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Paper: Analysis of primary documents (primary sources). A four to five-page analysis of a group of primary sources (a.k.a. primary documents) you will be writing about at least two primary sources on a related topic. Typed, double spaced, one-inch margins, no bigger than 12 point font. Primary documents are “A Cuban Slave’s Testimony” by Esteban Montejo and “ A Day on a Coffee Plantation by Stanley J. Stein. Very important>
Writing your paper.
In the introduction to your paper, you’ll introduce your primary sources and tell me
briefly about their importance to the history of this region. In this introduction, you will also lay
out your thesis- this is a statement you can prove on the basis of the evidence you’ve gathered
before you. In this case, on the basis of your primary sources (first and foremost) as well as the
secondary sources you’ll be using to provide historical context.
Next, tell me about your primary sources. Who wrote them? What are they about? What
insights does do they provide into the history of this region at this time? What generalizations
can we make about the primary sources you’re analyzing?
Be sure to place these documents into historical context- this is absolutely essential
to this essay. Explain that document in the context in which it was written and in which
those events unfolded (NOT in terms of present days norms and values- beware of applying
today’s norms and values to what happened 300 years ago). How does this document fit into the
grand historical narrative we’ve been weaving? What was going on at the time these documents
were written? What does John Charles Chasteen author of “Born in Blood and Fire” say about the time period you’re looking at?
provide us with the very important historical context we need to fully understand this
primary source as well as its historical significance. Cite readings and show complexity!
Then comes your analysis of the documents:
Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your primary sources. What can we learn about
this historical topic based on these sources? Are they reliable sources? Can you identify any
biases? If we want as complete and accurate a picture of history as possible, does this type of
document give us the full picture? If not, what other kind of sources do we need to consult to get
that full picture? In what ways do these documents contribute to our understanding of the history
of the region your documents deal with?
Sometimes, the opposite can be true. Sometimes documents can conceal a true
understanding of the history of the region at that time (or perpetuate negative stereotypes; or
perpetuate falsehoods; or perpetuate a simplistic view of events…). If this is the case with yours,
discuss this. Of course, sometimes they can do both.
For example: “A Cuban Slave’s Testimony,” you would tell me all about
Esteban Montejo’s testimony (he was an ex-slave). You would provide lots of historical context,
where you would discuss the magnitude of the African slave trade to the Caribbean and to the
Americas. You would bring in material from readings and films (“Black in Latin
America”). You would also, very importantly, tell us all about the particular insights he provides
into the life and culture of African slaves on their day off on a Cuban plantation. He provides
plenty of insights into leisure, styles of dress, fashion, music, dance, ethnic rivalries, and the
world of work of slaves- you would discuss all of that. Then you would assess the strengths
(contributions to our knowledge of this region at this time) and/or weaknesses of a source like
this one (limits or potential biases, for example).