Compare... and... (8 marks)

This type of question asks you to compare two key events, developments or the role of individuals or groups. It tests the second-order concepts of similarity and/or difference. The focus may target one section of the specification or a combination of two sections. The question will specify whether you should be looking at similarities or differences - only discuss the aspect that is named in the question.


Compare Cecil Rhodes and Kwame Nkrumah. In what ways was their impact on Britain’s interaction with Africa different?

Explain your answer with reference to both men.


With this type of question, you should discuss some aspects of difference (or similarity if that was what the question asked you for) and use your own knowledge to explain those differences (or similarities) well. In this case you could begin with the different position that each man took towards the role that Africans should play in the government of their country; Rhodes believed strongly in the superiority of white British rulers and their ‘burden’ in the late 19th century, whereas Nkrumah believed strongly in ‘self-government now’ for the Africans after 1948.

Additionally, you could compare the intellectual background of the two men, with Rhodes studying at Oxford University at the height of British Imperialist ideology and Social Darwinist ideas, and Nkrumah studying at a historically-black university in the USA and learning about pan-Africanism.

Finally, in this answer you should extend the complexity of your reasoning, showing the differences in a wider context, using more detailed relevant knowledge. In this answer, you could discuss the complexity of the role of the two men at very different times in the relationship between Britain and Africa. Rhodes was extending British power in Africa at the expense of African peoples, like the Matabele, and the British government supported a lot of what he did, since it was the high point of British Imperialism. Nkrumah, on the other hand, worked with the British administration to accept the eventual British withdrawal from Africa and the independence of the Africans.

You have to be very careful not to slip into talking about difference if the question is on similarity, and vice-versa.