ISEE Middle Level Reading : Language in History Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ISEE Middle Level Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #41 : History Passages

Adapted from A Modern History from the Time of Luther to the Fall of Napoleon by John Lord (1874)

The period at which this history commences—the beginning of the sixteenth century—when compared with the ages which had preceded it, since the fall of the Roman empire, was one of unprecedented brilliancy and activity. It was a period very fruitful in great people and great events, and, though stormy and turbulent, was favorable to experiments and reforms. The nations of Europe seem to have been suddenly aroused from a state of torpor and rest, and to have put forth new energies in every department of life. The material and the political, the moral and the social condition of society was subject to powerful agitations, and passed through important changes.

Great discoveries and inventions had been made. The use of movable types, first ascribed to Gutenberg in 1441 and to Peter Schœffer in 1444, changed the whole system of book-making, and vastly increased the circulation of the scriptures, the Greek and Latin classics, and all other valuable works, which, by the industry of the monkish copyist, had been preserved from the ravages of time and barbarism. Gunpowder, whose explosive power had been perceived by Roger Bacon as early as 1280, though it was not used on the field of battle until 1346, had changed the art of war, which had greatly contributed to undermining the feudal system. The polarity of the magnet, also discovered in the middle ages, and not practically applied to the mariner's compass until 1403, had led to the greatest event of the fifteenth century—the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, in 1492. The impulse given to commerce by this and other discoveries of unknown continents and oceans, by the Portuguese, the Spaniards, the Dutch, the English, and the French, cannot be here enlarged on. America revealed to the astonished European its riches in gold and silver; and Indian spices, and silks, and drugs, were imported through new channels. Mercantile wealth, with all its refinements, acquired new importance in the eyes of the nations. The world opened towards the east and the west. The horizon of knowledge extended. Popular delusions were dispelled. Liberality of mind was acquired. The material prosperity of the western nations was increased. Tastes became more refined, and social intercourse more cheerful.

According to the author, how were books and writings preserved before the invention of movable type?

Possible Answers:

A series of dedicated kings worked over many centuries to protect the classics.

Many individual wealthy men kept some books for themselves and ensured they would pass on to their children.

Barbarians and other conquerors had no great interest in books, so books survived without much loss.

There was no deliberate attempt to protect any particular written works; some books merely survived due to fortune.

Monks worked diligently to make copies of works and ensure their longevity.

Correct answer:

Monks worked diligently to make copies of works and ensure their longevity.

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read the passage carefully to discover the correct detail. In the second paragraph, the author says, “The use of movable types . . . changed the whole system of book-making, and vastly increased the circulation of . . . valuable works, which, by the industry of the monkish copyist, had been preserved from the ravages of time and barbarism.” So, it is the “industry” (hard-work and dedication) of the “monkish copyist” which preserved literature in the years before movable type.

Example Question #41 : History Passages

Adapted from A Modern History from the Time of Luther to the Fall of Napoleon by John Lord (1874)

The history of Europe in the sixteenth century is peculiarly the history of the wars of kings and of their efforts to establish themselves and their families on absolute thrones. The monotonous and almost exclusive record of royal pleasures and pursuits shows in how little consideration the people were held. They struggled, and toiled, and murmured as they do now. They probably had the same joys and sorrows as in our times. But, in these times, they have considerable influence on the government, the religion, the literature, and the social life of nations. In the sixteenth century, this influence was not so apparent, but power of all kinds seemed to emanate from kings and nobles, at least from wealthy and cultivated classes. When this is the case, when kings give a law to society, history is not unphilosophical that recognizes chiefly their enterprises and ideas.

The rise of absolute monarchy on the ruins of feudal states is one of the chief features of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. There was everywhere a strong tendency to centralization. Provinces, before independent, were controlled by a central government. Standing armies took the place of feudal armies. Kings took away from nobles the right to coin money, administer justice, and impose taxes. The power of the crown became supreme and unlimited.

But some monarchs were more independent than others, in proportion as the power of nobles was suppressed, or as the cities sided with the central government, or as provinces were connected and bound together. The power of Charles V was somewhat limited in Spain by the free spirit of the fascinating Cortes, and in Germany by the independence of the princes of the empire. But in France and England, the king was more absolute, although he did not rule over so great extent of territory as did the emperor of Germany; this is one reason why Francis I proved so strong an antagonist to his more powerful rival.

Why did Francis I prove to be such a challenging rival to King Charles V?

Possible Answers:

Because Francis I had the papacy on his side

Because Francis I ruled over a much larger tract of land than Charles V

Because Francis I had more power within his land than the Charles V had in his

Because Francis I was willing to offer greater concessions to the nobles under his control

Because Francis I was allied with the King of England

Correct answer:

Because Francis I had more power within his land than the Charles V had in his

Explanation:

When discussing why Francis I was a challenging rival to Charles V, the author says, “The power of Charles V was somewhat limited in Spain by the free spirit of the Cortes, and in Germany by the independence of the princes of the empire. But, in France and England, the king was more absolute, although he did not rule over so great extent of territory as did the emperor of Germany." So, Charles V ruled over more land, but had less absolute power in the territory he did control compared to Francis I.

Example Question #51 : Isee Middle Level (Grades 7 8) Reading Comprehension

Adapted from A Modern History from the Time of Luther to the Fall of Napoleon by John Lord (1874)

The history of Europe in the sixteenth century is peculiarly the history of the wars of kings and of their efforts to establish themselves and their families on absolute thrones. The monotonous and almost exclusive record of royal pleasures and pursuits shows in how little consideration the people were held. They struggled, and toiled, and murmured as they do now. They probably had the same joys and sorrows as in our times. But, in these times, they have considerable influence on the government, the religion, the literature, and the social life of nations. In the sixteenth century, this influence was not so apparent, but power of all kinds seemed to emanate from kings and nobles, at least from wealthy and cultivated classes. When this is the case, when kings give a law to society, history is not unphilosophical that recognizes chiefly their enterprises and ideas.

The rise of absolute monarchy on the ruins of feudal states is one of the chief features of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. There was everywhere a strong tendency to centralization. Provinces, before independent, were controlled by a central government. Standing armies took the place of feudal armies. Kings took away from nobles the right to coin money, administer justice, and impose taxes. The power of the crown became supreme and unlimited.

But some monarchs were more independent than others, in proportion as the power of nobles was suppressed, or as the cities sided with the central government, or as provinces were connected and bound together. The power of Charles V was somewhat limited in Spain by the free spirit of the fascinating Cortes, and in Germany by the independence of the princes of the empire. But in France and England, the king was more absolute, although he did not rule over so great extent of territory as did the emperor of Germany; this is one reason why Francis I proved so strong an antagonist to his more powerful rival.

According to the author, what has primarily changed for members of the general public in the years since the sixteenth century?

Possible Answers:

All of these answers are correct.

Their belief in secularism and atheism, which has rapidly grown

Their ability to influence government and social affairs

Their standing in the armed forces, which has improved dramatically

Their wages, wealth, and economic purchasing power

Correct answer:

Their ability to influence government and social affairs

Explanation:

While all of these answers could be considered correct in a broad historical sense, this is a verbal passage which tests your ability to understand the author’s arguments. So, you can only consider evidence that the author presents in the passage. In the first paragraph, the author says, that members of the general public "struggled, and toiled, and murmured as they do now. They probably had the same joys and sorrows as in our times. But, in these times, they have considerable influence on the government, the religion, the literature, and the social life of nations.” So, the author states that the lives of members of the general public involve the same day-to-day experiences, but now they are better able to wield influence in government and social matters.

Example Question #11 : Analyzing The Text In History Passages

Adapted from A Modern History from the Time of Luther to the Fall of Napoleon by John Lord (1874)

The great hero of this Swiss movement was Ulric Zwingli, the most interesting of all the reformers. He was born in 1484 and educated amid the mountains of his picturesque country, and, like Erasmus, Reuchlin, Luther, and Melancthon, had no aristocratic claims, except to the nobility of nature. But, though poor, he was well educated, and was a master of the scholastic philosophy and of all the learning of his age. Like Luther, he was passionately fond of music, and played the lute, the harp, the violin, the flute, and the dulcimer. There was no more joyous spirit in all Switzerland than his. Every one loved his society, and honored his attainments, and admired his genius.

Like Luther and Erasmus, he was disgusted with scholasticism, and regretted the time he had devoted to its study. He was ordained in 1506, by the bishop of Constance, and was settled in Zurich in 1518. At first, his life did not differ from that which the clergy generally led, being one of dissipation and pleasure. But he was studious, and became well acquainted with the fathers and with the original Greek. Only gradually did light dawn upon him, and this in consequence of his study of the scriptures, not in consequence of Luther's preaching. He had no tempests to withstand, such as shook the soul of the Saxon monk. Nor had he ever devoted himself with the same ardor to the established church. Nor was he so much interested on doctrinal points of faith. But he saw with equal clearness the corruptions of the church, and preached with equal zeal against indulgences and the usurpations of the popes. The reformation of morals was the great aim of his life. His preaching was practical and simple, and his doctrine was, that "religion consisted in trust in God, loving God, and innocence of life." Moreover, he took a deep interest in the political relations of his country, and was an enthusiast in liberty as well as in religion. To him the town of Zurich was indebted for its emancipation from the episcopal government of Constance, and also for a reformation in all the externals of the church. He inspired the citizens with that spirit of Protestantism that afterwards characterized Calvin and the Puritans. He was too radical a reformer to suit Luther, although he sympathized with most of his theological opinions.

Zwingli and Luther primarily differed in that __________.

Possible Answers:

the former was more heavily persecuted than the latter

the former was much more radical than the latter

the former was much more religious than the latter

the former was Christian, whereas the latter was agnostic

the former was less obsessed with religious truth than the latter

Correct answer:

the former was much more radical than the latter

Explanation:

The author notes many similarities between Zwingli and Luther throughout this passage, but also notes one crucial difference: namely, that Zwingli was a more radical reformer than Luther. This is explicitly stated in the last sentence of the paragraph when the author says, “He was too radical a reformer to suit Luther, although he sympathized with most of his theological opinions.” This is also made clear throughout, such as when the author talks about their differences in opinion and says “Nor had he [Zwingli] ever devoted himself with the same ardor to the established church. Nor was he so much interested on doctrinal points of faith.”

Example Question #11 : Language In History Passages

Adapted from A Modern History from the Time of Luther to the Fall of Napoleon by John Lord (1874)

Spain cannot be said to have been a powerful state until the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, when the crowns of Castile and Aragon were united and when the discoveries of Columbus added a new world to their extensive territories. Nor, during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, was the power of the crown as absolute as during the sway of the Austrian princes. The nobles were animated by a bold and free spirit, and the clergy dared to resist the encroachments of royalty, and even the usurpations of Rome. Charles V succeeded in suppressing the power of the nobles, and all insurrections of the people, and laid the foundation for the power of his gloomy son, Philip II. With Philip commenced the grandeur of the Spanish monarchy. By him, also, were sown the seeds of its subsequent decay. Under him, the inquisition was disgraced by ten thousand enormities, Holland was overrun by the Duke of Alva, and America conquered by Cortes and Pizarro. It was he who built the gorgeous palaces of Spain, and who, with his Invincible Armada, meditated the conquest of England. The wealth of the Indies flowed into the royal treasury, and also enriched all orders and classes. Silver and gold became as plenty at Madrid as in old times at Jerusalem under the reign of Solomon. But Philip was a different prince from Solomon. His talents and attainments were respectable, but he had a jealous and selfish disposition, and exerted all the energies of his mind, and all the resources of his kingdom, to crush the Protestant religion and the liberties of Europe.

Among the first acts of his reign was the effort to extinguish Protestantism in the Netherlands. The opinions of Luther and Calvin made great progress in this country, and Philip, in order to repress them, created new bishops, and established the Inquisition. The people protested, and these protests were considered as rebellious.

At the head of the nobility was William, the Prince of Orange, on whom Philip had conferred the government of Holland, Zealand, Friesland, and Utrecht, provinces of the Netherlands. He was a haughty but resolute and courageous character, and had adopted the opinions of Calvin, for which he lost the confidence of Philip. In the prospect of destruction, he embraced the resolution of delivering his country from the yoke of a merciless and bigoted master. Having reduced the most important garrisons of Holland and Zealand, he was proclaimed stadtholder, and openly threw off his allegiance to Spain. Hostilities, of course, commenced and would rage for several brutal years.

According to the author, the power of the Spanish monarchy reached its height during the reign of which of the following individuals?

Possible Answers:

The Duke of Alva

William of Orange

Isabella and Ferdinand

Charles V

Philip II

Correct answer:

Philip II

Explanation:

Answering this question is a simple matter of reading in detail and understanding what the author is saying. You also have to be careful not to be tricked into picking Charles V as the trick answer. The author notes “Charles V succeeded in suppressing the power of the nobles, and all insurrections of the people, and laid the foundation for the power of his gloomy son, Philip II. With Philip commenced the grandeur of the Spanish monarchy.” So, Charles V laid the foundations, but it was during the reign of Philip II that the power of the Spanish monarchy was at its height.

Example Question #11 : Analyzing The Text In History Passages

Adapted from A Modern History from the Time of Luther to the Fall of Napoleon by John Lord (1874)

Spain cannot be said to have been a powerful state until the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, when the crowns of Castile and Aragon were united and when the discoveries of Columbus added a new world to their extensive territories. Nor, during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, was the power of the crown as absolute as during the sway of the Austrian princes. The nobles were animated by a bold and free spirit, and the clergy dared to resist the encroachments of royalty, and even the usurpations of Rome. Charles V succeeded in suppressing the power of the nobles, and all insurrections of the people, and laid the foundation for the power of his gloomy son, Philip II. With Philip commenced the grandeur of the Spanish monarchy. By him, also, were sown the seeds of its subsequent decay. Under him, the inquisition was disgraced by ten thousand enormities, Holland was overrun by the Duke of Alva, and America conquered by Cortes and Pizarro. It was he who built the gorgeous palaces of Spain, and who, with his Invincible Armada, meditated the conquest of England. The wealth of the Indies flowed into the royal treasury, and also enriched all orders and classes. Silver and gold became as plenty at Madrid as in old times at Jerusalem under the reign of Solomon. But Philip was a different prince from Solomon. His talents and attainments were respectable, but he had a jealous and selfish disposition, and exerted all the energies of his mind, and all the resources of his kingdom, to crush the Protestant religion and the liberties of Europe.

Among the first acts of his reign was the effort to extinguish Protestantism in the Netherlands. The opinions of Luther and Calvin made great progress in this country, and Philip, in order to repress them, created new bishops, and established the Inquisition. The people protested, and these protests were considered as rebellious.

At the head of the nobility was William, the Prince of Orange, on whom Philip had conferred the government of Holland, Zealand, Friesland, and Utrecht, provinces of the Netherlands. He was a haughty but resolute and courageous character, and had adopted the opinions of Calvin, for which he lost the confidence of Philip. In the prospect of destruction, he embraced the resolution of delivering his country from the yoke of a merciless and bigoted master. Having reduced the most important garrisons of Holland and Zealand, he was proclaimed stadtholder, and openly threw off his allegiance to Spain. Hostilities, of course, commenced and would rage for several brutal years.

When did William of Orange lose the trust of King Philip of Spain?

Possible Answers:

When he began to follow Calvinism

When Holland revolted against Spain

When he returned from the Americas

When he became King of England

When he became King of Holland

Correct answer:

When he began to follow Calvinism

Explanation:

In the third paragraph, the author says, “He was a haughty but resolute and courageous character, and had adopted the opinions of Calvin, for which he lost the confidence of Philip.” So, you know that William lost the “confidence” of Philip when he began following Calvinism, Calvinism being a different religion to the one followed by Philip.

Example Question #51 : History Passages

Adapted from A Modern History from the Time of Luther to the Fall of Napoleon (1874) by John Lord.

While the Protestants in Germany were struggling for religious liberty, and the Parliaments of France for political privileges, there was a contest going on in England for the attainment of the same great ends. With the accession of James I a new era commences in English history, marked by the growing importance of the House of Commons, and their struggles for civil and religious liberty. The Commons had not been entirely silent during the long reign of Elizabeth, but members of them occasionally dared to assert those rights of which Englishmen are proud. The queen was particularly sensitive to any thing which pertained to her prerogative, and generally sent to the Tower any man who boldly expressed his opinion on subjects which she deemed that she and her ministers alone had the right to discuss. These forbidden subjects were those which pertained to the management of religion, to her particular courts, and to her succession to the crown. She never made an attack on what she conceived to be the constitution, but only zealously defended what she considered as her own rights. And she was ever sufficiently wise to yield a point to the commons, after she had asserted her power, so that concession, on her part, had all the appearance of bestowing a favor. She never pushed matters to extremity, but gave way in good time. And in this policy she showed great wisdom; so that, in spite of all her crimes and caprices, she ever retained the affections of the English people. During her reign the Commons was actively kept in check, but this all changed following her rule, during the reign of James I when the Commons ascended to the position of the most powerful ruling body in England.

According to the author, what was Elizabeth’s “great wisdom”?

Possible Answers:

She allowed the House of Commons to grow in power and influence to appease the common people.

She understood the love of religion and freedom among the English people and did nothing to offend either idea.

She encouraged the growth of literacy and education in England.

She suppressed the House of Commons and ensured that she was the most powerful figure in England.

She pursued and maintained her own power while also ensuring the love and loyalty of the people by not pushing her rule too far.

Correct answer:

She pursued and maintained her own power while also ensuring the love and loyalty of the people by not pushing her rule too far.

Explanation:

According to the author, Elizabeth’s “great wisdom” was that she was able to act in her own best interests in defense of her power and rule without overreaching herself and offending the House of Commons or the general population of England. The author notes, “She never pushed matters to extremity, but gave way in good time. And in this policy she showed great wisdom, so that, in spite of all her crimes and caprices, she ever retained the affections of the English people.” Elizabeth never went too far in ruling, and in doing so, maintained both her own power and the love of the common people.

Example Question #3 : Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Lucretia Mott; and others (1848)

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.

The word “duty” is a reference to the need for __________.

Possible Answers:

patience 

forcefulness

honor 

inaction 

responsibility 

Correct answer:

responsibility 

Explanation:

The word “duty” is used almost as incitement to action. By saying that “it is their [women’s] duty to throw off such government” she is declaring that women must be responsible for their own advancement.

Example Question #271 : Passage Based Questions

Adapted from The Man with the Muck-Rake by Theodore Roosevelt (1906)

There are in the body politic, economic and social, many and grave evils, and there is urgent necessity for the sternest war upon them. There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil man, whether politician or business man, every evil practice, whether in politics, business, or social life. I hail as a benefactor every writer or speaker, every man who, on the platform or in a book, magazine, or newspaper, with merciless severity makes such attack, provided always that he in his turn remembers that the attack is of use only if it is absolutely truthful.

The liar is no whit better than the thief, and if his mendacity takes the form of slander he may be worse than most thieves. It puts a premium upon knavery untruthfully to attack an honest man, or even with hysterical exaggeration to assail a bad man with untruth. An epidemic of indiscriminate assault upon character does no good, but very great harm. The soul of every scoundrel is gladdened whenever an honest man is assailed, or even when a scoundrel is untruthfully assailed.

The word “mendacity” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

consternation

dishonesty 

vilification

encouragement

truthfulness

Correct answer:

dishonesty 

Explanation:

The word “mendacity” refers to telling lies or deliberate untruthfulness. The correct answer is therefore “dishonesty.” If you were unsure of the definition of “mendacity” it would become necessary to read-in-context to determine the meaning of the word. The author states that “The liar is no whit better than the thief, and if his mendacity takes the form of slander he may be worse than most thieves.” You can therefore observe that “his mendacity” belongs to “the liar.” This means that mendacity must refer to a characteristic of a liar, such as dishonesty. Vilification refers to harsh criticism; consternation means dismay.

Example Question #1 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Words In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from "Crossing the Rubicon" in History of Julius Caesar by Jacob Abbott (1902)

There was a little stream in ancient times, in the north of Italy, which flowed eastward into the Adriatic Sea, called the Rubicon. This stream has been immortalized by the transactions which we are now about to describe.

The Rubicon was a very important boundary, and yet it was in itself so small and insignificant that it is now impossible to determine which of two or three little brooks here running into the sea is entitled to its name and renown. In history the Rubicon is a grand, permanent, and conspicuous stream, gazed upon with continued interest by all mankind for nearly twenty centuries; in nature it is an uncertain rivulet, for a long time doubtful and undetermined, and finally lost.

The Rubicon originally derived its importance from the fact that it was the boundary between all that part of the north of Italy which is formed by the valley of the Po, one of the richest and most magnificent countries of the world, and the more southern Roman territories. This country of the Po constituted what was in those days called the hither Gaul, and was a Roman province. It belonged now to Cæsar's jurisdiction, as the commander in Gaul. All south of the Rubicon was territory reserved for the immediate jurisdiction of the city. The Romans, in order to protect themselves from any danger which might threaten their own liberties from the immense armies which they raised for the conquest of foreign nations, had imposed on every side very strict limitations and restrictions in respect to the approach of these armies to the capital. The Rubicon was the limit on this northern side. Generals commanding in Gaul were never to pass it. To cross the Rubicon with an army on the way to Rome was rebellion and treason. Hence the Rubicon became, as it were, the visible sign and symbol of civil restriction to military power.

The underlined word “jurisdiction” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

authority 

brevity 

mendacity 

veracity 

subordination 

Correct answer:

authority 

Explanation:

In context, the author says, “It belonged now to Cæsar's jurisdiction, as the commander in Gaul.” Here it is clear that “jurisdiction” relates to being a commander or being in command, therefore the correct answer is “authority.” To provide further help, “mendacity” is deceit; “veracity” is honesty; “brevity” is briefness; and “subordination” means being made to seem of lesser importance

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