Lizabeth Cady Stanton, Declaration of Sentiments

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Q: Why would the authors of the Declaration parallel the Declaration of Independence?

Q: What is their major demand?

Q: Why would people reject and actively fight against the ideas of this document?

One of the most important skills an historian develops is the ability to evaluate historical documents. This evaluation concerns asking questions of the documents that allows a historian to have insight in a particular topic or period being investigated. This weeks documents relate to the weekly module topic of culture and cultural interaction. Use the questions below to learn how to analyze various types of sources and to become an historian yourself. Write a 500 word initial post and present your interpretation of the document and the material to which you have been introduced. You can do this by following the guiding questions in the Document Tutorial Page. Avoid a summary.

Below is the Document Interpretation Tutorial
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Document Interpretation Tutorial

Document Interpretation: The Historians Mad Skillz
Primary Sources

Primary sources are generally first-hand accounts or records. They may have been written or created during the time period under investigation, or perhaps were written by someone who lived during that time period. Most crucially, they have not been interpreted by anyone else, though they may offer interpretations of the events they describe. Below are four examples of primary sources: a political cartoon, a page of correspondence, the title page of Thomas Paines Common Sense, and a wartime poster encouraging women workers. As you can imagine, however, there are many more types of primary sources.

Countless items can be used by historians as primary sources. Almost anything you can imagine could be used as a primary source in some type of historical research. A fun exercise to help you understand the immensity of available primary sources is to look around the room youre in and ask yourself, What would historians view or study one hundred years from now to understand the way we live and what we think today?”

The list below includes only a few of the types of primary sources utilized by historians. How many more can you add to the list?

letters a? diaries a? autobiographies a? plays a? novels a? short stories a? poems

scholarly journals a? newspapers a? popular magazines

official memoranda a? government documents a? census data

religious tracts a? song lyrics

photographs a? cartoons a? posters a? paintings a? murals

films a? television shows a? performing arts recordings a? email a? musical recordings

clothing a? political campaign signs a? pottery a? religious icons a? tools a? furniture

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources analyze, interpret, or comment upon primary sources. A secondary source says something about a primary sources, often illustrating patterns of recurring themes.

Perhaps the best example of a secondary source is your textbook. Open it to any chapter and read a couple of paragraphs and you will find that the authors have conducted extensive research utilizing primary sources. They have likely consulted other secondary sources as well. They have then written those paragraphs to explain what they have learned and how they understand the people and ideas of the past. The authors have interpreted the sources for you.

The list below includes some of the primary sources weave already identified accompanies by secondary sources which might, analyze, interpret, or comment upon them.

Primary Source

Secondary Sources

Abraham Lincolnas personal letters
a biography of Abraham Lincoln
A popular magazine from 1910
an article about print advertising in the early twentieth century
The 1860 U.S. Federal Census
a PowerPoint presentation concerning U.S. population distribution before the Civil War
The lyrics a?We Shall Overcomea?
a book examining the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s
Grant Woodsa American Gothic
an essay on American art and artists
An episode of I Love Lucy
a made-for-t.v. movie on the life of Lucille Ball
A Sioux blanket
a photo essay comparing Native American textiles

Questions to ask of any source..

Who is the author? Who wrote or created this? Is there a single or multiple authors? An authors identity sometimes helps you answer the later questions.
What type of source is this? Is it a photograph or a poem? A biography or a government document? This is a simple but crucial step because you must consider what you can expect to learn from the document.
What is the message of this source? What is the author describing? What is happening in the text or image? What is the story?
Who is the intended audience? Who is the author addressing? Was the source intended for private or public consumption? Identifying the audience will help you answer the next question.
Why was this source created? Does the author have an agenda, a larger purpose? Is the author trying to persuade the audience? Is the document or source simply a compilation of facts, or does it include opinion, inference, or interpretation?
Is this source credible and accurate? Historians must examine every source with a critical eye. What do you know about the author? Does the document make sense? Do the facts presented by the author or what you know about the time period support the thesis, statement, assertion, or story the author is conveying? Why should you trust, or distrust, this source?
How is this source valuable to me? How does the source relate to other sources from the time period or along the same issue or theme? Does it support or contradict them? Does it repeat information from other sources or add new information? How relevant is the source to your topic of inquiry? Does it extensively cover your topic, or only marginally or not at all? Remember, you should explore enough sources to obtain a variety of viewpoints.
In these weekly assignments, you will analyze primary sources for yourself, rather than merely reading others interpretations in secondary sources. When analyzing any primary source, ask yourself seven key questions about the source. In this assignment, you will share your particular interpretation with your group members and comment on their interpretations of the document they chose.

MAPS

Maps are yet another valuable historical source, and there are many different kinds of maps.

Political maps show the names and boundaries of countries, or political units within countries, such as states, counties, or parishes.
Physical maps use shades of gray or various colors to illustrate the locations of mountains, valleys, rivers, etc.
Topographic maps are similar to physical maps, but use contour lines to show elevation differences, and usually also include locations of rivers, cities, etc.
Thematic maps provide information relative to particular topics, such as population or temperature zones.
Census maps are a form of thematic map which include not only population distribution, but other details such as age or income.
Satellite maps are produced by computers which analyze satellite data.
Atlases contain a wealth of information about an area and can combine features of the other maps. Perhaps the most common type of atlas is the road atlas, which focuses on an areaas roadways.
Those which were either actually created in the past or modern maps which illustrate historical events, such as a map of Civil War battlefields in the U.S.

Identifying the type of map you are using will help you understand what information it can offer. For example, if you wanted to identify the largest U.S. cities in 1920, a satellite map would be of no use. But a census map or political map of 1920 would be very valuable.

The Basics

Map analysis requires some very basic steps. First, locate the title of the map. Second, locate the scale of the map, which tells you the proportion of the map, generally in miles or kilometers. Third,