How do I analyse a historical source?

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Sometimes when faced with many historical sources at once that all discuss a similar topic, it can be hard to know where to start. By following a simple structure, you can be sure to achieve the best grades from your analysis.

Look at each source individually. By doing so, you can judge them on their own first, and later compare them for extra marks in your evaluation. 

You should face 3 stages in your analysis:

1) What can I see? (for picture sources) What is the source literally saying? What is the message of the source?

2) Who wrote the source and when? Where was it created and for what purpose?

3) What do I know about the people or the period involved which could change how I see the source?

For example, if you were presented with a picture of Adolf Hitler posing with a group of women and children at a public event, you would point out what is visible, and then think about what you know about Hitler's views on women and children. You would show the examiner that you are aware Hitler intended to increase the population of Aryan Germans through the Lebensborn policy. You would show your understanding of the incentives offered to families such as the Mother's Cross and the financial rewards. Then you would use this information to support why you believe the source was created, most probably as propaganda to display Hitler's prioritisation of the traditional German family.

Beth B. GCSE English Literature tutor, A Level History tutor, GCSE Hi...

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