Delving into the annals of history is not just a matter of recounting past events; it’s about understanding the evolution of societies, ideas, and the factors that have shaped our world. For aspirants of the prestigious Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Civil Services Examination, the history optional subject opens up a gateway to explore the past, analyze historical trends, and critically examine the influences that have sculpted human civilizations. In this journey towards historical enlightenment, one of the critical tools in an aspirant’s arsenal is the Previous Year Questions (PYQs). These questions not only serve as valuable practice, but they also offer a unique insight into the recurring themes, concepts, and trends that the UPSC has emphasized over the years. In this blog series, we embark on a comprehensive exploration of the History Optional Subject-Wise PYQs for UPSC Mains, focusing on the theme of ‘Enlightenment and Modern Ideas’ from 2013 to 2023, offering aspirants an invaluable resource to refine their historical acumen and tackle this complex subject with precision.
The era of Enlightenment and Modern Ideas represents a pivotal period in human history when radical philosophical, scientific, and political notions began to redefine societies across the globe. From the French Revolution to the Industrial Revolution, and from the works of Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire and Rousseau to the profound impacts of these ideas on various civilizations, this subject delves into the very essence of societal transformation. By delving into the UPSC’s past questions on this theme, aspirants can glean not only the nuances of the topic but also the examiners’ perspectives and the evolving dynamics of the examination. Join us in this blog series as we unravel the tapestry of Enlightenment and Modern Ideas, providing a roadmap for history enthusiasts and future civil servants to navigate the rich history optional syllabus with confidence.
Enlightenment and Modern ideas History – Previous Year Questions (UPSC CSE Mains History Optional)
Enlightenment and Modern ideas: Major Ideas of Enlightenment: Kant, Rousseau: Spread of Enlightenment in the colonies; Rise of socialist Ideas (up to Marx); spread of Marxian Socialism
1. What is meant by the ‘rediscovery of ancient civilization’? Show how the ‘New Learning’ was a major element in the beginning of Modem Europe. (1986)
2. “Attempts to put mercantilist doctrine into practice characterised the history of most of the nations of Western European in the 16th and 17th centuries.” Comment in about 200 words. (1988)
3. ‘The discovery of the new world, coinciding with the swift diffusion of printed books, taught the Europeans that ‘‘Truth’’, in Bacon’s noble phrase, “is the daughter not of authority, but of time.’” Comment in about 200 words. (1989)
4. ‘The Renaissance was the discovery of the world and of man’ Comment in about 200 words. (1990)
5. ‘His (Martin Luther’s) rebellion was essentially popular & national.’ Comment. (1991)
6. ‘The Heavenly Land system was significant in that it greatly expanded the idea of equalizing rich and poor and landowing which the peasant wars had put forward in the past.’ Comment. (1991)
7. Assess the intellectual awakening which occurred in Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. How did it influence modem society and civilization. (1993)
8. “The Renaissance was not a political or religious movement. It was a state of mind.” Comment. (1994)
9. “The Renaissance and the Reformation are the two springs of modern history, rival sources of the intellectual and moral freshening of modem life.’’ Comment. (1995)
10. “The era of discovery and exploration was but another aspect of the Renaissance interest in the world and man.” Comment. (1996)
11. “The Peace of Westphalia ended the reign of theology over the European mind and left the road obstructed but passable for the tentative of reason.” Comment. (1997)
12. “Of all forms assumed by the Protestant Reformation, Calvinism has been the most far – reaching in its scope and the most profound in its influence.” Comment. (2000)
13. ‘Marxian Communism is primarily the offspring of German Hegelianism and French Socialism.’ Comment. (2001)
14. ‘The Renaissance was the discovery of the world and of man.’ Comment. (2002)
15. ‘Rousseau’s political philosophy contains the seeds of Socialism, Absolutism and Democracy.’ Comment. (2004)
16. “The Renaissance scholars laid the eggs which Luther, the father of the Reformation, later on hatched.” Discuss. (2006)
17. Give reasons for the origin of the Renaissance in Italy. (2007)
18. “The Enlightenment represented alternative approaches to modernity, alternative habits of mind and heart, of conscience and sensibility.” Discuss. (2008)
19. “France was more fertile than Britain in producing new Socialist theories and movements, though they bore less concrete results in France than in Britain”. Comment. (2008)
20. Critically evaluate: “… he (Voltaire) was living in the Age of Enlightenment….The age itself was not enlightened.”- E. Kant. (2010)
21. “The promptings of the heart are more to be trusted than the logic of the mind.” – Rousseau. Critically evaluate. (2011)
22. “The despotic rulers of Europe were influences by the philosophy of Enlightenment and began to follow a benevolent policy towards their subjects.” Critically examine. (2012)
23. “For Kant, Enlightenment is mankind’s final coming of age, the emancipation of the human consciousness from an immature state of ignorance and error.” Critically examine. (2013)
24. “Rousseau strove to reconcile the liberty of the individual and the institution of Government through a new vision of the Contract-Theory of Government.” Critically examine. (2014)
25. “Enlightened despots (Europe) were not necessarily politically liberal.” Critically examine in 150 words. (2014)
26. “If we were to define our conception of the State, our answer would be that the State is the banker of the poor.The government would finance and supervise the purchase of productive equipments and the formation of social workshops.” In light of the above statement of Louis Blanc, throw light on the Pre-Marxist Socialist Thought in Europe. (2014)
27. Critically examine: “France was even more fertile than Britain in producing new socialist theories and movements, though bore less concrete results in France than Britain.” (2015)
28. “The oppressive exploitation of the working class in the wake of Industrial Revolution had jolted the social conscience of England.” Elucidate. (2015)
29. Karl Marx applied his critical intelligence to Wealth of Nations… Where Smith had seen only the sunlight, Marx saw only the shadows thrown upon the human scene by the unimpeded exercise of individual liberty…” Elucidate. (2016)
30. Critically examine in 150 words: “Kant’s redefinition of reason and his rehabilitation of conscience marked a high point in the intellectual reaction against dominant rationalism of the Enlightenment.” (2017)
31. Critically examine: “With the writings of Karl Marx, Socialism assumed the form of Scientific Socialism.” (2018)
32. Explain the major ideas of Enlightenment. Discuss the contribution of Rousseau in Enlightenment. (2018)
33. Critically examine: How would you explain the nature of pre-Marxian Socialism? (2019)
34. “The principles of Enlightenment were in some ways a continuation of the discoveries and theories of the Scientific Revolution.” (2020)
35. What was “enlightened” about the Age of Enlightenment? (2021)
FAQs on Enlightenment and Modern ideas
Q: What is the Enlightenment period, and why is it significant in the context of history?
A: The Enlightenment, often referred to as the Age of Reason, was an intellectual movement that emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries. It emphasized rational thinking, individual rights, and the separation of church and state. It played a pivotal role in shaping modern Western societies by promoting science, reason, and progressive ideas.
Q: Who were some prominent Enlightenment thinkers, and what were their contributions?
A: Renowned Enlightenment philosophers include Voltaire, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant. They advocated for principles such as freedom of speech, religious tolerance, and the social contract theory, which influenced political and societal developments.
Q: What were the major socio-political impacts of the Enlightenment on the world?
A: The Enlightenment ideas contributed to the American and French Revolutions, the formation of modern democracies, and the development of the concept of human rights. It also had a significant impact on science, philosophy, and education.
Q: What is the concept of “Social Contract” in Enlightenment philosophy?
A: The social contract, as proposed by philosophers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Hobbes, is the idea that individuals voluntarily come together to form a government. This government’s legitimacy derives from the consent of the governed, and its purpose is to protect citizens’ rights and promote the common good.
Q: What does the Enlightenment idea of “Tabula Rasa” mean, and who introduced it?
A: The term “Tabula Rasa” was popularized by John Locke, an Enlightenment philosopher. It means that individuals are born with a blank slate and that their knowledge and experiences shape their beliefs and character. This idea underlines the importance of education and the environment in human development.
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