CLEP Western Civilization II Practice Test Questions

1. Which of these best explains deism?

(a) God exists and maintains a hands-on involvement in day-to-day events and individual lives.
(b) God exists and set things in motion, but does not perform miracles or act on everyday lives.
(c) God may or may not exist; there is no evidence to prove or disprove this, so nobody knows.
(d) God does not actually exist, but is simply a concept created by human beings who need to believe in a higher being.
(e) God exists, but only in the minds of the individual human beings who conceive of this entity.

2. Of the following, which answer best describes ideas that Charles Montesquieu presented in his books?

(a) Criticism of the monarchy and the Catholic Church
(b) Natural laws that all political systems must observe
(c) The necessity of checks and balances in government
(d) The need for separation of powers in government
(e) All of these describe ideas about which Montesquieu wrote.

3. Regarding the European Enlightenment philosophers, which statement is correct?

(a) These philosophers were mainly English, rather than French, as England’s government needed more changes to fit with Enlightenment ideas.
(b) These philosophers were all French, rather than English, as England’s government needed more changes to fit with Enlightenment ideas.
(c) These philosophers were more English, rather than French, as England’s government needed fewer changes to fit with Enlightenment ideas.
(d) These philosophers came from both France and the United Kingdom, but the French were more motivated by a repressive government.
(e) These philosophers came from both France and the United Kingdom, but the English were more motivated by a repressive government.

4. For which of the following was Voltaire known?

(a) Publishing the satirical picaresque novella Candide
(b) Writing the political treatise The Spirit of the Laws
(c) Editing the West’s first 28-volume Encyclopedia
(d) Writing his books Émile and The Social Contract
(e) Publishing his Essay on Crimes and Punishments

5. The Wealth of Nations was written by which United Kingdom author?

(a) David Hume
(b) Edward Gibbon
(c) Adam Smith
(d) Jeremy Bentham
(e) Mary Wollstonecraft

6. Of the following, who was not known as an “enlightened despot”?

(a) Emperor Joseph II of Austria
(b) Catherine the Great of Russia
(c) Frederick the Great of Prussia
(d) Louis XVI the King of France
(e) All were “enlightened despots”.

7. Which of these accomplishments was not one of many by Benjamin Franklin?

(a) Proving that lightning is one form of electricity
(b) Organizing firefighters and starting public libraries
(c) Inventing bifocal spectacles and a type of stove
(d) Having founded the University of Pennsylvania
(e) All of these were accomplishments of Franklin.

8. Which of the following advantages did Great Britain possess to facilitate the Industrial Revolution?

(a) Its mining of coal
(b) Its mining of iron
(c) Its transportation
(d) Its individualism
(e) All of these were.

9. In which country do historians consider the 18th century “agricultural revolution” to have begun?

(a) America
(b) France
(c) England
(d) Russia
(e) Germany

10. Which of the following was not an outcome of the enclosure movement in England?

(a) Fewer sheep farms
(b) Fewer small farms
(c) Less common land
(d) More productivity
(e) Fewer total farmers

CLEP Western Civilization II Practice Question Answer Key

  1. Many of the philosophers of the 18th century’s Enlightenment were deists. The most correct expression of deism is answer (b): Deists believe that God does exist and that God created the world and set it in motion, but thereafter is not directly involved in everyday events or the lives of individuals. This belief promotes the concept of humanity’s free will and rejects the concept of predetermined fates. Answer (b) that God not only exists, but is active personally in daily life, is closer to an expression of theism than of deism. Answer (c) that God may or may not exist, and without proof nobody knows for sure, is closer to an expression of agnosticism than of deism. Answer (d) that God does not exist is closer to an expression of atheism than of deism. Answer (e) that God only exists in the minds of humans who came up with this concept is somewhat closer to an expression of existentialism than of deism.
  2. The correct answer is (e): All of these answers describe ideas Montesquieu wrote of in his books. His 1721 book Persian Letters used his rhetoric to make indirect criticisms of France’s monarchs and of the Catholic Church system (a). In 1748, he published The Spirit of the Laws, in which he wrote of “natural laws” or “laws of nature.” These natural laws were a concept in which Enlightenment philosophers believed. This concept meant that every living being was subject to natural laws which gave them basic rights, such as the rights to live, to be free, and to pursue happiness. Enlightenment philosophers believed that all government systems must observe these natural laws (b). They further believed and stated that any government that interfered with these laws and their attendant rights should be overthrown, and moreover that it was the people’s responsibility to overthrow such a government. In The Spirit of the Laws, Montesquieu also wrote of the need for systems of checks and balances in governments (c) so that one division of a government cannot overpower other divisions. In this book, he also wrote about the need for separation of powers in governments (d). Montesquieu’s ideas had a significant influence on the American architects of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence refers to our “inalienable rights” according to the Enlightenment’s natural laws, and the Constitution established both separation of powers and checks and balances by dividing our government into three branches and dividing Congress into two parts.
  3. Answer (d) is correct: There were many thinkers and authors of the Enlightenment from both France and the United Kingdom (England and Scotland especially), and those in France were more motivated to call for change in their government since it was more of an absolute monarchy than England’s. French philosophers advocating change saw England’s system of both the monarchy and Parliament making decisions as an example of the greater freedom experienced in France. There were not many English Enlightenment philosophers, and England’s government did not need more changes to fit with their ideas (a). These philosophers were not all French, and those who were French did not exist because their country needed fewer changes compared to England’s government (b). There were not more Enlightenment philosophers in England even though their government was less restrictive than France’s (c). While Enlightenment philosophers came both from France and from the United Kingdom, at the time England’s government was not more repressive than France’s (e).
  4. Answer (a) is correct: Voltaire wrote Candide (1759) as well as Zadig, Micromégas, Dictionnaire Philosophique, and many other books, as well as Treatise on Toleration (1763), a good number of plays, poems, and a great many letters. The Spirit of the Laws (b) was written by another Enlightenment author, Charles Montesquieu, and his ideas in this book directly influenced the United States’ new government. The first 28-volume Encyclopedia (or Classified Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Trades) (c) was edited by another French Enlightenment figure, Dénis Diderot, who in common with Voltaire wrote criticisms of the Church, though he is now better known for the Encyclopedia. (Note: Although Diderot, and not Voltaire, edited the Encyclopedia, Voltaire did contribute so many articles to Diderot’s Encyclopédie that Voltaire’s own Dictionnaire Philosophique was composed largely of those articles.) Émile and The Social Contract (d) were written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a friend of Diderot and a very important Enlightenment writer. Émile: or, On Education was a seminal work still read and taught today in education courses, and was the book Rousseau felt was his most important. The Social Contract, Rousseau’s book of political philosophy, is believed by others to be his most important work. His essays Discourse on Inequality and Discourse on the Arts and Sciences are also famous. The work Essay on Crimes and Punishments (e), published in 1764, was written by Cesare Beccaria, an Italian Enlightenment philosopher and politician whose work influenced prison reform.
  5. Answer (c) is correct: Scottish economist Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, a book so influential that it can be said to have laid the foundation for the economic philosophy of capitalism, which is now practiced throughout the Western hemisphere and beyond. David Hume (a), along with Adam Smith, is a well-known figure of the Scottish Enlightenment. His published works include Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), Natural History of Religion (1757), Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779, posthumously), and many others. English historian Edward Gibbon (b) is famous for The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776). English philosopher Jeremy Bentham (d) is best known for the political philosophy of utilitarianism. Bentham’s secretary, James Mill, collaborated with him in developing utilitarianism and James Mill’s son, John Stuart Mill, was a major advocate of this philosophy, publishing the book Utilitarianism (1863). English philosopher, writer, and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (e) wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), one of the first books of feminist philosophy. Her daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, married the famous Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and she wrote the very famous and popular novel Frankenstein (published anonymously in 1818 and published under her married name, Mary Shelley, in 1831).
  6. The correct answer is (d): King Louis XVI of France was not known as an “enlightened despot.” Louis XVI was an absolute monarch who reigned from 1774 to 1792. The term “enlightened despot” refers to rulers who, although they were still monarchs with absolute power, did initiate some reforms consistent with Enlightenment philosophy during their reigns. These included Austria’s Emperor Joseph II (a), who ruled from 1765-1790. While he was Catholic himself, Joseph granted freedom of religion to Protestants in his 1781 Edict of Toleration, as well as removed the confinement to ghettos of Austrian Jews, eliminating the requirement of their wearing yellow stars, and permitted university enrollment by Jews. He promoted education, so much so that by the end of the 18th century more Austrian children were in school than in any other European empire or nation. In addition, Emperor Joseph II freed the serfs in Austria. He also overrode the Pope’s authority regarding church real property, selling around a third of the convents and monasteries in the Austrian Empire and using the proceeds to fund hospitals. Russian Empress Catherine II, or Catherine the Great (b) ruled from 1762-1796. She challenged the death penalty and the use of torture in the penal system. She also disagreed, like Emperor Joseph II of Austria, with the feudal practice of forcing peasants to work as serfs for lords owning land. Catherine divided Russia into fifty separate provinces. She corresponded with Enlightenment writers Voltaire and Diderot. Prussian ruler Frederick the Great (c), who reigned from 1740-1786, also admired the ideas of the Enlightenment, even inviting Voltaire to live in his country for three years. While the country’s main religion was Lutheran at the time, Frederick the Great permitted Catholics and Jews to settle in Prussia. Within limits, he allowed his subjects freedom of speech. During his reign, he worked to improve the efficiency of the Prussian legal system and set up a bureaucracy to manage government beyond his time. (Note: the reforms advocated by these enlightened despots were important, even though their efforts were relatively unsuccessful at the time due to the continuing strength of European aristocracy.)
  7. Answer (e) is correct: These were all things Franklin accomplished. By experimenting with conduction during storms, he proved that lightning is one form of electricity (a). He invented the bifocal lens for glasses, which corrects for both nearsightedness and farsightedness (a great boon for aging adults!), and invented the Franklin stove (c) as well as other inventions. He founded the University of Pennsylvania (d). He also organized firefighters and started public libraries (b). Additionally, Franklin founded the American Philosophical Society and went to France from 1776-1785, encouraging the French to help the American colonists in their revolution against England. (He was quite successful as French allies helped Americans to win the war.) These are only a few of the myriad things that Benjamin Franklin accomplished in his life.
  8. All of these (e) were advantages Britain enjoyed during the Industrial Revolution. England had naturally large seams of coal (a) and iron ore (b), which people had mined for a long time, and there was thus a strong tradition in England of mining. Britain also had a well-developed network of waterways (rivers and canals) and roadways to be used for transportation (c) of the products of industry as they developed. In addition, the British culture in the 17th and 18th centuries emphasized individualism (d), which facilitated private enterprise. By the middle of the 1700s, the British government had very little involvement in private-sector businesses, giving great freedom to entrepreneurs.
  9. The 18th century “agricultural revolution” is considered to have begun in (c) England. A number of innovations by English inventors enabled the industrialization of agriculture; hence, the agricultural revolution led to the Industrial Revolution. Included among these innovations were Jethro Tull’s use of metal plows for planting and Charles “Turnip” Townsend’s discovery of the principle of crop rotation. The advances of the Industrial Revolution in England spread to continental Europe and eventually throughout the world. Therefore these innovations came later to France (b), Germany (e), and Russia (d), by the early 19th century. In America (a), industrialization began a bit earlier, but only in the Northeast because of its rivers, which were needed as Americans relied on water power at the time. After the Civil War, industrialization spread throughout the United States once steam was substituted for water as a power source in the late 1860s.
  10. The existence of fewer sheep farms (a) was not an outcome of the enclosure movement in England. As demand for wool increased and sheep farming became more profitable, the number of sheep farms in England increased. Previously, much land in England had been shared. For example, many farmers could let their cattle graze on land owned by others and/or get hay by mowing meadows owned by others. During the enclosure movement, this practice was largely ended (c) by the fencing of properties. As large sheep farms took up much of this newly enclosed land, small farmers were put at a great disadvantage, with many small farms ceasing to exist (b). Although small farms were lost, farming itself in England gained productivity (d) through the enclosure movement. While a majority of the English population had farmed as an occupation in 1700, by 1800 fewer than half of the population was engaged in farming (e) due in part to there being more large farms and fewer small farms (as well as to urbanization and other factors).


Last Updated: June 3, 2019