history essay

HIST 111 S01                         Primary Sources Essay Instructions                Spring 2017
This essay must include at least two full pages of your original analysis of 2 of the 3 posted documents. Draw on the respective document readings to craft a well-reasoned argument essay that addresses the prompt. This is not a research paper. I have included a brief introduction to each document to help you understand it in its historical context. If there are words, concepts, or other points of fact that you do not understand, look them up in a reliable source, including your text book. Use that knowledge to help you analyze the document, but do not use much space in your paper to explain outside research. Rather, devote these two pages to YOUR analysis of 2 of the PRIMARY SOURCES in question. The specific documents are provided through D2L under Content / Course Documents and Assignments. The essay is worth 13% of the final grade, the same weight as a regular unit exam. Submit the essay into the D2L Dropbox by the due date, March24th, 11:59 pm, CST.

Document Essay Due Friday, March24th by 11:59 PM in the D2L Dropbox.

Excerpts from Darius I, “The Beisitun Inscription;” Mengzi / Book ofMencius;and Ashoka, Three Edicts.


In the 21st c. U.S., we distinguish two (among other) categories of thought and human interaction known as “religion” and “politics.” While these terms reflect our own assumptions and worldview, they can still help us think about how people in other historical contexts have thought about the relationship between power on earth and some notion of sacred reality, reality that transcends what is strictly earthly and material. These three selections come from a relatively short historical time frame (ca. 522 BCE – 231 BCE) in three different geographical/political/philosophical/religious etc. contexts.They are not identical in genre (though 2 are similar), purpose, or audience.

After reading all three selections, choose two of them to compare to one another. What  view of human nature do they present or assume? What do they argue is the role of the ruler? How does or should the ruler relate to a particular notion of sacred reality or to some sense of ideas or forces that go beyond the material? Use specific examples from the primary sources. Consider their author, their original context and audience, their genre, their purpose. Craft an interesting argument based on evidence from the sources and your own analysis of them. Take care not to make sweeping judgments or claims about entire cultures or civilizations; argue only what you can defend from the particular excerpts in question.

When using material from the documents, use parenthetical citation format at the end of the quotationor paraphrased passage, e.g. (Mencius141) or (Darius 4.57-9.)

I will use the following criteria to evaluate the essays:

Thesis / Claim: Strong, descriptive, original, and explicitly addresses prompt

Argument: Represents student’s own analysis of the sources. Explicitly supports thesis. Supported by evidence from the sources.

Evidence from the Sources: Student uses material that comes directly from the excerpts of primary sources provided for this assignment. Student cites this material whenever it is quoted directly AND when paraphrased or summarized.

Structure: Logical organization. Includes title, brief introduction, body, and conclusion. Clear movement from one part of argument to the next.

Writing and Mechanics: Paper is edited to eliminate spelling and grammatical errors. Paper uses full sentences with clear meaning, full paragraphs, and basic formatting:

12-point font, Times New Roman, Calibri, or similar standard font of standard size

Double-spaced, one-inch margins,

For block quotes over four lines long, single space and indent left and right margins five

spaces each (NOTE: in a short paper, avoid extended quotations to make

room for your own thought and analysis.)

Parenthetical citations

At least two full pages in length

Title and Heading: Do not use more than 2 single-spaced lines for all of this.

Style: Formal. Avoid personal pronouns “I,” “Me,” Us.” etc. Do not use contractions

such as “isn’t” or “can’t,” instead use “is not” and “cannot.”

Use consistent verb tense throughout.

I will use the following rubric:


Thesis / Claim Argument Evidence from the Sources Structure Writing and Mechanics
Points (0 – 4) Points (0 – 8) Points (0 – 10) Points (0 – 4) Points (0 – 4)
1A Weak thesis

1B Underdeveloped

1C Poorly organized

1D Not focused on prompt

1E Too broad

2A Confusing

2B Lacks balance

2C Unfocused

2D Misunderstood prompt

2E Lack of original thought

3A Lacks specifics

3B Irrelevant use

3C Does not support thesis

3D Not from assigned sources

3E Lack of citation

4A Poorly organized

4B Weak introduction

4C Weak body

4D Weak conclusion


5A Spelling

5B Grammar/Tense

5C Confusing sentence structure


5E Does not follow format guidelines







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