Doing History Questions with ChatGPT

Friends and family have asked me about ChatGPT, and it has been a topic of conversation amongst colleagues. I thought I would asked ChatGPT some questions that a student may ask for a history assignment, and grade the program’s responses. Questions in Bold. Answers in Italics.

I would like a short essay comparing how King Leopold II is remembered in Belgium with his legacy in the Congo.

King Leopold II of Belgium is remembered very differently in his home country compared to his legacy in the Congo, which was a colony under his personal rule. In Belgium, King Leopold is remembered as a visionary and a modernizer who helped to transform Belgium into a major economic and industrial power during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is credited with building the country’s infrastructure, such as the port of Antwerp, and with founding a number of cultural institutions, such as the Belgian Museum of Natural Sciences.

In contrast, King Leopold’s legacy in the Congo is much darker and is defined by the exploitation and oppression of the Congolese people. Under King Leopold’s rule, the Congo was treated as a personal fiefdom, and its resources were extracted ruthlessly to enrich the Belgian king. The Congolese people were subjected to brutal violence, forced labor, and other forms of exploitation, and it is estimated that up to 10 million Congolese were killed or died as a result of King Leopold’s policies.

Despite these differences in the way King Leopold is remembered in Belgium and the Congo, it is important to recognize that both legacies are deeply intertwined. King Leopold’s wealth and power in Belgium were built on the exploitation of the Congo, and the economic and political developments of the former directly contributed to the misery and suffering of the latter. In this sense, King Leopold’s legacy in Belgium and the Congo must be seen as two sides of the same coin.

“In this sense, King Leopold’s legacy in Belgium and the Congo must be seen as two side of the same coin.” The tone is conversational, complete with the use of idioms. “Personal fiefdom” and “ruthlessly” add judgement. It looks like it was written by a human. I ran the answer through a plagiarism checker, which could not flag any passages. it looks like a human written, original piece. However, what is missing here, is the meat, the details. As I tell my students, “essay writing is just like ‘show and tell.’ You tell me your claims and then you show me your data, evidence, sources, etc.” The show me part is missing. What about the brutal violence and forced labor in the Congo? What were these “other forms of exploitation”? If were grading this — C+/B-

What was China’s “Great Shame”? And how severe was the opioid crisis in China during this time?

China’s “Great Shame” refers to the Opium Wars in the 19th century, which were two wars between China and the British Empire. The first Opium War took place from 1839 to 1842 and the second from 1856 to 1860. During this time, the British Empire forcibly sold opium, a highly addictive drug, to China, leading to widespread addiction and social problems in the country. The opium trade was seen as a great shame by many Chinese, who viewed it as a symbol of their country’s weakness and dependence on foreign powers.

The opioid crisis in China during this time was severe, as the widespread use of opium led to widespread addiction and social problems. The opium trade disrupted traditional Chinese society and caused widespread poverty, crime, and corruption. The situation was further compounded by the fact that China was forced to pay high indemnities to the British Empire and to open several treaty ports to foreign trade, further weakening the country and increasing its dependence on foreign powers. The Opium Wars had a profound impact on China’s history and remain a source of national shame and resentment to this day.

So the “Great Shame” refers to a period in Chinese history also known as the “Century of Humiliation”; while it may have started with the first Opium War of 1839, this period refers to a much longer period, 1839 through 1949, and series of events beyond the Opium Wars to include Western and Japanese imperialism until independence and the end of the Civil War. This is partially, and not insignificantly, incorrect. C/C+

Who are the Ramapough Lenape? What is their history? And why are the Ramapough Lenape not recognized by the federal government?

The Ramapough Lenape are a Native American tribe that has lived in the northeastern United States for thousands of years. They are a branch of the Lenape people, who were one of the largest and most widespread tribes in the eastern United States before European colonization.

The Ramapough Lenape have a long and complex history, including displacement and forced migration as a result of European colonization, as well as ongoing struggles to maintain their cultural heritage and sovereignty. Despite their long history in the region and their status as a distinct Native American tribe, the Ramapough Lenape are not recognized by the federal government as a sovereign tribe, which limits their access to resources and recognition of their rights.

This lack of recognition has been a contentious issue for the Ramapough Lenape and advocates for Native American rights, and efforts to gain recognition have been ongoing for many years.

So the Ramapough Lenape, or Ramapough Munsee Lenape as they are now known, have a very rich history and colorful lore in the history of Bergen and Passaic counties of New Jersey and Rockland County, New York. I am referring to a specific and clans within the broader Lenape nation, so “northeastern United States” is woefully insufficient. “[Any Native American tribe or indigenous culture writ large] have a long and complex history, including displacement and forced migration as a result of European colonization, as well as ongoing struggles to maintain their cultural heritage and sovereignty,” this sentence could be applied to the Ramapough, or the Inuit, or the Quechua; it is unoriginal, generic, and could be applied to any number of cultures exposed to European colonization. C-/C

While ChatGPT’s response have all been technically correct, they all leave the reader needing more. More details. More specifics. Answers that are more appropriate to the specific question being asked. ChatGPT is really showing itself to be a “C” student. I would be more concerned with the plagiarism experiences I have encountered in the past such as honor students handing out their work to friends, sometimes for money, to copy and run through a paraphrasing tool.

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