Primary Source Assignment – Summer 2012

HIS 10: Modern World History

College Now – Bronx Community College – Summer 2012
Professor: Roy R. Rogers


Primary Source Assignment


Students are required to complete THREE short (two to four page) detailed analyses of THREE different primary sources of the student’s choice. While students are to complete THREE primary source analyses, only TWO of the three completed assignments will impact a student’s final grade. The two completed assignments with the highest grade will be selected. If a student, however, does not complete all three primary source analysis a zero will be recorded for at least one of the two assignments.

What is a primary source?

A primary source is a contemporary document, item or material relating to a particular historical period. Such sources include contemporary diary entry, newspaper article, political speech, archaeological find, television show and/or letter. A primary source for the American Revolution, for example, could be a military order from the desk of George Washington, a letter from a British soldier to his wife, the Declaration of Independence and even a surviving military uniform.

For this assignment, primary sources many be selected from either the assigned course reader (Finkelstein, The Modern World: A History Reader) or from any primary source handed out by the instructor in class. If a student is unclear on what is an acceptable primary source for these assignments, please consult the instructor at any time.

In their analysis students are to address three elements:

1.) Students are to outline the argument or position of their selected source.

What is the author(s) attempting to say? What are they seeking to describe? What are their reactions to the events around them? Students should distill the source’s argument it is core points and come up with two to three key points of the author(s) argument.

2.) Students are to contextualize the source under analysis.

How does this source tie into the broader themes (human rights, genocide, imperialism, etc.) or events (World War 2, the Haitian Revolution, etc.) discussed in this course. What event(s) is the author(s) trying to describe? What events or processes (wars, revolutions, political campaigns, etc.) is the author responding to and/or trying to shape? In your essay make sure that you highlight what evidence within the source itself highlights its context.

3.) Students are to assess why the analyzed source was created.

Why did the author(s) create this source? Did they hope to change a law? Promote a religion or ideology? Change the minds of their fellow citizens or a ruler? There are many purposes that authors have when creating a source; students should address at least one in detail. In assessing why a source was created students should think critically about the both the content and context of a source to determine the purpose(s) of an author(s). In essence in the final part of this assignment, you should synthesize the first two aspects when assessing why a source was created.


Author: Roy Rogers

I am currently a PhD candidate in American History at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY). My undergraduate education was at Shepherd University (Political Science & History) and I received an MA in History from George Mason University. As a historian, my research interests include early American history, the early American republic (1780 to 1830), political history, religious history, and gender history. I live in Brooklyn with my girlfriend and our cat.

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