Primary Source Essay

Primary Source Analysis: American Empires

In this short (500-750 word) essay, you will hone your skills as a historian analyzing a primary source giving insight into U.S. – Latin American relations at the turn of the 20th century.  What does your chosen source reveal this conflictual relationship?  About American empires?

The strongest projects will be focused in their analysis. They will make a clear argument about how your primary source should be interpreted (considering perspective, rhetorical intent, audience, the creator’s mindset) to answer a thoughtful historical question about American Empire.

Remember, your project should not be a mere summation of the contents of your source. Critical analysis goes beyond summarizing to a deeper critique of the source’s implications for our course themes.

Approaching the project:

You may choose to analyze any of the primary sources from our American Empire: A Brief History with Documents text:

Remember, primary sources reveal as much about the lived experiences and cultural expectations of their authors as they do about the historical events they describe.

As always, you must correctly cite all information and include a bibliography. See my guidelines on academic integrity.


  • In grading this assignment, I will consider the strength of your historical analysis of a primary source as well as your writing ability. You essay must be well organized, concise, and clearly written. I encourage all of you to take advantage of the Writing Center’s excellent feedback at any stage in the writing process.
  • LAUS Primary Source Analysis Rubric SP20

Essay Format

  • The heading on the first page should include your name, the name of our class, the title of the primary source under consideration, the date, and your word count (excluding the heading, footnotes, and works cited).
  • Upload your primary source essay to Moodle as a .pdf file before noon on Friday, February 14. 
  • Essays should be 500-750 words, double spaced, in a 12-point standard font (Times New Roman, Garamond, Arial, etc.) with 1 inch margins. Stay within the word limit!
  • All sources must be correctly cited using Chicago style formatting.