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Lesson 1 HAPPY Primary Source Analysis Handout

H​A​P​P​Y​ Primary Source Analysis Guide
Modern World History, Week 3
What is a primary source?
● Primary Sources​ are immediate, first-hand accounts of a topic, from
people who had a direct connection with it.
● Primary sources can include:
○ Texts of laws and other original documents.
○ Newspaper reports, by reporters who witnessed an event or who
quote people who did.
○ Speeches, diaries, letters and interviews - what the people involved
said or wrote.
○ Original research
○ Datasets, survey data, such as census or economic statistics.
○ Photographs, video, or audio that capture an event.
● For example, everything you are writing and recording right now will be a
primary source for future historians who are studying 2021!
Why do primary sources matter?
● A historian’s job is to examine primary sources and analyze them to make
historical arguments that explain the past.
○ All of your textbooks and everything we think of as historical fact
started with historians looking at primary sources
○ Writings created by historians after they analyze primary sources are
called ​secondary sources
○ BUT historians can often have ​biases​, or specific thoughts/beliefs
that skew their writing. By reading and analyzing a primary source
for yourself, you can get to the root of the information!
How do I analyze a primary source?
● To ​analyze ​means to take a detailed look at something and find its
○ Historical analysis is a detailed examination of the past in order
to identify the meaning of a certain event
● When you sit down to read a historical primary source, a great way to
start your analysis is to use the ​H​A​P​P​Y​ method:
Information adapted from the University of Massachussetts Boston Library Guide
https://umb.libguides.com/PrimarySources/secondary​ and Mr. E’s Codex website, “Primary
Sources: HAPPY Analysis” ​https://erfurth.co/history-handbook/primary-sources-happy-analysis
H​: ​Historical Context
● When and where was this source produced?
● What is happening in the world that caused this document to
be created?
● How does this document connect to the events that occurred
before and after its creation?
A​: ​Audience
● Who is the author speaking or writing to? Who is intended to
hear this message?
● How does the audience affect the validity of the document
and its message? E.g., how might their message have been
modified or shaped to suit their audience?
P​: ​Perspective
● What do you know about the author's background?
● How does the author's role in society and hierarchy affect
their perspective?
● How does this affect the reliability and validity of the source?
P​: ​Purpose
● What is the author's purpose and/or motivation for creating
this source?
● Is this intended to persuade or inform? Is this some sort of
● How does this affect reliability and validity?
Y​: ​Why it matters
● What is the main idea the source is trying to convey?
● Why is this source important to history? (significance!)
● Make an ​ARGUMENT: ​what is this source saying and why
does it matter?