20th C Analytic Essay

The Essay Assignments will all make an argument about at least one primary source, using two secondary (scholarly) sources to back you up (or add nuance).

Reminders about scholarly sources:

  • Published in the past 15 years
  • It is peer-reviewed, or scholarly
  • Textbooks, encyclopedias and/or smart articles in the New Yorker, the Economist, Atlantic Monthly, or any other journalistic venue are not peer-reviewed and therefore not scholarly, even if they are written by academics who have written peer-reviewed stuff elsewhere.
  • It is at least seven pages long (but it might be a book!)
    • Books are harder to get, since you have to go the library and all, but there’s a pay off: they are often much easier to read and they usually give you the background you might otherwise be lacking!

Reminders about primary sources:

  • they are produced during the time under study. A painting painted in the 1970s, even if it is of a twelfth century castle, is still a primary source for the 70s.
  • Primary sources don’t make arguments about themselves; it’s the secondary sources (and you) who will make the argument.
    • We’ve done this many times in class–All of the pieces of art, music, or speeches that I’ve shown you have been primary sources; in our discussions we’ve interpreted them. Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddamn” captures the frustration many civil rights workers felt in the mid 1960s; a secondary source will help you prove that the tenor of the movement had changed.
    • The Battle of Algiers is a primary source from the 1960s, and it tell us that a French film-maker felt very embarrassed about France’s colonial history. That France banned the film tells us something too.

Your essay will take your primary source as the centre-piece of the essay, using the secondary sources to help you analyze it. You will make an argument about how the primary source reveals something about the time period it comes from. What makes it analytic, is that you will analyze the primary source. What makes it argumentative is that you will make an argument using that analysis. Whatever you do, you must stick to the time period in which the primary source was written. This is a history paper: you are writing about a historical topic and time period, be it technology in the 1960s, gender in the 1970s, or decolonization in India (which would have a slightly longer time period).  

Here are the possible topics and primary sources. You will find your own scholarly sources using the databases at Dawson and the library!


I’ve taken many of the primary texts from one book, Tracey Kinney’s Conflict and Cooperation.

Here is an example citation for a different section that we used, that by Joseph Stalin:

Stalin, Joseph. “Response to Churchill, 14 March 1946.” Conflict and Cooperation: Documents on Modern Global History. Ed. Tracey J. Kinney. Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford UP, 2006. 221-25. Print.

In order to make this citation correct for the section you used, you must change the red to whatever you used. And, don’t forget to add a hanging indent (this website won’t permit it!)

Decolonization in India

Ghandi Quit India 1942 from Conflict and Cooperation: Documents on Modern Global History edited by Tracey J. Kinney.

Ghandi on Non-Violence from The Penguin Book of Modern Speeches edited by Brian MacArthur

Gender and Women’s Roles

Simone de Beauvoir The Second Sex (source for this is listed on the bottom left corner of the first page)

Beauvoir Introduction

The Hollywood Blacklist and the House of Un-American Activities

HUAC Testimony of Walter E Disney (treat this as an internet source…without a database)

Apartheid South Africa

Africa, South Africa and Apartheid from Conflict and Cooperation: Documents on Modern Global History edited by Tracey J. Kinney

If these topics don’t appeal to you, feel free to see me to propose another one. If we can come with a decent primary source, you’ll be free to go! In general, reasonable primary sources will include: speeches, stories, movies, pieces of music, paintings, policies, laws. Other topics you might consider:

  • The Space Race — 50s/60s

Primary Sources for the Space Race from Conflict and Cooperation: Documents on Modern Global History edited by Tracey J. Kinney

  • The Environmental Movement – 60s, Rachel Carson
  • The AIDS crisis — 1980s
  • Stonewall, and Gay Rights
  • First wave feminism; Third wave feminism
  • Science Fiction
  • The History of Residential Schools
  • Neoliberalism and Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher

Please note: You can only proceed with alternative topics if you speak with me first about the primary source you’ll use. See me after class or, preferably, during my office hours. 

All Essay assignments must:

  • Be 1500-2000 words long, with word count noted on the title page
  • Be Double spaced, 1” margins, 12 point font, Times New Roman, with page numbers
  • Have a title page, MLA format or something similar.
  • Be proofread and  spell-checked.  For those writing on French keyboards, please change the language to English so that the spell-check will be accurate.
  • Use one primary source and two scholarly sources
  • Be written in the past tense
  • Have a Works Cited page, that lists at least three sources (one primary, two scholarly)
  • Be submitted on April 18 or 19 (in class as a hardcopy and electronically at Turnitin)
    • The Class ID for the Monday/ Wednesday class is: 12537316
      • Note: as of Sunday, April 17, this is a new class ID
    • The Password is: Century
    • The Class ID for the Tuesday/Thursday class is: 12531748
      • *note: as of Friday, April 15, this is a new Class ID
    • The Password is: Century

Note: I won’t mark your papers until they are submitted on Turnitin.

The Marking Grid for the Essay will look something like this:

20th Century Analytic EssayIf you’d prefer to open and print the marking grid, click on this link:

20th Century Analytic Essay