In this full-year course, each of you will complete four assignments - two in the first term, and two in the second term - and you have some choices (fewer initially and more as the course progresses).
NOTE: Unless we inform you otherwise, you will submit all assignments using the Assignments Tool in Sakai.
ALSO NOTE: This page includes lots of images. Because of this, the page often takes a few extra moments to load all its parts. Please be a little patient.
Assignment 1 Overview
- Options: One option only, with some choice of which parts of a book to transcribe and read closely
- Topic: Transcription and analysis of Daniel Defoe's account of the plague in London
- Length: 3 pages of transcription, plus 750 words of analysis
- Due: Monday, Oct. 18 by 5 pm
- Point value: 7.5 of the 15 points for Term 1 assignments
- Details: See below
Assignment 2 Overview
- Options: You choose 1 option from a choice of 2 topics.
- Option 1: An 18th-century historian describes New England; involves close reading combined with "distant reading" using Voyant Tools
- Option 2: "Reading" early modern maps of Africa
- Length: 750-1,000 words of analysis plus selected screenshots from Voyant Tools
- Due: Friday, Dec. 10 by 5 pm
- Point value: 7.5
- Details: See below
Assignment 1: The Details
Transcription and analysis of Daniel Defoe's account of the plague in London
There are 5 steps to completing this assignment. You should do them in order.
This assignment builds on the lesson you do in Week 05 ("How to Read Early Modern Books").
- Step 1: Complete the lesson for Week 05, including all forum posts.
- Step 2: Then spend an hour or two reading through all parts of the rest of Daniel Defoe's book Memoirs of the Plague .
- UPDATED: Be sure to use the edition linked HERE (the same one from Google Books that we use in the lesson). There are other versions of this book that are available, but they well not allow you to complete the assignment effectively and successfully. (The URL is https://books.google.ca/books?id=-iZcAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&hl=de&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false). IF these links don't work, check out the link in the lesson on Reading Early Modern Books.
- Consider this first reading of the entire book to be an exercise in "pre-reading" the book. By this we don't exactly mean speed reading. Instead of trying to read "everything" in full detail in a short amount of time, we are simply asking you to look over all parts and pages of the book. When you do this, your goal is to get a sense of how the author organized the book, what main parts it has, and which sections seem to stand out and might be worth further attention. If you can, try to scan the pages of some sections so that you get a sense of what the author is writing about on those pages.
- Step 3: Select 3 consecutive pages from somewhere of your choice between pp. 21-286 of the book. (NOTE: "pp." the the proper abbreviation of "pages".)
- Transcribe these pages correctly on your wordprocessor using the directions in the Week 05 lesson.
- Double-space your transcription, and format the text in the same way that it appears in the original, as best as you can. Include page numbers and headings, for example. Start the transcription of each of Defoe's pages on a new page of your work.
- Step 4: Analyze the main themes of the 3 pages you have transcribed, and compare it with the first 20 pages of the book that we read in the Week 05 lesson. This analysis should be about 750 words. Double space your work.
- Step 5: Submit your transcription of your 3 chosen pages plus your analysis of it in one computer file using the Assignments Tool in Sakai.
If you discuss your assignment with others in this course, do not transcribe the same 3 pages.
Assignment 2, Option 1: The Details
Text analysis: An eighteenth-century historian describes New England
In this exercise, we want you to read a primary source related to colonial-era North America. It's a source by an 18th-century historian Amos Adams that we just discussed in our forum on the Columbian Exchange.
In our forum and lesson for Week 09, we read an excerpt from Amos Adams; for this option you'll use Voyant Tools as a way to explore the full-text. Extra resources and sessions are available to help you learn how to use this tool.
For this assignment, you will use this specific version of the text:
- Amos Adams, A concise, historical view of the difficulties, hardships, and perils which attended the planting and progressive improvements of New-England (Boston: Dilly, 1770).
For the assignment we want you to read it the text a particular manner. You should already have read a short excerpt in the forum. We now want you to do three things:
- First, "pre-read" the book, using only the titles, publication information and your now developing general knowledge.
- Second, continue pre-reading using text-mining software (Voyant Tools) as a way to examine the patterns of topics and ideas present in the text. In particular, use these "pre-readings" to allow you to hypothesize about these texts. That is, use your pre-reading to develop questions with which you might approach the more detailed, close reading the text.
- Then, finally, read the actual book more closely. Do so with an eye to both reading it critically and intelligently (as you always would) but also to testing the impressions/hypotheses you made in your pre-reading work. While you should plan to read the entire book, you may use your pre-reading and best judgement to focus most of your close and careful reading to particular parts.
The object here is to say something analytical about the book and how how Voyant Tools might help that analysis. Have a look at this video for quick pointers from Prof. Danny Samson (who leads the course next term) on using Voyant Tools.
How to use Voyant Tools
- The main link for learning how to use Voyant Tools is the one immediately above, by Prof. Samson. It's also here.
- Additional link 1: Introduction to using Voyant Tools
- Additional link 2: Further tips for using more aspects of Voyant Tools
- NOTE: While Prof. Samson's guide is really necessary for everybody who plans to do this option, these additional two links are recommended for those planning to submit Option 1.
- (ignore the dates in the "additional links"; these were used in past versions of the course and some of the specific instructions relate to older course activities; you only need to focus on the instructions for using Voyant in general):
- Also note: There will likely be a second assignment option in Term 2 that gets you to using Voyant Tools further.
Assignment 2, Option 2: The Details
Critical reading of early modern maps of Africa
An exercise in critical cartography: maps are not neutral data - they have points of view. Explore three maps' viewpoints.
We love maps, especially but not only historical maps. And while we love google maps and all the GIS-based tools we have at our fingertips these days, we also still own map books. Prof Samson still carries road atlases in his car because while Google offers great directions the broader map allows him to see more context, to have a physical sense of where we're going, where we are, where we should be, what’s nearby, how did we get lost?
Historical maps are packed with data. They give us a view of landscapes, territory, communication networks, political relationships – in short, views of the political and spatial organization of societies. The image link to this text is a detail from the Cantino planisphere, a Portuguese map made in 1502 outlining Europe, Africa, and the then newly discovered islands of the Caribbean. The detail shows Elmino castle, a large Portuguese trading centre and military installation in what is today Ghana. The size of the castle is obviously not to scale, and may never have been meant to be. Its size and style suggests it was meant to symbolize Portuguese power in Africa. But this unusual representation raises the question of what's meant to be accurate and what's meant to be symbolic - and for that matter if there's a difference. At minimum it asks us to read this map critically and carefully.It's clear that maps can give us good, hard data. But it's also true that we tend to assume that such data are objective: that these lines and objects marking places/spaces are real and beyond any substantial degree of interpretation. Over the past few years, historians and geographers have demonstrated that in fact maps are, like most texts, social constructs and thus can be read in different ways. They typically bear a relationship to power and are thus historically situated in particular political, economic, and social worlds. Maps, the geographer J.B. Harley reminds us, make claims to truth, but they almost always betray that they are constructions designed to support claims to truth, more than simply "true" in any objective sense.
Maps are representations of space but because they often bear a powerful resemblance to concrete geographic features of the planet, we tend to think they are factual, or true. As we've seen, they do contain real concrete facts. But they also contain interpretations; the map makers often made choices in what to represent and how to represent it. This human process of interpreting and selecting data adds complexity to how we must understand maps as sources and ask the same critical questions we'd ask of any sources. Are maps biased? Of course they are, but so is all human-produced data. Almost all maps contain elements that are objective, as well as elements that are subjective. The trick is to read it carefully, and critically. How then do we "read" historical maps as data?
There's lots to look for. Some maps have a lot of textual data in addition to the basic details of names and locations. Look, for example, at this detail from John Mitchell's famous map of the territory Britain and France claimed in North America on the eve of the Seven Years War. Here we're looking at a tiny section of the map which includes the area east and north of Lake Huron. The map is exquisitely detailed, but also contains over 3000 words of text (not including place names!) referring to history, territorial claims, navigation routes, distances, and much else. Such information was useful, practical information for someone (one might ask for whom?); it was also felt to add credibility, additional proof of its careful and accurate research. But is the information accurate? This text points to a real event - the Mississauga people were defeated in a war with the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) in the 17th century, but neither they nor any other peoples ever became "the eighth nation" of the Iroquois League. Does this matter? Does it matter that this information is only partly true, or misleading at best? Would it have mattered to an eighteenth-century observer? What inferences might such an observer have about this and similar information on the map? Think too about its production. Remember that maps are authored, like any text, and are usually intended for a particular audience.There were literally 100s of maps of North America available in this period. Why commission another one? Why one with this level of detail? Who would have wanted such a map? Why? Why was this map produced when it was produced? What about that moment made this information important?
Look, too, beyond the geographic features of the map itself. The legend, for example, often contains important information that can be helpful in understanding the map: what it records, where, when and by whom it was made. Legends are often inside more elaborate and artistic renditions that are called a cartouche. A cartouche is usually a frame or image designed both to add additional information - often the publication information or a legend - as well as artistic embellishments. Some are more ornamental than others, but all contain potentially useful information. One can often see themes being represented in the cartouche: a kind of key to thinking about the map. The planisphere on our header was one of the first to depict the North And South America in relation to Europe and Africa. At this point, only the Portuguese were actively venturing along the western coast of Africa and thus this map presents knowledge more or less completely new to other Europeans. It's also worth noting however that Portuguese explorers had travelled as far south as modern-day Ghana, but had gone no more than a mile or two inland - the rest is pure imagination. But these images shouldn't be dismissed as mere flights of fancy. They very often offer symbolic clues to how the mapmakers understood their subjects and the purposes of these maps.
The Newberry Library offers a nice overview of questions and important issues for when approaching historic maps as primary sources.
The assignment: Write an 750-word essay on the following early modern maps of Africa. Devote roughly half of your text to a discussion of one of the maps, and the other half comparing that map with the other two. They were produced in different times and different places and probably for different purposes. Each sought to show an audience how to see Africa: how it was shaped, who its people were, how they lived and governed themselves, and so on. And yet they also made other claims of knowledge, ones rooted more in their authors and their authors' contexts than in Africa itself. What can these maps tell us about Africa? What can these maps tell us about the early modern Atlantic World?
Resist the urge to dismiss them as all being biased. They are, no doubt, but so are most sources. The real trick is to critically examine these texts so as to find as much useful information as possible. And what is useful information? Well, that depends on what question we're asking. If we're asking about the map's ability to convey accurate geographic information, then we head in one direction. If we're asking how the map tells more about the map makers and their societies, then that sends us in other directions. But if we think those questions are unrelated, then we may be missing a lot.
Here, as in your Forum entries, you will continue to practice the analysis of primary sources. Pay particular attention to the perspectives in each document. Just as historians have different interpretations of the same questions, so too did people in the past have different interpretations of their worlds. You can consider questions such as:
- When was the map made and by whom and for whom? i.e. who was the author? what economic or social or religious or political interests did that person serve?
- When did the cartographer create the source? Is there a broader historical context? (The Mitchell map above was made on the eve of the Seven Years War, after decades of political-military struggles over North America - that context informs much of the information Mitchell included, and what he didn't include.)
- What is the source about and what did the author think about that subject?
- What information did the author wish to communicate?
- We're speaking of "an author" here by which we mean the mapmaker, or cartographer. Who that individual was, matters. But you shouldn't imagine that these maps are like a book that this mapmaker thought he'd make up on a Tuesday afternoon [and sadly the vast majority are "he"]. All these maps were commissioned. That is, someone hired this mapmaker to make this map. That's not always the case. Sometimes, particularly in some of the bigger more famous firms, they would produce something believing there to be a market for such a map. In either case, you should be thinking about that context - and why there would be a demand for, or a market for, that map - i.e. a map that portrays that place in this particular way.
- Finally, two hints:
- (i) Most of you will assume that the map reflects the mapmaker's personal knowledge: that the person surveyed that territory and produced this map. Sometimes that's true (and in a map we'll look at later in the course, that is true), but usually it's not. And in the case of these African maps, it's absolutely clear that none of these mapmakers had ever been to Africa. Thus, you should think about how the mapmakers knew what they put to paper.
- (ii) Many of you will also assume that the maps will become more accurate with time. Sometimes that's true; sometimes that's not. Just don't assume that's true.
You can probably think of other general questions that will help you to think about the perspective in any source.
Are you required to do any outside research? The short answer is some, but not a lot and not fancy research. We're not giving you much outside resources to work with. What you'll need, you'll have to determine. Basic online googling will get you a fair distance: be sure to cite what you use, and choose websites that don't appear random or problematic. Wikipedia iss fine for many things. But try the library. There are lots of guides and handbooks that often contain quick high-quality information. Or resources from HIST 2F90 lessons. But, to be clear, most of your discussion should focus on the maps themselves.
Tip: the images included here are fairly high quality, but the links take you to much better high-quality scans from the Library of Congress. Close reading of some of the details on the high-quality scans may be very helpful.
John Senex, Africa: corrected from the observations of the Royal Society at London and Paris (London, 1725). Source: Library of Congress.
Aaron Arrowsmith, Africa: to the committee and members of the British association discovering the interior parts of Africa this map is with their permission most respectfully inscribed. London: A. Arrowsmith, 1802. Source: Library of Congress.
Emanuel Bowen, A new & accurate map of Negroland and the adjacent countries (London,1747). Source: Library of Congress.