Primary source analysis


​The purpose of this assignment is to familiarize students with the use of historical documents within the larger framework of Enlightenment history. Historical documents, as you know by now, are the building blocks of written history. Moreover, the interpretation of these documents by the historical community and their placement in the larger historical narrative are the foundations of the historical profession. Therefore, this assignment will allow each of you to become, for a brief moment, a historian. Each of the documents will fit into a larger historical period and you need keep this timeframe in mind as you tackle this assignment. If there are people, places, and events mentioned in your documents that you do not know or understand, you need to research them using your textbook or other resources. If you use outside research materials they must be documented and if you use the internet I will only accept references to .org, .edu, or .gov sites. No Wikipedia! Wikipedia is full of historical and factual errors.

Here are some steps to follow as you analyze your document:

1) Title: The title of the document.
2) Author: Who wrote it, photographed it, spoke it, created it, etc.
3) Type of Primary Source: journal, photograph, oral interview, movie, music, artwork, etc.
4) Date (or approximation)
5) Historic Context: What historical events can be directly related to the document?
6) Major events occurring during this time period: What events in the larger world?
7) Trends of the time: What is life like socially and culturally?
8) Origin: Where did this document come from?
9) Purpose: What is the author or creator’s purpose?
10) Content/Key Points: What are some of the documents most important points?
11) Analysis: Brief summary of what you think the document says.
12) Significance: What is this document’s significance? Why is it important?
13) Bias: Does the document have a point of view?

The Paper

Your papers need to be 4-5 pages in length, double-spaced with name, date, and course number on the top left corner of your paper. Please number your pages. Grammar, spelling, editing, and proofreading mistakes will be heavily evaluated.

The Documents:

  1. 21.7 Rousseau’s the Social Contract
  2. 21.5 Kant’s What is Enlightenment
  3. 21.8 Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women
  4. 22.1 The Declaration of Independence
  5. 22.3 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen

The Assignment

The Enlightenment had an enormous impact on the politics of the age. Each of the above documents is indicative of enlightenment philosophy’s influence over personal and national beliefs. Choose four of the five primary sources listed above and create an analytical narrative based on your interpretation of how your selected documents reflect important aspects of the age of the Enlightenment and your understanding of such a pivotal intellectual age. A GREAT paper will connect the issues raised in these documents to our current political age and the unintended consequences of such a divisive political age.