HIST 151 Paper 1
Being able to critically evaluate a primary source, no matter what form it takes, is central to what historians do. Similarly, everyone, not just historians, needs to be able to think carefully about how information is created and presented. Everyone needs to be able to thoughtfully examine and contextualize information. These are valuable skills when thinking about any kind of material. For this assignment, you will choose a Hollywood film (NOT a documentary) about a historical event or person
from United States history. Popular movies can reveal a great deal about the time period in which they were made and about the people who went to theatres to watch them. Sometimes, movies can portray history quite accurately while, in other cases, the historical record can be quite distorted. In this paper, your goal is to compare/contrast a Hollywood depiction of some historical event with what you have learned about in class
and what you have found through your research. This assignment will allow you practice analyzing and contextualizing primary and secondary sources – and hopefully see a good movie!
Choose a Hollywood movie that portrays some aspect of/event/person in U.S. history from the 1865 through approximately the 1920s. Email your movie choice to Dr. Brady or the GTA for approval, at least one week prior to the paper due date and before proceeding with your paper.
1. Watch the movie and take notes while thinking about the following questions:
What is the basic plot of the film?
How do the events unfold?
How are the characters portrayed (heroic, flawed, complex, one-dimensional, etc.)?
What sorts of feelings does the film evoke (through the characters’ actions or dialogue, events,
music, lighting, etc.)?
What are the costumes, sets, props, etc. like?
What is the perspective of the filmmaker? Are there clear good guys and bad guys or are things
portrayed in a more complex way?
Next, you need to look for
. What have historians written about the topic? Start by
looking through your lecture notes,
Give Me Liberty
for information about the
historical person or event portrayed in the movie you watched. Secondary sources can help give you
some expert context for your film. Take some notes on the relevant sections.
You will also need to find,
at minimum, one academic journal article or one book by a HISTORIAN about your movie topic
again take notes on relevant sections. These secondary sources (books, journal articles) must be written
by professional historians and from academic journals. (See links in Canvas to the JSTOR in the library
along with the history librarian, Naomi Lederer’s “Library Guide to Historical Research”). Think about the
following questions while reading.
What information does the historian present? What primary sources does the historian use?
What is the historian’s argument or perspective about this historical event/person? What is the
“big picture,” overarching point being made by the historian?
Now it is time to look for
There are numerous places to find primary sources. You can
access the National Archives through the link in Canvas. Again, , Naomi Lederer’s “Library Guide to
Historical Research” can help you find primary sources as well.
Find at minimum one document relating
to your movie.
Use the appropriate primary source worksheet to analyze your source. Include this at the back of your paper as an appendix. Take a few notes.
Follow this basic format for your paper
1. Write an introduction. Introduce the topic that the film deals with and tell me quickly about it. Briefly introduce me to the film’s big picture historical points as well as what the historian(s) big picture points.
2. In the first section of the paper, write about the film itself. Use your notes from above. (This section can be
several paragraphs.) When was the film made, who are the characters and how are they portrayed, what
happens, what are the emotions evoked through various film devices, etc.? What is the filmmaker’s historical
point of view on this topic?
3. In the second section of the paper, write about the event/person/movement portrayed in the film but from
perspective. Use your notes that you took earlier. What do our textbooks say about this time
period? What are the academic historians’ arguments, big picture points, etc.? Use specific examples from
your secondary sources. Again, this section can be more than one paragraph.
4. In the third section of the paper, tell me about the primary source(s) you found. Use your notes and your
primary source analysis worksheet from earlier. What does/do the primary source(s) tell you about your
event/person/time period? What are the limitations of these primary sources and what other sources do you
think would be helpful to find answers about this historical period/event? Be specific!
4. Finally, in this fourth section of the paper, evaluate how historically accurate you believe the film to be,
based on your research. Think about all the different aspects of the film – events, characters, dialogue,
costumes, props, settings, music, etc. How does the portrayal of history in the film fit in with what you
discovered in your primary and secondary historical source research? In what way does the film (perhaps)
reflect the time period in which it was made? (You can use all your notes to help answer this question).
5. Write a concluding paragraph in which you wrap up your findings.
Your paper must include citations. Please include a Chicago Style bibliography of all materials used including
your film. Instructions for Chicago Style are available on the CSU Library website. (See link in Canvas) . For
your in-text citations, please use the following parenthetical format for secondary sources: (Name of author,
p. #). So for example, if you use the
Give Me Liberty
textbook by Eric Foner, you would cite it like this: (Foner,
p. 675). For primary sources from the National Archives or other websites, please include the link in
parentheses. For example, (
campaign-europe-north-africa, August 15, 2018]).
Remember that you must cite all unoriginal
thought, this includes all paraphrasing of materials!
PLEASE BE SURE TO INCLUDE AN HONOR PLEDGE!
TO CREATE THIS HONOR PLEDGE, ON THE LAST PAGE OF YOUR PAPER, PLEASE WRITE:
I pledge that I
have not plagiarized or cheated on this paper in way. Then include your signature.
This assignment fulfils the following GT Pathways Competencies and Learning Outcomes:
GT-Pathways Competency in
SLO 4 – Incorporate Evidence
SLO 5 – Understand Implications and Make Conclusions
GT-Pathways Competency in
SLO 3 – Evaluate Information Critically
SLO 4 – Use Information Effectively to Accomplish a Specific Purpose
SLO 5 – Use Information Ethically and Legally
YOUR PAPER MUST INCLUDE ALL OF THE FOLLOWING:
An introduction and a conclusion
A section about the film itself
A section about secondary source research
A section about primary source research
An evaluation, using your primary and secondary source research, of the historical accuracy of the
In-text parenthetical citations and links.
Your primary source worksheet(s).
An honor pledge
The paper will be graded according to the rubric on Canvas.