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AP World History Period 4 Review Questions and Discussion

This article is part of the AP World History Review series. You can also view articles on:
APWH Period 1 Review
APWH Period 2 Review
APWH Period 3 Review
APWH Period 4 Review (This article)
APWH Period 5 Review

Introduction - a Review of Period 4's Timeline (c. 1450 - 1750 CE)

Period 4 takes us from 1450 to 1750, from the collapse of the Byzantine Empire to the shifting of power in Europe and abroad at the dawn of the Enlightenment. In the early modern period, colonialism and global trade are established and fuel the economic fires of great European empires. The consequence of intercontinental imperialism is the utter decimation of Native American populations from Brazil to California by disease and warfare alike. Material wealth flows into the Old World from the New, but only upon the backs of systemic and horrific slave labor sourced by Africans shipped across the Atlantic. In the East, the Ming Dynasty declines before finally collapsing to the Manchurians, who proclaim their new hegemony as the Qing Empire. Parts of China open up to trade with the rest of the world, and an exchange of goods, ideas, and religion proliferates despite growing suspicions of Western influence by Chinese rulers. In the Muslim world, the Empires of Mali and Songhai witness decline and later dissolution, while the Ottomans grow in strength and the Mughals position themselves as the principal Indian power.

map of European colonization in 1550 This map shows European colonial territory in 1550. As you can see, Spain and Portugal were the only countries to really have a foothold in the Americas. The Spanish King at this time, Charles V Von Hapsburg, was one of history's badasses. He was the Holy Roman Emperor, King of Italy, King of the Romans, Archduke of Austria, Lord of the Netherlands, and Duke of Burgundy. His personal model was "plus ultra," which meant "further beyond," illustrating his dominion's reach past the natural borders of Gibraltar, into the New World.

Note: You can view the below questions in an online assignment at You can use this link to edit the assignment using Omninox or provide it to students as practice if you are a teacher.

Stimulus Based: Questions 1-4

Use the following stimulus for questions 1-4:
ap world history stimulus slave trade

Q1. Which of the following statements best represents the worldwide population changes that resulted from the trade as seen in the text above?

  • Diversified food sources and increased exposure to emerging technologies led to a net increase in population.
  • Diffusion of an ever increasing body of medical knowledge led to a significant increase in population.
  • Traders inadvertently carrying new diseases, caused catastrophic depopulation in most of the cities listed above.
  • Due to the nature of goods being traded, there was no discernible change in population in the cities above.

Increased food supply, meant increased population size. With the increase in technology and a diversified food source, the food supply was able to grow rapidly, as a result increasing population.

Why It's the Best Answer

When looking at any visual aid on AP tests, make sure to note what period of time it represents. This particular table concerns the slave trade to Cartagena and Veracruz from 1570 to 1640, as such, we should consider factors for population change in this period of time only.

The Colombian Exchange was one of the most consequential phenomena to take place in the Early Modern Period. Plants like tomatoes, potatoes, and tobacco were brought to Europe, and coffee and sugarcane were moved to the New World and form a vital part of the agricultural economy in the Americas. In general, greater access to a variety of food items and better agricultural technology results in an increased food supply, which in turn improves health and leads to a greater life-expectancy in a population. Europe after the Columbian exchange was no exception, as population did in fact increase over the period of time this question addresses (1570 to 1640). We can mark this as the correct answer.

There were some significant medical developments near the end of the early modern period; for instance, the first smallpox inoculations in 1701 and the first successful appendectomy in 1736. However, in the time frame we are concerned with, there was little new knowledge about human health besides some initial exploration into basic anatomy. Not only did few novel technologies or insights come about at this time, but those that did certainly had a miniscule effect on the global population.

The exploration of the New World and subsequent trade did result in the proliferation of foreign sickness in Europe and the Americas. Syphilis and yellow fever were two diseases reportedly brought from America to the Old World, but they did not have any significant impact on European population. Native Americans, on the other hand, suffered horrible losses in proportion to their population size due to various illnesses brought by European colonizers, particularly smallpox, measles, and scarlet fever. But the deaths of these indigenous people did not statistically outweigh the population gain in other parts of the world at this time, and global population still increased during this period.

The last answer is wrong because it represents a misinterpretation of the question. “The nature of goods being traded” tries to trick you into thinking that transatlantic trade solely involved slaves. Humans, crops, and luxury items were all traded across the Atlantic. Furthermore, the answer states that “there was no discernable change in population in the cities above.” First of all, this is just false: major colonial ports like Cartagena and Veracruz absolutely saw population development in the 1500s and 1600. Second, the question is trying to fool you once more by implying that the question is about the population of these cities exclusively. The question actually considers global population, which increased from 1570 to 1640.

Q2. The need for the type of trade demonstrated above was primarily a result of which of the following factors?

  • Agricultural shortages as a result of epidemic disease created a need for European governments to engage in the Atlantic slave trade.
  • Agricultural surpluses in the New World demanded a labor increase that could not be sustained by New World populations.
  • Epidemic disease brought by Europeans depopulated large portions of the New World resulting in labor shortages.
  • Epidemic disease transferred to Europeans by New World inhabitants resulted in labor shortages in both the New and Old Worlds necessitating an influx of African migration.

The slave trade was brought about by labor shortages, which were a result of the spread of disease by Europeans to the New World. It is important to note that the Europeans brought the diseases to the New World, disease as not transferred to the Europeans.

Why It's the Best Answer

Let’s address this question by talking about what factors lead to the Atlantic slave trade. European colonizers were desperate for cheap labor to work the farms and plantations that would provide valuable exports to the Old World. At first, they enslaved Native Americans for this purpose, but many died from European disease and overworking, causing a shortage of labor once again. Colonizers then turned to Africa as an answer to their workforce problem, purchasing slaves from African rulers and taking them to the New World to be the driving force for the American agrarian economy. The second answer seems to fit the bill for this question, since it recognizes that the New World labor force provided inadequate production levels for the high demand of agricultural goods. However, the devastating effects of Old World diseases on the indigenous population were the most direct reason for labor shortage in the Americas, and the immediate impetus for the Atlantic slave trade. Therefore, option three is the best answer.

The first option is incorrect because agricultural shortages were not an important factor in leveraging intercontinental agricultural trade. European epidemics in the early modern period did not ravage the population as they had in the Middle Ages. Additionally, the answer attempts to trick the reader into conflating Native American epidemics with a significant population loss in Europe. Since the foundation of the answer is factually false, there was certainly no demonstrated “need” for European governments to promote the slave trade in order to address a deficit in agricultural production. The third answer is in the same vein as this one, suggesting that Europe suffered significant population and production losses from epidemics during the early modern period. Disease transfer from the New World to the Old did exist, but was extremely limited and did not have any tangible consequences in Europe. This option does concede that labor shortage in the New World was a primary factor in importing African slaves, but goes too far by suggesting that Europe suffered in a similar way.

Q3. Based on your knowledge of trading routes and agricultural production in the 16th and 17th centuries what is the most likely destination for the majority of the ships departing from Angola as seen above?

  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • The Caribbean
  • The Carolinas

Given the fact that the Portuguese Empire had control over Angola, it makes sense that the likely destination would be Brazil, another Portuguese territory.

Why It's the Best Answer

This question is pretty simple and requires some geographic knowledge to answer correctly. Brazil and Angola were territories of the Portuguese Empire at this point, and the latter actually remained so until decolonization in 1975. It makes sense that slave traders would primarily service domestic commerce, especially with the popularity of mercantilist policies in European colonial powers that made it either very difficult or outright illegal to trade outside of imperial borders. Argentina was a Spanish territory, the Carolinas were part of England, and the Caribbean was shared between Spain, England, France, and the Netherlands. Generally, slaves were traded in these holdings by merchants from their overlord countries. Additionally, the time period from 1570 to 1640 saw a focus on Brazilian agricultural activities that would require more slaves to successfully conduct.

Q4. The African slave trade depicted above can best be described as an intensification of which of the following trading systems?

  • Atlantic trade
  • Hanseatic league
  • Mediterranean trade
  • Trans-Saharan trade

Given the place of departures in the table, the Atlantic Trade System can best be reasoned as the correct choice. In addition the Atlantic Slave trade was notorious for it being the transatlantic slave trade that operated from the late 16th to early 19th centuries. Given the dates from the table (1570-1640) we can reaffirm the Atlantic Trade System as the correct choice.

Why It's the Best Answer

The fact that slaves were brought from Africa to the New World is one of the most important takeaways from the early modern period. The most significant increase in slave trading activities occurred over the Atlantic, giving birth the to triangle trade. This was a system of commerce wherein slaves were purchased in Africa in exchange for European and colonial manufactured goods and alcohol. These slaves were subsequently taken to the Americas, where the profits from their sale were used to purchase agricultural products like sugar and tobacco which were then sold in Europe or the northern colonies.

The Hanseatic league refers to a northern German federation of mercantile cities, which did not directly engage in the slave trade. The Mediterranean had long been home to the slaving activities of Barbary pirates, who you might know were one of the first targets of American foreign military action in the Barbary Wars at the beginning of the 19th century. Trans-Saharan commerce was also notorious for trading slaves. However, none of these are the correct answer because the question asks the reader to consider the graph above that lists the New World cities of Cartagena and Veracruz (in modern day Colombia and Mexico respectively.) This geographically implies a trans-Atlantic trade.

Stimulus Based: Questions 5-6

Use the following stimulus for questions 5-6:
temperature variation northern hemisphere

Q5. According to the graph above, which region saw the greatest impact from the Medieval warm period?

  • Greenland and Iceland
  • Northern Europe
  • Southern Europe
  • The British Isles

The British Isles, located in central England, had the largest drop off due to the Little Ice Age.

Why It's the Best Answer

You can answer this question by closely reading and interpreting the graph. Looking under the note entitled “medieval warm period,” the blue line denoting Central England temperature is the only one that rises significantly for that portion of the graph. The other two lines refer to the Northern Hemisphere temperature in different conditions. Since Central England is on the British Isles and not on Greenland Iceland, or continental Europe, option four is the correct choice.

The medieval warm period is also referred to as the medieval climatic anomaly, since changes were not constant around the world. The Northern Hemisphere endured increased average temperatures up to one percent, while sub-equatorial Africa became much drier than usual and South America saw little change. Fun fact: Warming in the north may have actually helped the Vikings explore and colonize the Americas (albeit temporarily) due to increased access to open water and a more favorable climate.

Q6. Based on your analysis of the graph above and your knowledge of world history, identify the statement that best explains how environmental factors influenced human migrations from 1000 to 1450 CE.

  • Desertification in Africa and climate change coupled with mass starvation in Europe both led to massive human migrations southward during the middle ages.
  • Increased crop diffusion in Africa and the warming trends of Northern Europe encouraged humans to move into areas that had previously been uninhabited.
  • The Little Ice Age created a marked decrease in habitation North of Italy.
  • Russia saw a large increase in human migration due to lower temperatures.


The chart shows temperature escalation in the Northern part of Europe, reaffirming Increased crop diffusion in Africa and the warming trends of Northern Europe encouraged humans to move into areas that had previously been uninhabited.

Why It's the Best Answer

While Africa did become drier in the medieval warm period, it did not suffer from intense desertification that might result in mass population shifts. Europe did see several famines from 1000 to 1450, including the Great Famine of 1315-1317 which killed millions, led to a surge in crime, and even destabilized the Catholic Church. It was the first of many such disasters to hit the continent in the 14th century. However, these famines came immediately after the medieval warm period, which could be argued to have actually helped crop production in some areas of the world.

The medieval warm period resulted in population movements to previously uninhabited or under-inhabited areas, including Manchuria, northern Japan, and parts of Scandinavia and Russia. This might suggest that option four is the correct choice. Indeed, plenty of farms were established in Russia during this period, and more people moved into the region. However, the question is looking for a more holistic answer, which option two satisfies. Population movements were prevalent around the globe, and crop diffusion had a prominent role in the development of agriculture in new places that allowed for an increase in human population and mobility.


benjamin franklin Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, was a looming figure in the American Enlightenment. Franklin is credited with the creation of bifocals, wave theory, the University of Pennsylvania, and getting shocked by a kite.

The exploration of the world and the subsequent colonization of the Americas and parts of Asia fundamentally changed notions of trade, science, philosophy, and power projection. For the first time, European nations became the undisputed authorities over most of the globe. The Christian world took the place of the Muslim caliphates which had previously dominated arts, science, and political power. Mercantilism, imperialism, and slavery became the impetus for a new world order focused more on economic and naval power than traditional military might. The institutions of the medieval era began to decline -- the Silk Road, European feudalism, axe and sword, to name a few. Gunpowder formed the basis for armies from England to Japan, and brought the art of war to a new era. In the later half of this period, two of the most significant social movements in human history transpired. The Scientific Revolution of 1550 to 1700 resulted in the invention and discovery of the scientific method, heliocentric theory, the circulatory system of the human body, the basic laws of physics, and more. The Enlightenment of the 19th century revolutionized social and political theory, and led to a questioning of traditional religious and political authority by liberal thought. The ideas and institutions it engendered would form the basis of the principles of liberty and individuality that would drive the Age of Revolution discussed in the next period.