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The Steps of Primary Source Study

A multi-pronged approach to reading primary sources allows learning and analyzing more information. However, themes such as ‘Identify the source’ and ‘Analyze the source’ stand out. Identification is important because it is the first step towards understanding the source. In particular, questions: “Who created this source, and what do I know about him/her/them?” and “When was the source produced?” (Walbert para. 10-13). These questions give an idea of the context of the source and inspire some expectations for its content. The analysis theme, in turn, makes historians critically evaluate the document. Two important questions in it: “How does the creator of the source convey information and make his/her point?” and “How is the world described in the source different from my world?” (Walbert para. 23-24). The answers to them help understand the time studied and the author – their mood, objectivity, and character. Thus, identification and analysis are critical steps on which other themes of primary source study may depend.

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Identifying the source for the study, it is Christopher Columbus’s introduction to his journal, which he had during his journey in 1492. Christopher Columbus is known as an explorer who, in search of new routes to India, discovered the New World (America). His journey marked the beginning of America’s colonization, and the study of his point of view is of interest to learn about the origins of events. The diary was written during the first trip, making it more remarkable as it displays Columbus’s initial expectations and impressions.

The analysis of the source focuses on the tone of Columbus, how he conveyed information, and differences from the present. The introduction shows respect to the Sovereigns that made the journey possible. Moreover, Columbus’s commitment to Christianity and intolerance of other religions, which he calls “idolatry and heresy,” also stand out (Columbus para. 1). The diary resembles a travel report, and the introduction indicates goals and gratitude. In the modern world, it would be shorter, more formal, and contain fewer subjective thoughts. The comparison demonstrates that it was important for Columbus to show his loyalty to the interests of the Spanish king and queen and the Christian faith, which indicates the values of that time.

Works Cited

Columbus, Christopher. “Extracts from Journal.” [c. 1492]. Medieval Sourcebook.

Walbert, Kathryn. “Reading Primary Sources: An Introduction for Students.” DocPlayer. 2021.

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