Weeks 3-4 Practice Run, Part 2: Using Primary Sources

Weeks 3-4 Practice Run, Part 2: Using Primary Sources

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Practice Run, Part 2: Using Primary Sources

The second part of our “practice run” has to do with actually using a primary source, that is, how we interpret any source within its own place and time (in its own

“historical context”).

Below we have listed six broad periods of American History, and for each period we have listed a number of links to primary resources from that period. Each of you is

assigned one primary source from one of these periods as listed in the chart below. Everyone will thus first be looking carefully at one primary source.

Then, you should look closely at other students’ postings from your own period and at least two periods different from your own. Please comment on other students’

postings, taking care to respond to postings dealing with your own and two other periods.

In this way, by the end of the exercise, each of you will have had an opportunity to consider primary sources from three broad periods. It’s really valuable to look at

your fellow students’ interpretations, not only to get a sense of different sources about happiness (from different periods), but to get a sense of how people

interpret what they find. You might see something that a colleague may have missed or interpreted very differently.

My topic is : •Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address
http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/gettysburg-address/

Your assignment is to write about 150 words on your assigned primary source.

To help you think about what you should include in your 150-word interpretation of the primary source, here is a list of questions that should guide your writing:
1.What is your document? Describe it.
2.Is there an author or source?
3.Are there connections between the content of your source and anything you have learned about the period in which it exists?
4.Why do you think this source is significant? What clues does it offer you about happiness or well-being in that time period?
5.Does the document raise any questions for you? Is there something that just doesn’t make sense to you about it? (Remember, a document’s value could be in the new

questions it raises for us.)

For example, let’s say you were assigned a sermon by a 17th century minister. Your paragraph(s) would identify the document, help us to see when the sermon was made,

who its author was, and what you think it means. You might also try to ask yourself a question such as: How can I understand this document as something that was

created at this specific time? What clues does it offer about the ideas, the values, the interpretations of happiness and of “the good life” that were “alive” at that

time?

Three Things to Consider

1. Historical Context

This is the first time within the course that you will have to rely on your developing understanding of the American historical context. So, while your paragraph is

not expected to be a major piece of historical research, it should reflect your familiarity with the historical time and place of the primary source.

In order to ensure your familiarity with your primary source’s historical context, don’t hesitate to turn to various American History resources to help you “place” it

within a framework of the ideas, events, personalities, and values of the day. This means looking to the American history text or texts which you have on hand, as well

as the https://esc.angellearning.com/section/content/default.asp?wci=goto&type=page&match=overviews+of+u%2es%2e+history.
It also may mean that you will need to do some limited research so that you feel you have a good sense of the historical context in which your primary source exists.

2. The Limits of Opinions

Of course, you are certainly going to be offering your own interpretations of the documents you are using. But the goal here is to move away from asserting your

“opinion” and instead to move toward looking at the documents in their historical context, and trying to construct plausible interpretations of what they might have

meant as materials that were created and thought about at a very specific time.

3. Using Your Own Words

Please remember your paragraphs are your own writings, your own interpretation, etc. Make sure that if you use words or phrases from your document that you quote them

directly (that is, put the exact words between quotation marks and identify the source).

Post your 150-word interpretation in this discussion space. Make sure you indicate which primary source you were assigned in your posting so everyone will know.

One Last Thought

This might be your first stab at interpreting a document like this. Please don’t be worried about being “right” or being “wrong.” That’s not the point. This point is

to begin to gain practice interpreting different kinds of materials and thinking about what they mean. Everyone is here to learn these skills, it isn’t assumed that

they already have them. Over the course of this study, we expect everyone will become more comfortable and gain skills as analysts of history and culture.

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