Imperialism, Slavery and their the significance in world history
The assignment is to select a topic from the suggest list, or to propose your own using a group of related documents (could be as few as two) from the primary source readings we have used in the course, and write an analytical essay discussing their significance in World history. The essay is not about writing a broad, synthetic narrative stitched together from books or online sources, but about an in-depth analysis of a specific set of texts. Naturally you must discuss the texts within their historical setting (see points listed below), and for this you must consult secondary sources, that is, the work of other historians and not just your documents. Please note: Wikipedia because it is not a peer-reviewed publication (anyone can edit or contribute articles), is not an acceptable source. In fact, approach any web-based source with care. The centerpiece of your work, in any case, must be the text: I want you to produce an essay (in the original sense of “trial or attempt”) to work like a historian on what are the raw materials of history: documents.
Choosing what to write about:
In one way or another the proposed topics or a topic you suggest yourself should be related to the major themes of the course, and I think the best way to start thinking about what to write about will be to review what the major themes of the courses are (you’ll see this list again before the final exam):
Contact and exchanges between peoples and cultures
Trade and economic relations
Exchange of ideas, germs, foods
Conflict and warfare, exchange of military methods and technologies
Exchanges or migrations of populations (voluntary and involuntary, e.g. slavery)
Political institutions, their challenges and developments
Organizing states over large distances
Relationships between “one” or “few” and “many” – rulers and ruled
The nature of the body politic (subjects of the Emperor? Members of the nation? Citizens of the Republic?)
Economic links and changes
Shaping of the global system of economic exchange
Industrial revolution, manufacturing, mechanization, their impact on society
Global “haves” and “have-nots” at various periods in history, their relations
Culture, religion, arts and society
Contact and exchanges between societies in thought and religion
“Western” science and technology and their challenges and acceptances in other societies
Enlightenment globally, Socialism globally, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism globally
Challenges to the dominant rational Enlightenment paradigm from East and West
If you spend a little time reviewing the suggested topics or other texts you should be able to place them into one or the other of these major thematic groups and then the one(s) that make an interesting subject for your further analysis. Seek the advice of your GTA or me, if you want us to comment on your thinking before you finalize your essay document selection, but do not expect us to tell you which texts to write about.
The mechanics (included in grading):
Essays must be:
Typed or printed following the Format and Style guide available on the Blackboard course site along with this handout.
Between 5 and 7 pages long, not including cover page (put your name on it!) and bibliography.
Pages should be numbered in the upper right corner (except the cover page).
No essay is complete without a bibliography (list of sources consulted), including the document(s) you analyzed and any other works that helped you place the text in historical context. Follow the Format and Style guide in formatting it.
You must include references in the body of the essay wherever appropriate.
A word of warning: plagiarism is academic dishonesty. Please review the Code of Academic Integrity linked on the syllabus page of this course on Blackboard, especially the definition of plagiarism. To help you recognize plagiarism and to guard against it, all essays will be submitted using SafeAssign (the link to submit the essay is on Blackboard, click “Analytical Essay” in the left-hand menu).
The substance (also included in grading):
The key elements in analyzing your document will include:
Context: You must understand and make clear to the reader the context, by which I mean the historical setting, influences of time, place, class, attitudes, prejudices, intended audience, and so on.
Content: You must understand and explain to the reader what the document actually says, though the essay must be more than a summary of the text.
Argument: You must construct an analytical discussion, in which you argue for a particular understanding of the significance or meaning of the documents, in an argument that is logical, clear and supported by reference to the document itself.
Conclusion: Your essay should end with a conclusion in which you summarize or restate your general interpretation.
Note that the above list is not a suggested outline, but simply the elements that will be combined to make up a good essay. Purely personal reactions, aesthetic judgments, and the like have no place in your essay. Neither do I expect you to dwell on the contemporary relevance (if any) of the document(s). You are to attempt to think like historians, and therefore you should approach these texts with the goal of making them tell you something about the past.
While I encourage each of you to develop your own personal “voice,” remember that the reason you are writing is to communicate meaning. Write clearly, do not assume an “academic” prose style, and avoid slang phrases, contractions, and the use of the first person pronoun, as is the convention for formal writing.
Some further thoughts about properly using and crediting your sources (both the documents and the secondary source(s) you use for context) follow:
Using Your Sources Properly
Not every sentence in your paragraph should be from a source. Do not simply string together cited material to make a paragraph.
Paraphrase or summarize as much as possible; quotes should only be used if you think that the author makes the point poetically, succinctly, or otherwise in an interesting way. Use quotations only if the author’s exact words are important.
Graphs, charts, and tables taken from a source can be reprinted in your work, but you must acknowledge where they came from in a caption.
Do not use the same material twice.
You do not need to cite things that are “common knowledge” for instance, major dates (The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776), the fact that a major event occurred (The Black Plague first came to Western Europe in the fourteenth century), or some common knowledge about a famous person (Theodore Roosevelt was once governor of New York State). Similarly, it is unnecessary to acknowledge proverbs.
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