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Homework answers / question archive / Instructions: The “Thinking Like a Historian” sections of your textbook provide us with an opportunity to understand how (and why) historians have interpreted the past in different ways

Instructions: The “Thinking Like a Historian” sections of your textbook provide us with an opportunity to understand how (and why) historians have interpreted the past in different ways



The “Thinking Like a Historian” sections of your textbook provide us with an opportunity to understand how (and why) historians have interpreted the past in different ways. By highlighting the works of two historians from different time periods, these sections give us a glimpse into the field of historiography — the history of doing history. These brief excerpts are “secondary sources” — sources produced by scholars after the fact. In addition, your textbook author (David Emory Shi) has included primary documents to be read alongside of the secondary source excerpts. Primary documents are historical artifacts that comes from the time period under examination and can take a variety of forms (ie letters, diaries, political documents, movies, advertisements, etc.). In this first “Thinking Like a Historian” section, Shi provides excerpts from two renowned historians of the Revolutionary era — Bernard Bailyn and Gary Nash — who have different interpretations for how and why the Revolution occurred. Shi also provides us with two primary documents from the Revolutionary era that give us insight into what people were thinking at the time. Your task is to determine what, exactly, Bailyn and Nash had to say about the origins of the Revolution and to begin to think about how the primary documents support or weaken their respective interpretations.

  • “Thinking Like a Historian” — Debating the Origins of the American Revolution, pages 148-151 (the documents are also provided below)

PART ONE AN OLD "NEW" WORLD - THINKING LIKE A HISTORIAN Debating the Origins of the American Revolution History is more than just the memorization of what happened. It also involves interpreting why the past unfolded as it did. In seeking to understand why, historians often find themselves disagreeing. This happens for many reasons. Historians themselves are influenced by their own outlook and the society they live in. Historians can revise their thinking in light of fresh information from newly discovered primary sources. They can also interpret previously examined sources in new ways by applying new methodologies and theories. The study of how interpretations of history have changed is called historiography. It is the history of the field of history! For Part 1, "An Old 'New' World," the case study of the origins of the American Revolution demonstrates how historians can disagree because they use different types of sources. Thus it is an excellent topic for sharpening your historiographical skills. For this exercise you have two tasks: Part 1: Compare the two secondary sources on the American Revolution. Part 2: Using primary sources, evaluate the arguments of the two secondary sources. Part 1: Comparing and Contrasting Secondary Sources Below are excerpts from two prominent historians of the American Revolution who are at odds over its origins. The first piece comes from Bernard Bailyn of Harvard University, who has explored how ideology shaped the American Revolution—the system of ideas, ideals, and beliefs that undergird political and economic theory and practice. Bailyn focuses on the way that ideas from the English Whigs, who argued that the English constitution limited the power of the king (see page 149), influenced American Revolutionaries. The author of the second excerpt, Gary Nash of the University of California, Los Angeles, has studied the role that common people, as well as the economic forces that affected their lives, played in the American Revolution. Nash seeks to uncover not just the Whig ideology that is the focus of Bailyn's work but also the ideas and forces that motivated people to participate in this great struggle. While Bailyn and Nash agree on much, their work illustrates how different methodologies lead to different historical interpretations. On the one hand, Bailyn looks at the ideas and writings of the Revolutionary elite— their ideas and arguments—to explain what people actually did. On the other hand, Nash examines the actions and economic circumstances of Revolutionaries who produced no written records in order to understand their motivations. So while Bailyn seeks to understand the causes of the Revolution through the writing of the colonial elite, Nash looks at the actions of common people to understand why they participated in this struggle. Compare the views of these two historians by answering the following questions. Be sure to find specific examples in the text to support your answers. • What is the topic of each excerpt? • Are there any similarities between these two excerpts? • According to each author, what role did ideology play in the origins of the American Revolution? • According to each author, what role did economics and material conditions play in the origins of the Revolution? • What type of primary sources does each author mention? • What might account for the differences (if any) in interpretation between the authors? Secondary Source 1 Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1992) Study of the pamphlets [thin booklets] confirmed my rather old-fashioned view that the American Revolution was above all else an ideological, constitutional, political struggle and not primarily a controversy between social groups undertaken to force changes in the organization of the society or the economy. It confirmed too my belief that intellectual developments in the decade before Independence led to a radical idealization and conceptualization of the previous century and a half of American experience, and that it was this intimate relationship between Revolutionary thought and the circumstances of life in eighteenth-century America that endowed the Revolution with its peculiar force and made it so profoundly a transforming event. But if the pamphlets confirmed this belief, they filled it with unexpected details and gave it new meaning. . . . . I began to see a new meaning in phrases that I, like most historians, had readily dismissed as mere rhetoric and propaganda: "slavery," "corruption," "conspiracy." These inflammatory words were used so forcefully by writers of so great a variety of social statuses, political positions, and religious persuasions; they fitted so logically into the pattern of radical and opposition thought; and they reflected so clearly the realities of life in an age in which monarchical autocracy flourished, in which the stability and freedom of England's "mixed" constitution was a recent and remarkable achievement, and in which the fear of conspiracy against constituted authority was built into the very structure of politics, that I began to suspect that they meant something very real to both the writers and their readers: that there were real fears, real anxieties, a sense of real danger behind these phrases, and not merely the desire to influence by rhetoric and propaganda the inert minds of an otherwise passive populace. The more I read, the less useful, it seemed to me, was the whole idea of propaganda in its modern meaning when applied to the writings of the American Revolution. . . . In the end I was convinced that the fear of a comprehensive conspiracy against liberty throughout the English speaking world—a conspiracy believed to have been nourished in corruption, and of which, it was felt, oppression in America was only the most immediately visible part—lay at the heart of the Revolutionary movement. Source: Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992. xx–xxiii. Secondary Source 2 Gary Nash, "Social Change and the Growth of Prerevolutionary Urban Radicalism" (1976) One of the purposes of this essay is to challenge these widely accepted notions that the "predicament of poverty" was unknown in colonial America, that the conditions of everyday life among "the inarticulate" had not changed in ways that led toward a revolutionary predisposition, and that "social discontent," "economic disturbances," and "social strains" can generally be ignored in searching for the roots of the Revolution. I do not suggest that we replace an ideological construction with a mechanistic economic interpretation, but argue that a popular ideology, affected by rapidly changing economic conditions in American cities, dynamically interacted with the more abstract Whig ideology borrowed from England. These two ideologies had their primary appeal within different parts of the social structure, were derived from different sensibilities concerning social equity, and thus had somewhat different goals. The Whig ideology, about which we know a great deal through recent studies, was drawn from English sources, had its main appeal within upper levels of colonial society, was limited to a defense of constitutional rights and political liberties, and had little to say about changing social and economic conditions in America or the need for change in the future. The popular ideology, about which we know very little, also had deep roots in English culture, but it resonated most strongly within the middle and lower strata of society and went far beyond constitutional rights to a discussion of the proper distribution of wealth and power in the social system. It was this popular ideology that undergirded the politicization of the artisan and laboring classes in the cities and justified the dynamic role they assumed in the urban political process in the closing decades of the colonial period. To understand how this popular ideology swelled into revolutionary commitment within the middle and lower ranks of colonial society, we must first comprehend how the material conditions of life were changing for city dwellers during the colonial period and how people at different levels of society were affected by these alterations. We cannot fathom this process by consulting the writings of merchants, lawyers, and upper-class politicians, because their business and political correspondence and the tracts they wrote tell us almost nothing about those below them in the social hierarchy. But buried in more obscure documents are glimpses of the lives of both ordinary and important people— shoemakers and tailors as well as lawyers and merchants. The story of changing conditions and how life in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston was experienced can be discerned, not with perfect clarity but in general form, from tax, poor relief, and probate records. The crescendo of urban protest and extralegal activity in the prerevolutionary decades cannot be separated from the condition of people's lives. . . . The willingness of broad segments of urban society to participate in attacks on narrowly concentrated wealth and power—both at the polls where the poor and propertyless were excluded, and in the streets where everyone, including women, apprentices, indentured servants, and slaves, could engage in action— should remind us that a rising tide of class antagonism and political consciousness, paralleling important economic changes, was a distinguishing feature of the cities at the end of the colonial period. It is this organic link between the circumstances of people's lives and their political thought and action that has been overlooked by historians who concentrate on Whig ideology, which had its strongest appeal among the educated and well-to-do. Source: Nash, Gary. "Social Change and the Growth of Prerevolutionary Urban Radicalism." The American Revolution: Explorations in the History of American Radicalism, edited by Alfred F. Young, 6–7. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1976. Part 2: Using Primary Sources to Evaluate Secondary Sources When historians are faced with competing interpretations of the past, they often look at primary source material as part of the process of evaluating the different arguments. Below is a selection of primary source materials relating to the origins of the American Revolution. The first document is an excerpt from a series of letters by Pennsylvania Quaker John Dickinson that he published anonymously under the pen name "A Farmer." Dickinson wrote the first letter in 1767, following Parliament's suspension of the New York Assembly for failure to comply with the Quartering Act of 1765, which required the colonies to provide British troops with food and shelter. The second document is an excerpt from a letter sent by Massachusetts Bay governor Francis Bernard to British officials in London following the Stamp Act Riots in Boston during August of 1765. The riots began on August 13 with an attack upon the house of Andrew Oliver, who was responsible for the collection of the tax. This act of destruction was widely celebrated by Samuel Adams and other Sons of Liberty. A few days later a mob ransacked and looted the house of the lieutenant-governor, Thomas Hutchinson. This mob acted without the support of Adams or other elite leaders. Carefully read the primary sources and answer the following questions. Decide which of the primary source documents support or refute Bailyn's and Nash's arguments about this period. You may find that the documents do both but for different parts of each historian's interpretation. Be sure to identify which specific components of each historian's argument the documents support or refute. • Which of the two historians' arguments is best supported by the primary source documents? If you find that both arguments are well supported by the evidence, why do you think the two historians had such different interpretations about the period? • Based on your comparison of the two historians' arguments and your analysis of the primary sources, what have you learned about historiography and the ways historians interpret the past? Primary Source 1 John Dickinson, "Letter from a Farmer in Pennsylvania" (1767) My dear COUNTRYMEN, I am a FARMER settled after a variety of fortunes, near the banks of the river Delaware in the province of Pennsylvania. . . . Being master of my time, I spend a good deal of it in a library. . . . I believe I have acquired a greater share of knowledge in history, and the laws and constitution of my country, than is generally attained by men of my class. . . . From my infancy I was taught to love humanity and liberty. Inquiry and experience have since confirmed my reverence for the lessons then given me, by convincing me more fully of their truth and excellence. . . . With a good deal of surprise I have observed, that little notice has been taken of an act of Parliament, as injurious in its principle to the liberties of these colonies, as the stamp act was: I mean the act for suspending the legislation of New-York. . . . It [the Act] is a parliamentary assertion of the supreme authority of the British legislature over these colonies in the part of taxation; and is intended to compel New-York into a submission to that authority. It seems therefore to me as much a violation of the liberty of the people of that province, and consequently of all these colonies, as if the parliament had sent a number of regiments to be quartered upon them till they should comply. For it is evident, that the suspension is meant as a compulsion; and the method of compelling is totally indifferent. It is indeed probable that the sight of red coats, and the beating of drums would have been most alarming, because people are generally more influenced by their eyes and ears than by their reason: But whoever seriously considers the matter, must perceive, that a dreadful stroke is aimed at the liberty of these colonies: For the cause of one is the cause of all. If the parliament may lawfully deprive NewYork of any of its rights, it may deprive any, or all the other colonies of their rights; and nothing can possibly so much encourage such attempts, as a mutual inattention to the interests of each other. To divide, and thus to destroy, is the first political maxim in attacking those who are powerful by their union. He certainly is not a wise man, who folds his arms and reposes himself at home, viewing with unconcern the flames that have invaded his neighbour's house, without any endeavors to extinguish them. Source: Dickinson, John. "Letters from a Farmer." Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies. Edited by R. T. H. Halsey, 6–12. New York: The Outlook Company, 1903. Primary Source 2 Governor Francis Bernard, "Letter to the Lords of Trade" (1765) The disorders of the town having been carried to much greater lengths than what I have informed your lordships of. After the demolition of Mr. Oliver's house was found so practicable and easy, and that the government was obliged to look on, without being able to take any one step to prevent it, and the principal people of the town publicly avowed and justified the act; the mob, both great and small, became highly elated, and all kinds of ill-humours were set on foot; everything that, for years past, had been the cause of any unpopular discontent, was revived; and private resentments against persons in office worked themselves in, and endeavoured to exert themselves under the mask of the public cause. . . . Towards evening, some boys began to light a bonfire before the town-house, which is an usual signal for a mob. Before it was quite dark, a great company of people gathered together, crying 'Liberty and Property;' which is their usual notice of their intention to plunder and pull down a house. The lieutenant-governor [Thomas Hutchinson] . . . was at supper with his family when he received advice that the mob was coming to him. . . . As soon as the mob had got into the house, with a most irresistible fury, they immediately looked about for him, to murder him, and even made diligent enquiry whither he was gone. They went to work with a rage scarce to be exemplified by the most savage people. Every thing moveable was destroyed in the most minute manner, except such things of value as were worth carrying off . . . . It was now becoming a war of plunder, of general leveling, and taking away the distinction of rich and poor: so that those gentlemen, who had promoted and approved the cruel treatment of Mr. Oliver, became now as fearful for themselves as the most loyal person in the town could be. When first the town took this new turn, I was in hopes that they would have disavowed all the riotous proceedings; that of the first night, as well as the last. But it is no such thing; great pains are taken to separate the two riots: what was done against Mr. Oliver is still approved of, as a necessary declaration of their resolution not to submit to the Stamp Act. Source: Bernard, Francis. "Extract from a Letter to the Lords of Trade, dated August 31, 1765." The Parliamentary History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803. From which Last-Mentioned Epoch It Is Continued Downwards in the Work Entitled, "The Parliamentary Debates." Vol. 16, A. D. 1765–1771. London: Printed by T. C. Hansard, Peterborough-Court, Fleet-Street: for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown; J. Richardson; Black, Parry, & Co.; J. Hatchard; J. Ridgway; E. Jeffery; J. Booker; J. Rodwell; Cardock & Joy; R. H. Evans; E. Budd; J. Booth; and T. C. Hansard, 1813. 129–131. QUESTION 1 Briefly summarize the excerpt from Bernard Bailyn's book (Secondary Source 1). What does he see as the main cause(s) for the Revolution? For the toolbar, press ALT+F10 (PC) or ALT+FN+F10 (Mac). B I y ? Paragraph Arial 14px iev A TE d ? a a P OWO QUESTION 2 Briefly summarize the excerpt from Gary Nash's article (Secondary Source 2). What does he see as the main cause(s) for the Revolution? For the toolbar, press ALT+F10 (PC) or ALT+FN+F10 (Mac). BI U S Paragraph Arial 14px iev sv A TE > % 6 ? QUESTION 3 15 points Save Answ How do the two excerpts compare to one another? Are there any major similarities between them? If so, what? Are there any major differences between them? If so, what - and why? Note: You should offer at least three points of comparison. For the toolbar, press ALT+F10 (PC) or ALT+FN+F10 (Mac). B I U ? s. Paragraph Arial 14px Αν 7 iii V Ix ? O WORDS POWERED BY TINY QUESTION 4 15 points Save Answe Briefly summarize Primary Source 1 - John Dickinson, "Letter from a Farmer in Pennsylvania" (1767). Be sure to consider who the author of the document was, what type of document it was, and who was its intended audience. After briefly summarizing the document, explain how the primary document as a form of historical evidence either strengthens and/or weakens the arguments made by Bailyn and Nash. For the toolbar, press ALT+F10 (PC) or ALT+FN+F10 (Mac). B I US Paragraph Arial 14px ? ? v IX ? O WORDS POWERED BY TINY QUESTION 5 15 points Save Answer Briefly summarize Primary Source 2 – Governor Francis Bernard, “Letter to the Lords of Trade" (1765). Be sure to consider who the author of the document was, what type of document it was, and who was its intended audience. After briefly summarizing the document, explain how the primary document as a form of historical evidence either strengthens and/or weakens the arguments made by Bailyn and Nash. For the toolbar, press ALT+F10 (PC) or ALT+FN+F10 (Mac). BI U S Paragraph Arial 14px A TK 86 V ili !!! V ... ? O WORDS POWERED BY TINY

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