Historical Context

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Project 2: Historical Context and Introduction

Research Plan

Research Question: [Revised research question from Topic Exploration Worksheet.]


[Include a three- to five-sentence discussion of background information about your historical event to capture the interest of your audience. Write a two- to three-sentence thesis statement based on your research question that addresses your historical event and explains how your event has been influenced by historical context.]

Historical Context: [Include a three- to five-sentence explanation of your event’s historical context, citing sources one and two. Use primary and secondary sources to discuss what was going on in the world, area, and society surrounding the event.]

Impact of Historical Context: [Include a three- to five-sentence discussion of how historical context impacted your event, and cite your sources.]


Applying Secondary Sources to a Topic

In this module, you will develop the first part of Project 2, which entails the use of secondary sources to develop the context for your research topic and focus. By this point, you have a good understanding of the differences between primary and secondary sources; you have analyzed secondary sources individually and in groups; and you have accessed numerous sources and source collections regarding your project. Now you will begin to think about situating your research topic in the proper historical context.

Framing Research

The introduction to a research project serves multiple purposes. First, it contains your historical argument in the form of a thesis statement. Second, the introduction briefly establishes the historical context of your topic and paper. Third, it convinces the reader that the rest of the paper is worth reading. It is not always easy to incorporate all of these purposes into one or two paragraphs, but the successful historian (just like the successful writer in any field) must do just that.

You have already put much thought and effort into the formulation and revision of your thesis statements. The thesis is the one- or two-sentence answer to your research question. This is the statement that ties the entire paper together, and all the remaining sections of the paper must support the thesis in some way. Remember that your paper, just like any history paper, is making an argument about, or, if you prefer, an interpretation of, a historical topic. Everything else in your paper is written in support of the argument.

You have also already put thought and effort into establishing the historical context of your project. In the introduction, you should include enough historical background, or context, that the reader understands the time period, historical actors, and places that your paper will discuss. You may also want to include a brief narrative of the event so that the reader knows what to expect. Do not overwhelm the reader with an avalanche of dates and names. Provide just enough background or context to let the reader know the content of the paper.

The introduction should convince the reader that the rest of the paper is worth reading. Remember that every major project requires a lot of time and energy on the part of the writer. But it also requires time and energy on the part of the reader, who has many different things competing for his or her attention. There is nothing specific that you should do to intrigue the reader. Do not write unnecessarily grandiose or flowery introductions. If the entire introduction is written in an engaging way and provides interesting examples, clear arguments, and strong defenses of the project’s significance, the reader will probably continue reading. Even if the reader walks away from the paper at the end of the introduction, though, he or she should have a clear understand of the author’s arguments and a sense of where the paper was going.

Using Primary Sources to Evaluate Secondary Sources

In this module, you will develop the second part of Project 2, which concerns the use of primary sources to evaluate secondary sources. In this course, you have read about how historians interpret the past through the use of primary sources. You have also seen how historians can use the same primary sources to arrive at very different interpretations of a topic. You have considered the strengths and weaknesses of various historians’ use of sources, and now you will apply those skills to the primary and secondary sources relevant to your topic.

In Part I of Project 2: Historical Context and Introduction, you analyzed the relevant secondary sources. Part of that analysis included consideration of the authors’ use of sources. Now that you have browsed through various primary source collections, you can comment on whether or not you think the primary sources were used appropriately in those secondary sources.


[Include any references cited in your paper in full APA format. Don’t forget to include in-text citations as well.

rafting of the U.S. Constitution 
Mao Zedong’s Rule Over China 
South African ApartheidYES
Choose Your Own Topic (insert pre-approved topic here) 
In the space below, replace the bracketed text with a short paragraph about what you already knew prior to this course about your selected topic, based on your personal history or experiences. This may include assumptions, beliefs, or values related to the topic. Be as detailed as possible.
South African apartheid was a government system where the then government upheld racial discrimination and segregation. The white government instated policies that legalized the separation of facilities and amenities for whites and nonwhite communities. The system was in place between 1948 to around 1991 when South Africa got a new constitution. During apartheid, the whites enjoyed more social, economic, and political privileges than the nonwhite communities in southern Africa. Social stratification made sure that the whites remained supreme over their nonwhite counterparts. It was even illegal to have interracial marriages or sexual relationships. During this time, the blacks, colored, and Asian communities would be designated separate areas to live and could also have different public utility areas. The whites, who were the minority, dominated the country for over 50 years.

Part 2

Identify one question about the topic that you are curious about.What brought about Apartheid in South Africa, and what specific oppressions were there during this time?
Describe why this question matters to you personally.I am curious to determine what caused the apartheid in South Africa because it was not there before 1948. Before then, these people lived together peacefully, and there must be something that triggered the segregation.
Describe why this question matters to society.This question is essential to society because the answers will reveal the causes of segregation. A knowledge of this will help society understand how to live peacefully and avoid similar occurrences in the future.
Identify a second question about the topic you are curious about.How did the apartheid end? What happened after the resumption of normalcy between the whites and nonwhites?
Describe why this question matters to you personally.Understanding how apartheid was stopped and how the relationships were built after this period is essential to me because it will reveal how we can be united in the future.
Describe why this question matters to society.When we understand how healthy relationships are fostered after the apartheid, society will know how to build stronger relationships and avoid future conflicts between them.

Part 3

Which secondary sources would be helpful for investigating your first research question?(Include the title and author of the sources.)Soudien, C. (2015). Nelson Mandela, Robben Island, and the Imagination of a new South Africa. Journal of Southern African Studies, 41(2), 353–366. DOI: 10.1080/03057070.2015.1012915.This article provided insights into what were the causes of apartheid. The experiences of Madelia explain some of the social injustices that nonwhites suffered.
Which primary sources would be helpful for investigating your first research question?(Include the title and author of the sources.)Mandela, N. (1961). The second letter from Nelson Mandela to Hendrik Verwoerd, 26 June 1961. This is a letter that Mandela wrote to the then vice president before his arrest, and he was requesting a new constitution that was nonracial. This source gives insights to the oppression that was in place. 
Which secondary sources would be helpful for investigating your second research question?(Include the title and author of the sources.)Yadav, A. K. (2007). Nelson Mandela and the Process of Reconciliation in South Africa. India Quarterly, 63(4), 49–84.This article explores how reconciliation occurred after apartheid. It is crucial in giving insights on how we can solve conflicts in the future.
Which primary sources would be helpful for investigating your second research question?(Include the title and author of the sources.)Mandela, N. (1990). Apartheid has no future. Vital Speeches of the Day, 56(10), 295-297. Mandela’s speech on his release indicates how apartheid came to an end and what avenues were followed to a democratic state.
Now that you have gone through the research, what have you learned about your topic in one to two paragraphs?From the research I conducted, I found out that apartheid began much earlier than 1948. Although it was legalized with the government of the NP, it had started before that. In 1913, the Land Act that was enforced segregated the blacks to live in the reserves and denied them sharecropping privileges. This is clearly an act of segregation. With the great depression and world war II, there was economic difficulty in South Africa, and this is what caused aggravating consequences of apartheid. The government decided to legalize apartheid in an attempt to save the economy.
 After apartheid, there has to be reconciliation. I have learned that it took more than just the ANC to stop apartheid. The United Nations had a say in the stop by speaking out against it and banning the sale of firearms. The United Kingdom and the United States also placed sanctions against the government of South Africa to help stop apartheid. After its ban in 1991, there were talks from both sides, and this paved way for the democratic South Africa. Those officials of NP who had once supported apartheid made public apologies. One example is from Adriaan Vlok, who washed the feet of an apartheid victim as a form of penance. These acts are seen to have fostered and rebuilt great relationships that exist between the two groups.


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