Analysing a Primary Source

When you study history, you are limited by the primary sources that exist and by their quality, reliability and accuracy. That’s why history can only ever be an attempt to discover the truth, rather than a certainty that you have found it. Nevertheless, some discover more truth than others…

Dear Year 8,

Your answer to Question 1 on the assignment sheet requires you to find, research, describe and analyse a primary source. To do this, you should follow the steps below:

•locate a picture, excerpt or substantial quotation from a primary source relating to the aspect of medieval Europe that you have chosen (common people/Norman Conquest/Hundred Years War)

•describe and evaluate the source

•reach conclusions: what does the source reveal about the event, people, ideas or social structures you are researching?

Here is a breakdown of possible questions that you could answer to complete this task:

a Who wrote/ made/ designed/ created/built the primary source? Was there a specific person or group who ordered it to be made, written or built?

b When was the source written, created, designed or built?

c How was it made? From what materials?

d What does the source reveal about the lives of people in medieval times (e.g. what does it show us about the common people, the knights, the nature of the battles, the hardships, the social system)? What insights have you gleaned from studying this source?

e To what extent is the source reliable and representative? For instance, is it likely to be biased towards one view of events? Which viewpoints does it represent and which viewpoints does it not represent? What are its limitations? What was its purpose, use or significance? Do other sources support it?

I suggest that you set out Question 1 as shown in the format below, but you are welcome to contemplate other possibilities.

Kind regards, Ms Green

Primary Source Here
You could set out Question 1 like this:

[wmd-toggle tab_background=”#066196″ tab_color=”#fff” content_background=”#2196d1″ content_color=”#fff” border_radius=”4″ ls-id=”55ecf11530360″][wmd-toggle-tab title=”Glossary of Useful Verbs and Other Terms”/][/wmd-toggle]


The writer/author…

  • shows, demonstrates, depicts…, represents…, presents, identifies, draws attention to…, evokes a picture of…, elicits the reader’s…
  • describes, emphasises, highlights, focuses attention on…,
  • argues, contends, states, writes, points out, suggests, implies, concludes…
  • criticises, condemns, denounces…

Other useful wording:

  • According to the writer/author, …
  • He/she expresses the opinion that…
  • By referring to…, the writer/author…
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