American Culture

general article writing


Make and support a central argument about the historical context and significance of one primary source/ document from Part II of Creating an American Culture, 1775-1800. It does not require any outside research.

Your paper should begin by making an argument about what the source/ document you have chosen reveals about 18th-century American history; the rest of your paper should support your argument by analyzing the source closely and placing it in historical context to establish its significance.

Following your introductory paragraph (in which you state your central argument), the first part of your paper (about two pages) should ANALYZE the document that you have chosen, using the skills of critical analysis outlined on page 10 (found on the bottom of this doc) (If your document is long, please choose part of it to analyze so that you can be thorough.) This is your chance to demonstrate that you are mastering these important critical analytical skills.

In the second part of your paper (about three pages), you should discuss the historical CONTEXT and SIGNIFICANCE of the source that you have chosen. You will find some of this information in Part I of Creating an American Culture, 1775-1800 (pages 3-80), which is the assigned reading for the week. But you should also draw upon our other course readings and lectures, particularly about the eighteenth century, as you discuss the context and significance of the document. This part of the paper will allow you to demonstrate your mastery of the full range of course material.

Please consider the following:

Evaluated for: clarity, the strength of analysis and interpretation, and intelligent use of the course materials. It will be graded on a 20-point scale and comments will be provided. 

Elements of Critical Analysis

of a Primary Source:

Author:  sometimes specific (name at the top); or establish a general profile (nationality, gender, education, occupation, etc.)

Audience:  sometimes specific or explicit (i.e., a letter from husband to wife); or establish a general profile (public or private, written or oral, fiction or nonfiction, the complexity of language and sources)

Language:  images or metaphors; repeated, unusual, or stressed words or phrases; words that seem to have a positive or negative charge

Argument and Logic:  main point and secondary points; structure – how does it move from point to point; linear, circular, or leaps of logic

Sources:  first-person witness; second-hand (others told me); written sources; divine revelation

Style and Tone:  analytical, impassioned, authoritative, questioning, etc.

Motives and Goals:  why did the author use this language, argument, logic, source, style, and tone to appeal to this audience? Do all of these elements work together to meet the author’s goals or are the author’s motives complex and contradictory? Is one goal more important than the others?

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