This assignment involves the "discovery" and analysis of a little-known historical document originally produced before 1715. In fact you will find your document in a published book rather than in archives or other manuscript repository, though for the purposes of this assignment it must have been published before 1927. (This is to prevent violation of copyright laws.) Nevertheless, the document in question must be sufficiently little-known not to be on the Internet. You will find your document by looking through published document collections. You might find some of these collections at the Swem Library, but will be encouraged to order others via Interlibrary Loan (ILL). (I will show you in class on September 2 how to locate these via the FirstSearch database.) Once you have found an interesting document, choose a phrase from it and enter it in the "Google" search engine on the Internet. (Don't forget to place the phrase within quotation marks!) If the phrase yields hits and the entire document (in the version/translation in which you have found it) is already on the Internet, choose another document. When you have found a document (or version/translation of a document) that is not on the Internet, type it into a Microsoft Word file. Your document should be between 1500 and 3000 words in length. Next begin your analysis. This task involves asking and answering a number of questions about your chosen document. In particular, you should be address the following questions (though you do not need to write the questions explicitly in your analysis):
1. Who wrote this document? What sort of person was he or
she (a public official? a scholar? a military commander?)
How does this information affect our understanding of the document?
2. What kind of document is it? (e.g. a public document? a law? a speech? a private letter?)
3. Why was it produced? (e.g. in order to justify an action? in order to praise or condemn someone? in order to intimidate?)
4. Who was the document's intended audience? (a ruler? an ambassador? a subordinate? a parliament? a large population?) What does information about its audience tell us about the document itself?
5. To what extent should we believe the document? What aspects or claims are most believable, and why? What aspects or claims are least believable, and why?
6. What assumptions did the author have, and what can these assumptions tell us about the society in which the document was produced?
7. What else can the document tell us about the society in which it was produced?
8. What additional information would you like to have about the circumstances or society in which the document was produced? How might such information help one understand the document more fully?
Finally, you should find as much of the information sought in question 8 as possible and show what it tells us about the document that a simple reading of the document alone would not reveal. Be sure to cite your sources! (Citation format is unimportant, as long as it is thorough and consistent.)
Your analysis should total 2000 to 3000 words, with roughly half devoted to answering questions 1-8 and half devoted to the answers and implications to question 8. Thus the final word count of your document and analysis together should be between 3500 and 6000 words.
Finally, email your document and analysis as a Word attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org
This assignment is due on Friday December 6. It is worth 35% of your final grade.
I will post selected documents and especially cogent analyses on the Internet, with proper credit given to students and with their permission.
Example: A letter from Thomas More to Peter Giles, 1516.