Welcome to the first discussion for World Perspectives. This week’s discussion will focus on reading primary sources. What is a primary source? For the historian, a primary source is any form of expression (letters, reports, paintings, newspaper articles, even literature and movies) from the time period that the historian is studying. The kinds of sources that the historian uses will help to determine the kind of history that she or he writes, just like the detective uses certain kinds of evidence to make a case, or the reporter follows certain leads to write an article.
Using a primary source for the historian involves asking certain questions while reading or examining it. I have three suggestions for examining sources in this course, but not a good acronym. Other historians have other ways of thinking about this. For a different example on how to read primary sources go to the Course Information tab and connect to the relevant link. For our purposes, I like to think about: Content, Context and Significance or CCS (see what I mean about the poor acronym). The Content is simply the answer to “what happened?” or “what does this source convey to the viewer?” The Context is the consideration of time (when a source was written), place, author, audience, and all of the other possible things that affected the creation of the source. The significance refers to what this source does to help us better understand the events or era that we are studying.
So, try to use the CCS approach, or at least some part of it, and analyze the following sources.
Choose one of the following primary sources below and discuss how it relates to the building of the early modern empires, which is covered in the textbook reading (a secondary source). Here are some possible questions to consider: How do the authors view the native populations? What is the author’s purpose there? What are some of the author’s biases? How does the source reflect the spread of early modern empires? Make sure to use specific references to the primary source and to connect it to something that is discussed in the textbook.
Primary Source Links:
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