World History


Then Again




Thematic Primary Source Essay



I. Purpose

The grand story of history which we have been looking at this semester is actually composed of a number of smaller histories which form part of the big picture. The purpose of this essay is to help you better understand one of those smaller histories. Also, while much of the writing one does for a history course is in the form of argumentative essays, in practice, much history is written in the form of stories or narratives. This essay will, therefore, give you an opportunity to practice the most basic form of historical writing.

II. General Instructions

On the separate instruction sheet are listed four themes and a number of cultures. You are to SKETCH a history of that theme based on the cultures listed and any primary or secondary sources that you would care to incorporate into the essay. For the essay to be successful, it must not only describe how each culture dealt with the theme, but should also account for how the culture dealt with that theme. The essay does not need to present a detailed analysis of each of the cultures listed, but it should make at least passing reference to them and should discuss at greater length the events, individuals or characteristics that in your opinion most directly reflect the theme.  

This is not intended to provide an exhaustive history of the theme, just to discuss the significant events represented by the culture. The history that you produce will not be a continuous narrative: there will be important events which are not covered. Think of the sources as dots and your job is to write the story which connects the dots. Just write the story which arises out of the listed sources. Moreover, this is not intended to be a research paper, but if you wish, you may use sources other than those referred to in class. Be sure, however, to properly cite those sources.

The essay should be between 4 and 5 pages long (1000-1250 words). It should be type written or computer generated and double spaced. It is due the day normally used for the final exam.

III. Evaluation

The essay will be evaluated based on the following criteria. These are similar to those used to evaluate earlier essays. It will be worth 60 points and will count as the Final Exam.

  • A. Narrative

    Has the essay used the sources to tell a coherent story?

  • B. Explanation

    Does the essay offer a reasonable explanation for the significant changes in the story?

  • C. Sentence Level Writing

    Identical to the criteria used in earlier essays.

  • D. Use of Sources

    Identical to the criteria used in earlier essays.

  • E. Historical Understanding

    Identical to the criteria used in earlier essays.

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