DOCUMENT ANALYSIS SHEET -- HISTORY 354

Use this form as a guide for your first document analysis, recording information in the blanks provided. The analysis itself must be prepared on separate pages using a word-processor.

1. Title. Use the original title, in English, of the work from which the document is drawn. If it has no title, use the one supplied by the editor(s) of the volume where you found the document.

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2. Date. (y/m/d) If day and month are not applicable, explain why. Indicate also if there is a significant difference between the date of composition and the date of publication.

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3. Place of Origin -- (Country, Region, Town or City) -- not the place of copyright

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4. Original Language __________________

5.  Type of document (private letter, diary entry, book, diplomatic correspondence, speech, work of literature, newspaper account, editorial, minutes of a meeting, legal document, declaration, constitution, government memorandum, police report, etc.)

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6.  Format of document (i.e., published work during author's lifetime, manuscript published posthumously, document never intended to be published)

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7. Author(s)

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a. A particular person [if so, who, and what is that person's relationship to the author(s)]
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b. A particular group of people (family members, a women's organization, a craft guild, legislative representatives, soldiers, party leaders or members, a particular committee, adherents of a particular religious faith, a profession or occupation)
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c. A general readership (find out what types of people were known to read that particular publication .. i.e., priests, nobles, middle-class professionals, upper-class women, etc.).  If the document was originally meant for an oral delivery or performance, find out who attended such events (like a meeting of the Jacobin Club).
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d. All readers capable of understanding the language of the document (in this case, find out who could read or understand the original language in question, the level of education required to handle the style of the text, its vocabulary, and the nature of the ideas expressed, and who in the society in question had this level of education -- during the Revolution, this is crucial, as different journalists, for example, aimed at different sectors of society)
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e. Explain here if the document appears to be appealing to an audience aside from the one specifically addressed in the document -- this is often the case with what look like private letters, petitions or letters to government officials, correspondence among rulers or diplomats, and above all, in speeches. Even private diaries may be written with an outside audience in mind if the author has reason to suppose that its contents will one day be made public. Explain briefly what this additional audience might be.
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9. Purpose of document a. Specific occasion, event or controversy giving rise to the document (e.g., a battle, a declaration of war, an atrocity, a riot, an action by a religious or political leader, a scandal, the publication of a particular book, the appearance of new technology, a festival or celebration, an assassination, etc.). Describe briefly the significance of that event or controversy.
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b. Tone of document (sarcastic, humorous, outraged, gently critical, belligerent, lyrical, pleading, affectionate, hate-filled, exaggerated, reflective, dry, analytical, etc.)
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c. Viewpoint against which author(s) is arguing, if any (e.g., the idea that the "nation" is sovereign in religious matters; the belief that kings are by nature tyrannical; the belief that "natural rights" should be the foundation of all legitimate government, etc.)
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d. Overall ideological orientation or emotional disposition of the author toward events, circumstances, or controversies giving rise to document (A left-wing radical denouncing "aristocrats"? An atheist calling for destruction of the Christian religion? A "moderate" Girondin denouncing the Montagnards in the Convention? And so on)
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10.  Content Analysis -- Answer the following questions in no more than two or three sentences.  The answers must be specific. Examples of unacceptably vague comments:  "to tell the author’s views", "to describe an event", etc.
 
 
a.  Major purpose and function of the document (e.g., to protest against a specific action, denounce a political leader, show how to be a good revolutionary, provide a justification for a specific political action or piece of legislation, boost military or civilian morale, give advice to the king, etc.)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

b.  The leading ideas, themes or arguments used by the authors or authors to achieve the overall purpose of the document (pick the two most notable or significant ideas, themes or arguments, since in most documents there are several)


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

11.  Provisional thesis:  After choosing one of the themes outlined above, construct a three to four sentence statement of what you find to be the most important theme, idea or argument of the document, and how this theme, idea or argument relates to the specific historical context in which the document appeared – in other words, how the document was either directly inspired or indirectly influenced by historical circumstances.  Or, if you prefer, how the author or authors hoped to influence historical events by their spoken or written words.

This thesis will then become the organizing principle of the second stage of your document analysis, which will be an essay on the idea or theme you have chosen to address.  Remember, you don't have a true thesis unless it can be wrong.  Avoid the vague ("Napoleon's Civil Code was somewhat like reforms of the Constituent Assembly") the painfully obvious ("Robespierre believed fervently in his ideas") or the kind of superlatives you might find on the E Channel ("Napoleon was the greatest battlefield commander of modern times").  Say what specific ideas or principles the Civil Code shared with specific revolutionary laws (and in what area or subject), what specific ideals Robespierre carried into practice, and what specific tactics or battlefield innovations explain Napoleon's success in a specific battle or campaign.

In a separate paragraph, summarize the specific points that you will address in support of your thesis.

12.  Bibliography -- Consult the syllabus about the number and type of sources you must use, and the Departmental Style Sheet (available through the Department of History and Political Science homepage) for proper format.
 

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