How useful is (source) to a historian studying... (8 marks)

This type of question assesses your analysis of a source, based on its content, its origin and your contextual knowledge of the topic. The source will focus on one of the four key sections of the subject specification.

When analysing the source consider the following: the context of the time in which the source was created, the place, the author’s situation, knowledge, beliefs, circumstances, access to information, purpose and audience.

Example:

Cartoon depicting the Battle of Ushant

Source A: This is a British cartoon from 1782 about Britain’s loss of its American colonies during the War of American Independence. The title of the cartoon is ‘Britania’s Assassination’. The figures on the right are members of the opposition in the British Parliament and other political figures. The man at the front with the shield is Dutch. The man on the far left has Britannia’s head in his hand; he is a Native American.

How useful is source A to a historian studying Britain’s loss of her 13 American colonies in the late 18th century? Explain your answer using Source A and your contextual knowledge.

Tips:

For questions like this you should discuss one way in which the source could be useful, supported by your own knowledge or the origin of the source. In this case you could discuss how the cartoon is useful for showing how the end of the war against the American colonies, with the surrender at Yorktown in 1781, had been a humiliating defeat for Great Britain.

You also need to discuss the use of the source for wider issues within the context of the time, or its importance in the context of other periods of this thematic paper. In this case you could explain that British politicians were determined to learn from the loss of these colonies and make sure that this humiliation didn’t happen again.

Finally, you need to make a considered judgement that makes use of both the content and the origin of the source. In this context, this cartoon should be considered as one British view of the loss of the colonies, blaming the opposition parties in Westminster, despite the fact that the losses were the result of poor decisions made by the government in the crises of the 1770s. The cartoon gives a poor impression of the colonists, showing them as a native figure stealing the statue’s head. However, the colonists’ armed forces had fought a determined campaign under George Washington and soon became a strong nation.

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Make sure that you use plenty of your own knowledge in this question. Do not rely upon general statements about usefulness without giving any context.