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HIST 208 : The Atlantic World

Professor Serena Zabin -- Spring 2018

Oxford Bibliographies Online

Primary Source Analysis

Open up questions rather than to come up with answers!  What kinds of questions can you explore with the source you have?  How does your source fit into the themes you've explored, particularly using a theoretical frameworks as a guide?  Use the following questions to help guide your description of your primary source (derived from Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History):

  1. Who is the author?
  2. When was the source composed?
  3. What is the historical context in which the source was written and read?
  4. Who was the intended audience?
  5. Why did he or she write (create) the source? (Persuasion, description, factual, etc) What is the author teaching you?
  6. Was the original text commissioned by anyone, or published by a press with a particular viewpoint?
  7. How does the author’s gender, race, class, ethnicity, language group, and (if relevant) national identity compare to the people about whom they are writing?
  8. What unspoken assumptions does the text contain?
  9. What biases are detectable in the source?
  10. Are there other contemporary sources to compare against this one, especially from the syllabus?

Reference sources