Thematic thoughts

When I looked through the past paper questions, I thought a lot about the words that kept reappearing in them, and about their definitions. It really helps to “define your terms” in the first paragraph of your essays. That’s because this shows the examiner right from the start that you have thought about themes and concepts – the things this paper is supposed to be about. It also helps you to focus what you write next. Each bullet point can become the theme of a whole paragraph – think which rebellions fit this category. Cover all the bullet points, and you have an essay…

This is what I came up with:

What is meant by a SERIOUS rebellion?

  • Threatens central government (how close it gets to London)
  • Threatens regime change
  • Rank (and hence power) of the rebels
  • Number of people involved in the rebellion
  • Number of different areas in rebellion at the same time

What were the MAIN CAUSES of rebellion?

  • Religion
  • Taxation
  • Short term changes in local customs/living standards which affect everyday lives
  • Factionalism
  • Resistance to the centre
  • Long term economic and social changes

How did governments RESPOND to rebellion?

  • Improvements to state power/organisation
  • Change of policy
  • Buying time/divide and rule
  • Military force
  • Punishment of rebels (deterrence)

What defined the NATURE of rebellion?

  • Nature of leadership (nobles, commons)
  • Reason for/aims of rebellion
  • Scale
  • Nature of demands – are rebellions “loyal” or not – i.e. are they seeking change and reform, or are they “disloyal”, seeking a new ruler or government? (This determines how violent and extreme they are)

What defined the SUCCESS of rebellion?

  • Is there a regime change? Is some senior minister dismissed or dismembered?
  • Are demands met? If so, how many?
  • How many people outside the early core are willing to join
  • How many important people (nobles) are willing to join
  • Are the rebels punished?


  • Great chain of being
  • Improve state power and control outside the centre
    • In England
    • In Ireland
  • Propaganda
  • Intelligence
  • Changes in policy

How did IRISH rebellions differ from English ones?

  • Largely based on major regime change/independence
  • Led by nobles, large numbers of rebels, last longer, harder for England to respond to owing to distance & numbers & lack of powerful loyal loyalists
  • Expensive for England to put down; they often start off trying to handle the rebellion cheaply and have to commit more men and money
  • Religion always a factor

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