The American Past

Historians learn about the past by analyzing primary sources, which are created at the time of a particular event. Primary sources include letters, diaries, court records, literature, and artifacts.

Read closely two primary sources in Reading the American Past. Write a brief (3 pages) essay analyzing your sources and explaining what they can tell us about early America. Your paper must have a thesis that explains what your source can reveal about some aspect of the past—for instance, about Indians, the frontier, European perceptions of the Americas, race relations, gender relations, etc.

The objective in this paper is not to summarize the sources, but to read them closely, to analyze them, and create a persuasive argument based on the evidence in the sources. You may want to compare the two sources or contrast them.

When analyzing primary sources, you may want to consider questions such as:

Who created this source? Why?
For whom was it created?
What can the source tell us, and what can it not tell us?
How does the source confirm, enrich,
alter, or refute the picture of early American history in the textbook and lectures?

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