What is a document analysis? A document analysis is a detailed explanation of a primary source, which should enable your reader to understand what the primary source is and what its relevance/importance is as a primary source for understanding aspects of Irish history. Imagine you were going to teach a class on the source: what would you need to tell the class? Nothing is too obvious e.g. the date, source type (letter, newspaper, pamphlet, photo etc.), the author (if known) etc. How to begin: Start with the most obvious information e.g. what is the primary source you are analysing (a newspaper, a letter, a speech etc.). When and where was it written? Please do not describe it as primary source number 1, from week 3! You need to imagine your reader is not doing this module; you need to tell them everything they would need to know to understand the importance of the primary source you have chosen if they had never seen it and knew nothing about Irish history. A document analysis should suggest answers to the following questions among others: • What was the context in which this document was produced? • Who wrote/produced it? You might not always know who wrote something, if you don’t say so e.g. it was anonymous, or written by several authors or it is an official report from the coroner’s court. However, if an author is known, you need to try to identify them because this will help you understand their perspective. • Why was it written/produced? Was it written to inform a private person of something, to advertise something, to raise support for a particular position or cause, or to study a particular issue? • Who was intended to read it? Is the source private or public, for example? If it appears in a newspaper, what kind of paper was it? • What assumptions were made by the creator of the document? Sometimes we can tell a lot by someone’s assumptions or views or a particular ideology/a way of 2 seeing the world e.g. they might assume the reader shares their religious views or their prejudices. If an author did not feel the need to explain their position on a subject that tells us quite a bit about the state of public opinion or how widespread a particular view might have been at a particular time. Think about the people who wrote that married women should not work outside the home until the 1980s – why did they not feel the need to defend or explain this position? • What insights does the document provide into Irish society at the time it was written? Does it reveal how important religion was or how profound certain views about morality, gender or sexuality were? • What biases are displayed? Please note bias is not always or necessarily negative e.g. you may be biased in favour of human rights or justice. However, we need to try to understand someone’s perspective and to judge, if bias is present, how might it have shaped the source and, therefore, how we can use it as a source and what do we need to keep in mind when using it. • What problems arise in trying to use this document? For example, if the document is written by a Catholic Bishop about female morality in the 1920s, then we might need to be skeptical when he tells us immorality was widespread. We would need other sources to evaluate how accurate this might be and we might use it less to understand actual morality and more as an indication of the fears contemporaries had and how the Catholic church promoted a particular view of female sexuality. This is where knowing who the report was intended for helps us to evaluate its purpose and value as a source e.g. Was the Bishop addressing school girls and hence did he want to frighten them into obedience? Was he addressing other Bishops and might this indicate the fear, however misplaced and sexist, was genuine? Format: Your document analysis should be written in standard essay format rather than as a series of answers to questions. Use the questions you ask of the document to build coherent paragraphs. Each paragraph should address one point. You should, as with any essay, read a few secondary sources (at least 3) to support your arguments with reference to the secondary literature. For example, you need to draw on the secondary reading supplied in the seminar packs. You must use footnotes for all sources, primary and secondary, cited in your essay. A bibliography is also required.