Paper Assignment #1: Interpreting Primary Sources
The purpose of this paper is to allow you to learn and practice your skills of historical interpretation by engaging in original analysis of a primary source document, using both evidence from the document itself and information from the related reading you’ve already done for this class.
Option B: Randy Sparks states in Two Princes of Calabar that, “The horrors of the Middle Passage inflicted terrible suffering and traumatized its victims. Ripped from their homes and families, often marched long distances to be sold at market, dazed and confused by the sight of the sea, the slave ships, and Europeans, most captives had no idea what fate awaited them.” (p. 71)T
Discuss these statements in relation to the excerpt from Captain Phillips, A Journal of a Voyage in the Hannibal of London, 1693,1694
• Two Princes of Calabar:
Write a 4-5 page paper discussing how the document confirms and/or complicates the arguments made by the related book. Papers are due Monday, 9/28 at the beginning of class. Here are a few more hints to help you as you begin your work:
Analyze the source:
• Who produced this document?
• For whom?
• What motivations might the producers of this document have had in creating it?
Beyond these contextual questions, consider how a primary source might reflect the circumstances of its time and place. Gaps and silences in a document can be as revealing as what it actually says.
• Why might the creator of a document have chosen to not address certain topics, or to give them only brief mention?
• What are the most interesting questions you can ask of this document?
Plan your paper:
Your historical narrative should be written as a coherent essay with an introduction and a conclusion. Offer an argument in the form of a strong thesis, backed up with supporting evidence for your interpretations from the document and the book. Be creative and shape your essay around the issues and themes that interest you most.
• Explain for your readers both the meaning of the document (how historical actors might have understood the document in the era in which it was produced) and
• Explain the significance of the document (how it might be considered evidence for a particular interpretation or argument about the past).