progressive reformers, like the Populists, sought to strengthen railroad regulation and both enforce and further strengthen the antitrust laws. In 1902, President Roosevelt not only forced mine owners to submit to arbitration to settle a nationwide coal strike, he also asked his attorney general to file an antitrust suit against the Northern Securities Company, a large railroad holding company. After the Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision to break up the Northern Securities Company in 1904, Roosevelt went on to strengthen the Interstate Commerce Commission’s ability to regulate railroad rates by pushing the Hepburn Act through Congress in 1906. A few years later, another progressive reformer, Woodrow Wilson, succeeded to the presidency, and he managed to further strengthen the antitrust laws by pushing the Clayton Antitrust Act through Congress in 1914.

While railroad regulation and antitrust actions attracted the most attention of reformers during the period 1880–1920, some efforts were made by reformers to mitigate the effects of industrialization and commercial expansion on the natural environment. President Roosevelt used his executive authority to put thousands of acres of public lands aside for national parks, saving them from commercial exploitation. In 1908, he convened a conservation conference at the White House in an effort to further mitigate the damage that mining and manufacturing were doing to the natural environment, especially in the West. President Roosevelt also pushed for the establishment of the forest service and appointed a conservation-minded ally, Gifford Pinchot, to head that agency. Finally, even after retiring from office, Roosevelt supported Pinchot in his efforts to prevent President Taft’s secretary of the interior, Richard Ballinger, from opening additional public lands to commercial exploitation.

Thus, both the populist and progressive movements sought to combat the negative effects of industrialization and economic expansion by focusing primarily on railroad regulation and the strengthening and enforcement of antitrust legislation. Nevertheless, some progressive reformers like Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot did pay significant attention to preventing further damage to the natural environment and helped to found the modern conservation movement.

One of the best ways to practice for the AP US History exam is by trying out sample questions. Sample APUSH DBQ questions help you get prepared to write a killer essay on test day.

APUSH DBQ Questions: An Overview

The APUSH DBQ consists of one essay question. You will have 55 minutes to complete the essay. The essay is graded on a 7-point rubric and will count for 25% of your overall exam score.

You will be presented with an essay question, followed by a series of documents (typically 7) related to the theme of the question. These documents can be any combination of primary and secondary source texts, maps, photographs, political cartoons, or other artwork.

You will need to use information from the documents as well as your outside knowledge to construct an essay response to the question. Your response should be a persuasive essay and must include a thesis statement backed by evidence.

Official APUSH DBQ Questions

The College Board has released several sample DBQs. These come from the official practice test and previous real exams. These official APUSH DBQ questions are the best, most reliable source to help you prepare for what to expect on test day. Read through these and try your hand at writing (or at least outlining) the essays. Some of them even come with scoring guides and sample student responses to help you see how you would have done if you’d written this essay for the real exam.

Here are links to the official APUSH DBQ questions:

DBQ 1

Topic: Imperialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
Source:Official AP US History Practice Test (p.32-35)

DBQ 2

Topic: American Revolution
Source:2017 AP US History Exam (p. 7-11)

DBQ 3

Topic: Women’s Rights Movement
Source:2016 AP US History Exam (p. 6-11)
Related resources:Scoring guide and sample student responses

DBQ 4

Topic: New Conservatism
Source: 2015 AP US History Exam (p. 6-10)
Related resources:Scoring guide and sample student responses

Unofficial APUSH DBQ Questions

There are several sources of unofficial DBQ questions. While these are less reliable than the official questions from College Board, they can provide good practice in interpreting and building an argument around documents.

Barron’s has a single free full-length practice test available on their website, which includes the DBQ. You can take the whole exam, or if you’re only interested in the DBQ, you can click on “Jump to Question” once inside the exam and select the DBQ. The topic is the Progressive Movement.

You can also find loads of good quality teacher-created practice APUSH DBQ questions online. For example, Mr. Bryant’s AP US History has a folder of TONS of DBQS you can download as Word documents. They are organized by time period/topic.

High quality test prep books from major publishers also include practice tests, including DBQs. Make sure you choose a book from 2015 or later to ensure the material is updated for the latest version of the APUSH exam.

More APUSH DBQ Resources

Check out these other great resources from Magoosh to help you prepare to shine on your APUSH DBQ questions:

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