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George Mason University The Guinea Coast Historical Discussion

One of the very important skills utilized by historians in understanding the past is in understanding and interpreting primary sources. For this first skill based assignment we are going to practice reading and contextualizing primary source documents.

For this exercise choose ONE of the following documents.

1. 1518, Duarte Barbosa, Description of Vijayanagara.docx Download 1518, Duarte Barbosa, Description of Vijayanagara.docx

2. 1500s, Account of the Guinea Coast by a Portuguese sailor.docx

3. 1530s_Cabeza de Vaca in the Southwest.docx Download 1530s_Cabeza de Vaca in the Southwest.docx

Download the document of your choosing and complete the following tasks:

  • FIRST Annotate the document with your own comments/reactions (this should include underlining, highlighting the parts you think are relevant, along with your own notations or comments about terms, figures or other noted items. Annotations should not be how you answer the questions).
    • (For additional information on how to annotate a text this site from the EWU Writing Center has a good set of guidelines.)
  • SECOND, Find Context, refer to the readings we’ve done so far, and make a list of 3-4 quotes from our assigned material that relate to the overall topic of your document.
    • Each quote should be formatted as a quote and be followed by a citation.
  • THIRD, Formalize your knowledge. Now that you’ve read the document and put together some contextual information use it to complete the following tasks:
      1. What purpose was intended by the author(s) of this document? Does it have things it can tell us that the author’s didn’t intend to communicate as a primary message?
      2. What is an event BEFORE this document was written that you think particularly influences it’s tone or content? Why?
      3. We know what happens AFTER this document was written, do you think that knowledge would have changed the author’s perspective? Why or Why not? This is a hypothetical exercise, you do not need to be limited by the author’s natural life span or by whether you can PROVE their opinion. Rather this is an exercise in thinking about processes of historical change and formulating an argument.
      4. Finally, what stands out to YOU about this document? Explain why you find it int

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