In Module A, you saw how a historian uses a primary source (Columbus’s journal) to create an historical narrative. Now, let’s back up a bit and take a close look at primary sources. In this process, we will construct the context of the source.
First, some definitions:In the study of history as an academic discipline, a primary source (also called an original source or evidence) is an artifact, document, diary, manuscript, autobiography, recording, or any other source of information that was created at the time under study. It serves as an original source of information about the topic (Wikipedia).
Primary sources are distinguished from secondary sources, which cite, comment on, or build upon primary sources. So far, you have been interpreting the source, rather than reading a secondary source by someone who has already done the interpretation for you.
The other important definition here is context: the circumstances that form the historical setting for an event, statement, idea, or source and the terms in which it can be fully understood and assessed (Google). Students most often do not develop the context of the source in their papers. For example, many of you have received feedback from me indicating that you need an introduction that lays out the context of the source you’re commenting on.
For this Module, you will choose a source from the list below and:
1) simply report on the primary source by using the source to answer the questions below. In your Response Paper, you can just list the questions as they are here and answer them in full sentences. For some of the sources, the answers will be, in part, in Foner’s introduction to the source.
a. What type of source is it [an interview, a diary entry, a painting, music, a public record (court document, census document, political document, treaty, etc.)]?
b. When was the source published or produced?
c. Motive:–Who created the source and why?–Who is the author and what is her or his place in society (explain why you are justified in thinking so)?–Why do you think she or he wrote it? What evidence in the text tells you this?–Who might be the intended audience? What evidence in the text tells you this?–Does the author have a thesis or main point? What — in one sentence — is that thesis?
2) Next, you will include a paragraph that discusses the context of the source. As I’ve noted above, context is the circumstances that form the historical setting for an event, statement, idea, or source and the terms in which it can be fully understood and assessed. This can be found in the source itself, in the introduction to the source, and in Give Me Liberty!.
For example, if you were using “Olaudah Equiano on Slavery (1789)”, you would use Chapter 4 in Give Me Liberty! to discuss the Triangle Trade because that’s the context (the historical setting, backdrop, circumstances, etc.) in which Equiano’s narrative was written).
As with other Response Papers, this should be between 250-350 words.
The Pueblo Revolt (1680)
Adam Smith, The Results of Colonization (1776)
Nathaniel Bacon on Bacon’s Rebellion (1676)
Memorial against Non-English Immigration (1727)
Olaudah Equiano on Slavery (1789)
Advertisements for Runaway Slaves and Servants (1738)
The Trial of John Peter Zenger (1735)
The Great Awakening Comes to Connecticut (1740)
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