Why Two Interpretations are Different


How to do this question:

This question is one of a number of questions which require you to think about the PROVENANCE and the CONTENT, and then to use the ideas you get to frame an answer.


When evaluating provenance, look for NOP:


§      Is it a letter, speech, diary, autobiography, textbook, cartoon, photo, painting, novel, reported conversation, obituary, newspaper article, propaganda poster etc.?

§      What differences does this explain, if any – for instance, is one more likely to be truer than another?

NOTE that, last year, answers which addressed this were largely ignored by the examiner, who paid MUCH more attention to:



§      Who wrote it, when and where?   What context (e.g. in a totalitarian state?)   And how might this affect it – e.g. bias/ ‘blind-spots’/ perspective (eyewitness v. hindsight).

NOTE that, last year, answer which addressed this reached level 2.   To get level 3 you had to address:



§      Why did the author produce the source (e.g. advertisements, propaganda, speeches to persuade/ cartoons to get a point across in a fun way/ diaries and autobiographies to justify/ books to attack or just to record)?   And how might this affect it – e.g. bias/ ‘blind-spots’/ perspective (eyewitness v. hindsight).




Target: Analysis & evaluation of interpretations (AO 6.3) in context (AO 6.1)



Level 1: Simple response

Either looks at the provenance and draws simple contrasts with little or no explanation – e.g. F was a Nazi and G was a British historian

Or make simple statements, accepting the sources at face value – e.g. Source F is different to source G because they say different things/ because F is correct and G is incorrect.



Level 2: Undeveloped points

Either uses the provenance of the source to suggest reasons based on ORIGIN – e.g. the Nazi would have been biased and the British textbook writer would not.   Includes ‘learned response’ explanations (e.g. benefit of hindsight/ more documents to draw on).

Or uses factual information to make simple comments on the reasons – e.g. there are different theories about the Reichstag fire which these two sources represent.


To get to this level, these ideas MUST include an explanation of why this led them to be different.



Level 3: Developed points

Either develops an argument using the purpose of the source to suggest reasons – e.g. Diels wanted to make the Nazis look innocent/ Bullock aimed to show Hitler as a tyrant and wanted to make the Nazis look guilty.

Or develops an argument using factual information about its context – e.g. compares content closely with own detailed knowledge to evaluate and then compare the two interpretations.



Level 4: Sophistication

As Level 3, but develops convincing arguments using BOTH provenance and facts.



So, for this question, you MUST demonstrate that you can:
1.   Examine the provenances to find differences of origin and purpose

2.   Compare the content to evaluate and compare two interpretations.

3.   Explain how these ideas answer the question WHY they are different.




Sentence Starters:


1.       Because they were written by different people…

            Start by stating two or three factual differences between the provenance.

            You MUST explain how/ why these led to differences in the sources (e.g. bias).


2.       Because the authors had different motives…

            Explain the different MOTIVES .   Explain how this led to differences.


And for the most able pupils:

3.       Because they are selecting different facts for their different purposes…

            Compare facts to own knowledge and explain how this explains the differences in tone and emphasis.




(in the following examples, you can see the points which were ticked ü by the examiner, and - if you mouseover the maroon 'Mark ' at the end of each example - you can see what level and mark the answer got and why)



All the following answers are actual answers by pupils in the 2005 examination.

  1. For each, study them with a friend and - using the markscheme - work out what mark you would have given the answer and why.   Then mouseover the maroon 'Mark ' at the end of the question and see what it actually got and why.

  2. When you think you have got the measure of 'what makes a good answer', try one of the two 'exam practice' questions at the end for yourself.   Show it to your teacher (or your friend) and discuss what level and mark your attempt would have got.

    The KEY question is: 'Have I looked at the PURPOSE of the sources to answer this?'.





Source B         One view of the Five Year Plans

From The Illustrated History of the USSR, an official history published in Moscow in 1982.

The drive towards industrialisation was an heroic struggle by all the Soviet people.   It showed their enthusiasm following the revolution of 1917 and victory in the Civil War.   The Five Year Plans gave a focus for the people’s hopes and joy.   The whole world watched closely to see the process of industrialisation in the USSR and the success in getting rid of backwardness.


Source C         Another view of the Five Year Plans

From Stalin, by A ULAM.   This book was published in the USA in 1973.

At tremendous human cost, the Soviet Union was pushed within a few years (1928-1934) into becoming an industrial economy.   To some, this is the greatest crime of modern history.   To others it is a huge feat of social control, ruthless and cruel in its effects on millions of human beings.   Yet it laid the foundations of a richer economy and enabled Russia to withstand a foreign invasion and become a superpower.



(bi)   Explain possible reasons why the interpretations in Sources B and C are different.            (10 marks)


a.   There are many possible reasons why these two sources are different these could be the fact that russian and Americans hatedü 1 each other or they were written a long time after this had happened.

Firstly, I think that they may be different because the Russia wanted to make their country look like it was successful.ü 2   Whereas the American could have write it to make the Russians look bad after all they did despise them.

Secondly is that both of the dates were far away from the time that it had happened.

Over all, because of the content of the sources been different I would say that the American point of view is more accurate because it is near the time.



b.   The provenance helps explain a lot for both sources, both publishing times different, countries of publishment also different and the source of knowledge.   Source B could have been an encouragingü 1 view published in Moscow in 1982, to show the success and determination of Stalin, the source is not as bleak as Source C, but seems lighter explanation praising the enthusiasm of the Russians, Source C could have been a more honest viewü 2, published in 1973, still showing the success of Stalin, but was published in the USA and describes the bleakerü 2 insight into processes of reaching five year plans, maybe a persuasive source, as C is very encouraging although addressing harshness.

I know that Stalin was very powerful, his authority, stability and determination changed Russia so, Source B may be more of a less correct source for readers in Moscow in 1982, more praising Stalin.



c.   I am going to say how these interpretations are different.

Firstly, in Source B, looking at the provenance of the source, I can see that it was published in Russia in 1982.   The fact that it was a Russian book shows that it would be one-sidedü 1 and would want to show Russia in a good way.   Also, during Stalin’s time, I know from my own knowledge that many people were scared of Stalin.   People who opposed him were killed and so everyone in Russia would have to pretend to idolise himü 2 or maybe they’d be killed.   Therefore, I know that the reason this differs from source C is because of different motivesü 3 people would have had to write the sources.

On the other hand, in Source C, I can see that it was an American book published in 1973.   This is one reason why Source C differs from Source B, because it was written in a democraticüü 4 country where the writer would have been able to see all of the facts.   He would have had the benefit of hindsight.  

I know from my own knowledge that the five year plans did have a harsh effectü 5 on millions so it differs from the other source, which says many people were happy about the plans.   This could be because of the different beliefs and aims of the USA and the USSR.

Overall, therefore, I think that the main reason why Source B and C differ is because of the different beliefs and aims of the two countries.   What may have been perceived in Russia may have been a huge success but in the USA it seemed like industrialisation at the cost of millions of peoples lives.   Also another main reason is the fact that the Russian people were bullied into saying good things about Stalin for fear of their and their family’s lives.








Source F         One view of the Reichstag Fire, February 1933

From an account written in 1950 by RUDOLF DIELS, a Nazi and head of police in Berlin in 1933.

I think van der Lubbe started the Reichstag Fire on his own.   When I arrived at the burning building, some police officers were already questioning him.   His voluntary confession made me think that he was such an expert arsonist that he did not need any helpers.   Why could not one person set fire to the old furniture, the heavy curtains and the bone-dry wood panelling?   He had lit several dozen fires using firelighters and his burning shirt, which he was holding in his right hand like a torch when he was overpowered by Reichstag officials.


Source G         Another view of the Five Year Plans

From Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, by the British historian ALAN BULLOCK, 1952.

Goering had been looking for an excuse to smash the Communist Party.   He at once declared that van der Lubbe was only part of a larger Communist plot to start a campaign of terror.   The burning of the Reichstag was to be the signal for Communist revolt.

In fact, I believe that the burning of the Reichstag was planned and carried out by the Nazis themselves.   Van der Lubbe was picked up by the S.A. after he had attempted to set fire to other buildings.   He had been allowed to climb into the Reichstag and start afire on his own in one part of the building while the Nazis started the main fires.



(bi)   Explain possible reasons why the interpretations in Sources F and G are different.            (10 marks)


d.   There are a number of reasons why the two interptations might differ Source F was wrote by a Nazi who were accused of starting the fire themselves and source G was wrote by a Historian who isn’t going to be likely to make stuff up is he.



e.   There are many reasons why these two sources differ.   Source F being written by a Nazi, Source G written by a British historian.   Both sources are completely opposite.

First reason, I think these interpretations are different is because as F was written by a Nazi he is trying to cover upü  the real fact while the other source is British it is slating the Nazi claiming that they planned it.

However, the Nazi was head of police s he would have a clearer interpretation than that of an historian.

The dates are also apart and from my own knowledge I know that the Reichstag fire did take place in 1933.There are endless possibilities why these sources are different, but for me the ones that I have singled out seem to be the most obvious.



f.   There are many reasons why these two interpretations of the Reichstag fire are different.   Using the information we have from the sources, if we observe the provenance, this is a clear indication as to why the interpretations are different.

Firstly, looking at Source F, we can see that it was written by a Nazi member.   Contrastingly, Source F was compiled by a British historian.   We can therefore see why these 2 interpretations are different, because a Nazi member would have been one-sidedü 1 towards the Nazi view-point, as they would have wanted the Nazis to succeed.   On the other hand a British historian would be able to have a more balanced viewü 1, and be able to summarise the event, without being one-sided.   The historian wrote the source in 1952, and therefore has the benefit of hindsight to help in the judgement.   The Nazi member, however, wrote his source at the time, and so would have only had his first instinctive reaction, rather than time to think about it.

I can also tell from my own knowledge why the interpretations are different.   I know that it is widely believed that the Nazis started the Reichstag fireü 2.   It is believed that they used these means of terror to help Hitler become dictator rather than just chancellor.   The historian would think this, as it is what many people believe today.   I also know from my own knowledge that the Nazis did try to blame it on others, and so the sources are bound to differ, as the Nazis aren’t likely to admit that.



g.   One possible reason why these two interpretations are different is because they are giving their views on how the Reichstag fire started.

In Source F we here that the fire was started by Van der Lubbe on his own.   Although this is possible it does seem unlikely and it was written by a Nazi head of police, which tells me that it will be inaccurate and might be a cover up of the truth.   However in source G we hear that the Nazi started the main fires while van der Lubbe started a little fire on his own.

Another reason why these two interpretations are different is that they were written by opposite people. Source F was written by a Nazi head of police and Source G was written by a British historian.   Both don’t seem very trustworthy because source F would want to cover upü what really happened and Source G would just want to blame the Nazi/Germanyü.   However, Source G may have been written by the British it was also written by a historian who really just wants to uncover the truth.

From the two possible reasons I think that my first reason explains a possible reason why the two sources are different.   I think this is the most important one because it shows the differences between the two clearly an I think it is a more important reason.











Source C         The new Constitution of the USSR

From History of the Soviet Union in Artists' Drawings published by an official Soviet press agency in Moscow, 1974

From a one-time economically backward country, Russia had been transformed into a mighty industrial state.   The new Constitution, the Constitution of victorious socialism, was adopted in 1936.   It guaranteed all Soviet citizens the right to vote and freedom of speech.


 Source D         The 1936 Constitution

 From Russia and the USSR 1905-1991 by P INGRAM, 1997.   This was a textbook written for use in British schools.

In 1936 Stalin introduced a new constitution which appeared to give greater freedom and democracy to the Soviet people.   In theory everyone was given the right to say or write anything.

In reality these rights did not exist.   The ruling committee of the Communist Party, headed by Stalin and packed with his followers, continued to hold complete power.   the right of individual citizens to express their own ideas without fear of punishment did not exist.   Stalin had no intention of allowing anyone to criticise him.


(bi)   Explain possible reasons why the interpretations in Sources C and D are different.            (10 marks)  


Source G         An account of life in a Hitler Youth camp in the 1930s

From This is Germany by CW DOMVILLE-FIFE, a British writer, 1939.   It was written to explain what the author had seen in a Hitler Youth Camp.

Life in the camp appeared to be one of healthy exercise in sports and games, but absolute discipline was maintained.   By this I do not mean that it was harshly enforced.   The boys were happy to accept it.

It seemed to me also that, although every boy was conscious of his approaching military service, there was little if any drill performed in the camp.   the leader had, of course, served in the German army, and military enthusiasm is part of the healthy and cheerful pattern of the German Boy Scout movement.


Source H         A description of a Hitler Youth Camp in the 1930s

From Just Back from Germany by JA COLE, a British writer, 1938.

It is claimed that the work of the Hitler Youth is in no way a pre-military training.   All the same, I should think it is a good preparation for the army.   The children learn discipline.   They march in ranks.   They drill.   When I attended a Hitler Youth camp, I asked a boy what they had done last night.   In the presence of several others and one of the leaders, he said pistol-shooting.   Very good fun, and not necessarily a military pastime.   However, it hardly justifies the claim that the youth movements have nothing to do with military training.


(bi)   Explain possible reasons why the interpretations in Sources G and H are different.            (10 marks)  


Answer a          Level: 1          Mark: 2

•   ü 1  identifies a factual statement based on the provenances.   It only gets a L1 because the pupil does not then go on to USE it to explain why it resulted in different interpretations.

•   ü This paragraph looks for all the world like a L3 statement - it is looking at the different PURPOSE of the sources.   But it is expressed in a shallow way and not USED to explain how the interpretations are different - so it gets a L1 only.

•   Notice that the point about the dates is irrelevant - it is saying how they were the same, not explaining the differences - and thus gets no marks.

•   Two points at L1 = two marks.

•   This is a Grade G answer.  

Answer b          Level: 2          Mark: 4

•   This is a good L2 answer, using the ORIGIN of the sources to explain differences in the interpretations.  

•   First he notes how Source B was published in Moscow, and then says that this meant that the source was 'encouraging' ü 1

•   Then he notes that Source C was written in the USA, and which resulted in the source being 'more honest' and 'bleaker' ü 2-2 .

•   One very well-explained point at L2 gives 4 marks.

•   This is a Grade D answer.  

Answer c          Level: 3          Mark: 7

•   I think this pupil was lucky to get a mark of 7, but she DOES say certain things which the examiner has seized upon to credit her with a L3.  

•   ü 1  identifies a L2 statement that Source B would be one-sided.

•   ü 2  has been taken by the examiner as a content statement about Russia during the Five Year Plans.

•   ü 3  gets the pupil to L3 provenance (PURPOSE) by saying that they are different because they had 'different motives'.   Actually, it is a very weak statement, but it gets credited at L3 nonetheless.

•   ü 4  got a double-tick from the examiner, showing good knowledge about the circumstances of the origin of Source C.  

•   ü 5  is credited as a L3 Content point - it is using on knowledge about the Five Year Plans to evaluate the interpretation.  

•   Overall, therefore, an answer which addresses the content at L3 and mentions motives, and thus scores a mid-L3 mark.

•   This is a Grade A answer.  


Answer d          Level: 1          Mark: 1
•   This answer makes a true factual statement about the provenances of the two sources, identifying a difference.

•   But note that he does not explain how this explains why the sources are different - thus he just gets level 1 - and one mark for one point at L1.

•   This is a Grade u answer.  

Answer e         Level: 2          Mark: 3
ü  identifies the point made by the pupil which reaches L2 - see how she not only says who wrote the sources (ie origin) but then explains how that affected them in different ways.  

•   Notice that this isn't a very difficult or deep comment, but it gets the pupil to L2.   If she had not said 'he is trying to cover up the real fact' and 'it is slating the Nazi' this would have only been a L1 point.

•   Notice a two L1 statements - the Nazi was head of police, and she knows the fire was in 1933.

•   Notice also that the first and last paragraphs are superfluous and score nothing; wasted words.

•   This is a Grade F answer.  

Answer f          Level: 2          Mark: 5

•   ü 1 identify the statements which got this pupil to L2 - see how she USES the provenance's origin to develop point which explain why this resulted in different interpretations.   Notice how the points she is making are L2 points - one-sided v. balanced/ hindsight v. instinctive reaction.

•   Notice that the hindsight v. instinctive reaction comment is NOT credited.   It is in fact, incorrect.   Diels WAS there in 1933, but she has missed the fact that he was writing in 1950, and therefore had ALSO had the benefit of hindsight.

•   ü 2 Notice that the pupil in this paragraph uses a L2 fact to explain why the interpretations are different - she know that there are different theories about this event, which these two sources represent.

•   She gets the top mark in L2 because she had addressed BOTH provenance and factual knowledge in her answer.

•   This is a Grade C answer.  

Answer g          Level: 3          Mark: 7

•   ü  identify the statements which got this pupil to L3 - see how she USES the provenance to develop a point about the source's purpose/ the writer's intentions which explain why this resulted in different interpretations.  

•   This is a Grade A answer.