CLASS FOR WHICH THIS HISTORY ESSAY IS FOR: Canada to Confederation
Choices [all in the following choices for this essay are uploaded]:
“The Story of Crow by Angela Sydney”
“A Micmac [sic] Responds to the French”
“Memorandum on Colonizing New France”
“Treaty of 1725″
“Report on the Nature and State of the Province [Nova Scotia], ca. 1752”
Instructions: PLEASE RED CAREFULLY
One of the essential skills in a historian’s repertoire is the ability to interpret primary historical sources. Primary sources include many types of historical evidence, from written/typeset documents [e.g., diaries, newspapers, business ledgers, court records, muster lists, government reports] to aural sources [e.g., sermons, folk songs, oral narratives], visual images [e.g., photographs, paintings, films, sculptures], and material culture [e.g., tools, architecture, religious artifacts]. When we study the past, there is nothing quite like delving into primary sources to make us feel as though we are right there with the historical players. We have a sense of immediacy, a feeling that we are looking over the shoulders of the people who actually created these items long ago. But we must be careful in interpreting primary sources. We should think, for example, about when and why they were created. We should try to discern the perspectives of the people who have created them and understand how these glimpses into the past have been filtered through the lens of their specific situations within specific historical contexts. And we should also think carefully about our own cultural perspectives as we try to interpret these sources. In particular, we should avoid presentism: judging the past through the lens of the present.
Each of the items listed above is a primary historical source. Choose ONE and, in a brief essay of 750-1000 words [approximately 3-4 pages, typed and double spaced in a 12-point font with 1” margins], analyze it as a piece of historical evidence. Provide a cover sheet that clearly identifies the document that you have chosen, your teaching assistant, and [of course] yourself.
Briefly describe the document and what it tells us about inhabitants of the area we today call “Canada.” Then problematize the document and evaluate it as a historical source. Some questions you might be able to address [not all will apply to every item] are: Who wrote or otherwise articulated the material? When? Why? What does it talk about? Who was its intended audience? Was it meant to be public or private? What impact might it have had at the time or in the longer term? What, if any, information is not included which could or should have been? How does the source reflect its time and place? How does it reflect the class, gender, race, or ethnicity of its creator?
In addition, briefly contextualize the document within our course on Canadian history. How does this document relate to other materials we have read or other information we have covered in class or tutorials? Does it tell us something that supports or contradicts what we have discussed so far? Does it fill in a gap and provide new information? What information strikes you, a student of Canadian history, as being particularly significant? What questions does it raise in your mind about the interpretation of primary historical sources?
NB – Please do not treat these questions as a “shopping list” of items to be checked off in order of delivery. They are here merely to guide you in thinking about the source that you have chosen. Your response must be written in a cohesive, logically developed essay.
Every good history essay will have a main line of argument running through it. That is what makes the various paragraphs throughout the whole essay pull together. Think about it as a broad conclusion that you are trying to substantiate by laying out the evidence in an orderly fashion. Because you are working with only one source, your argument will not be as comprehensive as one that is based on a wide variety of evidence. But think about what kind of broad argument you can make with one source: perhaps something about the usefulness of the document as a historical source; or perhaps something about the writer’s particular perspective.
Hint at your argument in your introduction and really drive it home in your conclusion.
CITATION STYLE: Because these are relatively short documents and you will be identifying your particular document on the cover sheet, you may use a less formal citation style. When you use a direct quotation, simply provide an in-text citation in brackets of the page or paragraph number. You are not required to do any additional research, and we actually prefer that you try to think through this assignment on your own.