CHW 3M 2012: In Praise of the Great, In Praise of the Common

Option 1: Is Conflict Necessary for Greatness?

Some historians argued that the main reason Canada has never produced a truly great political leader is that Canada has not been shaped by conflict. These historians argue that powerful nations and empires become powerful through war; because Canada has never experienced revolution or had to violently struggle for independence, we have never produced a leader like Cyrus, Darius, or even a political figure like Abraham Lincoln.

Write a two paragraph response in which you explain if conflict is necessary for greatness. Make sure that you make specific references to key figures/events from history.

Option 2: In Praise of the Common People (based on a great BBC History Podcast)

Roman tombstones have provided historians with new insight into the lives of the commoners. These tombstones were quite different from our own: they were  descriptive, personal, and, quite often, funny.  Here are some examples:

  • the tombstone of a 5-year old Roman girl  explains that she was really a tomboy. The inscription describes her boy-like face, her daily activities, and other aspects of her boyish life.
  • another tombstone explains that the person laying beneath was legendary for his bowel movements.

Write 10-15 lines of an epitaph for a  tombstone in the tradition of the Ancient Romans. Your “commoner” may come from any era studied in the course; if you were absent Friday, I thoroughly recommend choosing the Popolo Minuto from the Renaissance.  Regardless of the era you choose, make sure your work is in the tradition of Roman tombstones:

  • The epitaph should begin with an invitation to the passerby (Hey, passerby! Stop for a moment and read about my life!)
  • The epitaph should explain who you are. This will require you to quickly create a character; make sure, however, that your character profile features details that reflect the lives of commoners from the era you have chosen.
  • The epitaph can be funny; make sure, however, that it is not crass.
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