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five-to-seven page essay (12 pt. font, Times New Roman, double-spaced, between 1800-2000 words) answering the following prompt, based on the interviews you have conducted with your historical subject and driven by evidence exclusively from the assigned primary source readings, lectures, and Schaller’s American Horizons (no other sources are permitted without prior authorization from the professor). Use Chicago-style citations to credit sources that are paraphrased, referenced or quoted.
PROMPT: WHAT HISTORICAL PATTERNS DOES THE EXPERIENCE OF THE PERSON YOU CHOSE TO INTERVIEW PORTRAY AND WHY DOES THAT PERSON’S HISTORY FULFILL OR FAIL TO FULFILL, IN WHOLE OR IN PART, THE IDEALS OF THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC AS EXPRESSED IN THE FOUNDING DOCUMENTS?
I recommend that you tackle this essay in at least three sections.
First, explain the American experience of the person you have selected. Answer the core questions: Who are they? Where in the U.S. did their experiences which you are analyzing take place? When did these experiences happen? Briefly explain what your historical subject did during these eras? Provide a THESIS statement telling the reader your answer to the core essay question above.
Second, discuss the historical eras & patterns your subject lived through in detail and insert your person into the history you describe. What happened in American history during the full period of time you are analyzing? How did the person you interviewed interact with that history at the time they witnessed or lived it? Has their perspective changed over time? How do they view those events today now that they are older?
This section should be as much about the history as the person. It is important for you to be precise about the time period(s) you are covering – for example, you can define who were the presidents & some of the major historical events of each significant period to give the reader a sense of that time. Your interview subject probably lived through much more than one significant presidential turn, so be specific regarding what eras you have decided to cover. It is critical that you use the assigned primary source readings here to give specific evidence about the historical periods.
Furthermore, focus on the connections between your historical subject’s specific personal experiences and the events of the time. Show the interplay and relationship between your subject’s reactions & attitudes and the history going on around them. Draw connections between the readings & your person. If they didn’t participate directly in events, explain instead their reactions to the news they heard about those events. Again, use primary source evidence to substantiate your analysis. The more knowledge you demonstrate about the actual history and the more primary source evidence you present, the higher your grade will be.
Third, describe the American republic’s ideals which you are going to analyze and relate them to your person. What are those ideals? Do not assume the reader and you have the same sense of what those ideals are. Be precise – pinpoint & define them. Where in the documents that we studied in Week 1 are these ideals expressed? Cite specific evidence & quotes, especially from the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Again, show the reader with evidence that you understand the ideals expressed in the founding documents. Most importantly, analyze whether or not your historical subject’s personal historical experience fulfills or fails to fulfill the ideals expressed in those founding documents. Your person may have fulfilled these ideals fully, in part, or not at all. It is up to you to decide and provide analysis explaining why or why not. Make sure the reader understands clearly what your argument is – be convincing in your language, take a stand. Whatever you conclude here should match your opening thesis and overall argument 100%. Therefore depending on your conclusion, you may need to go back & rewrite your thesis and your topic sentences in each section to ensure consistency of analysis.
SOURCE APPENDIX: Note that, in addition to your essay submission, you should also provide a 1-page “Source Appendix” in which you describe why you chose your particular subject and explain how often & when you conducted your interviews.
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