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Conflict and Compromise in History

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The theme Conflict and Compromise in History is complex and asks students to view history through multiple perspectives. In some cases, the conflicts existed without compromise. In others, compromise was reached before major conflicts ensued. In the end some conflicts were averted with compromises, like treaties. However, more often, events in history reflect both conflict and compromise. Students may choose to focus on a conflict or a compromise, but if the topic includes one as well as the other, the student needs to address both sides of the theme.

To understand the historical importance of their topics, students must ask questions of time and place, cause and effect, change over time, and impact and significance. They must ask not only when did events happen, but why did they happen? What factors contributed to their development? What was the lasting influence in history? How did this topic change the course of events? What effect did the event have on the community, society, nation and world?

There are hundreds of topics related to World War II. The war effort at home and abroad provides rich research possibilities that students might investigate. For example, students might analyze FDRs lend-lease policy as a compromise that enabled him to help the allies without actually entering the war. Or a student may wish to investigate how African American troops were compromised in segregated units and the conflict they felt serving their country abroad while suffering discrimination and segregation at home. Or a study might examine the conflict over women in the military and the conflicts and compromises to which they were subjected as they tried to serve their country.

Students might be interested in examining the conflicts that led to wars or the compromises that ended the conflicts. A paper might be written on the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I. What conflicts existed among its creators? Was the treaty a series of compromises? Did the treaty lead to World War II? Or students might create a performance that analyzes the conflicts and compromises among the Allied leaders at Yalta or Tehran.

Battles fought in wartime seem like the ultimate conflicts. Whether students choose to study a battle from World War II, the Crimean War, the Six Day War, or from any other war, they should be careful to ask questions about the significance of the battle and the overall conflict involved. Which political conflict does the battle represent? How have strategies used by the contenders involved compromises to terrain, troop morale, supply lines or civilian pressures? How was the battle a significant event in the war?

Efforts at conflict resolution and the promotion of peace make very interesting topics for study. Why was the United Nations created and what role has it played in resolving international conflicts? Have United Nations peace-keeping missions been successful? Why or why not? Explain the ongoing problem of the resolution of disputes in the Middle East. Has outside intervention been successful in establishing peace in the area? What role has religion played in the conflicts? Has economics played a role in the inability to reach resolution or compromise?

Religious history is rich in conflicts and compromises. Conflicts have occurred between differing sects of the same religion and between people of different religious faiths. Often religious conflicts have been closely tied to or been instigated by political conflicts, or the clash of scientific or secular ideas and religious doctrines. How did the conflicts in the Reformation result in a permanent split between Protestants and Catholics? Did Galileo or the Church compromise over his scientific discoveries? What happened to the divine right of French kings or the belief in the divinity of the Japanese emperor?

Economic growth and change often involve conflicts. A student might write a paper on the reaction of Greek city-states to the growing trade empire of Athens or the conflicts over Mediterranean trade routes that led some nations to seek alternative passage to the Indies. A student could create a project that examines how workers and employers compromised their conflicts over wages and working conditions or produce a media presentation about the conflict between western farmers and eastern railroad companies in the late nineteenth century.

The theme lends itself to a number of topics related to the history of the Constitution since its ratification: conflicts that led to incorporating the Bill of Rights; conflicts and compromises over constitutional guarantees of civil liberties during wartime; and new interpretations to meet the needs of industrial growth. Convention delegates had conflicts over how states should be represented in a national government and what powers states should retain or entrust to the national government.

Students who are interested in cultural history might want to examine what happened to native customs and values when western countries imposed their rule in Africa, America and Asia or on the Pacific Islands. Did natives resist and/or accommodate to new practices? Anti-colonial movements often led to conflicts, but also to compromises after World War II. Students might develop a web site presentation that examines the anti-colonial efforts that led to United States involvement in Vietnam.

Some of the most harsh and agonizing conflicts in history encompass social conflict and compromise. Have the roles of women and minorities in American society changed as a result of conflicts over ideas? What kind of conflicts and compromises resulted when women and minorities asserted their civil rights? How has the status of women and minorities changed in other societies? A paper might be researched that analyzes the conflict over Reconstruction and its impact on the rise of the Ku Klux Klan; a performance might be created that examines the conflicts and compromises faced by immigrants as they attempted to settle a new land; or a documentary might be produced that interprets the tension between Irish immigrants and African Americans that resulted in the New York City draft riot of 1863.

Whatever topics are chosen, students should be careful to place their topics into historical perspective, examine the significance of their topics in history and show development over time. Studies should include an investigation into available primary and secondary research, as well as an analysis of the material, and thus should clearly explain the relationship of the topic to the theme, Conflict and Compromise in History. Then, students may develop papers, performances, exhibits, web sites and documentary presentations and projects for entry into National History Day competitions.