Section C: An Evaluation of Sources (400 words) - 5 marks
This section is part of your 'analysis' where you show off your sourcework skills to the examiner by assessing the usefulness of two sources. To get marks, you need to:
1.) Critically evaluate two important sources appropriate to the investigation.
2.) Refer explicitly to the origin, purpose, value and limitations of the selected sources.
Your choice of sources to use is vitally important. They should be sources you can use meaningfully in your investigation and should not include general sources like textbooks or encyclopaedias. The two sources should also have appeared as evidence in section B (referenced) and also in your analysis in Section D.
You must focus on the origin and purpose of each source to work out its values and limitations to the investigation - not on the content of the source. You can write about each source separately, or you can discuss both as a running commentary. As a general rule, your evaluations should be approached in the same way as Question 3 from Paper 1 i.e. 'With reference to their origins and purpose, explain the value and limitations of Sources X and Y.'
Try to avoid lapsing into generalisations. Make specific comments about the particular provenance of each source, and provide specific evidence which should illustrate how the content of the source is correct, incorrect, incomplete or unrepresentative.
As you read the examples below, try to identify where the student has:
a.) referred to the origin of the source.
b.) referred to the purpose of the source.
c.) discussed the value of the source.
d.) discussed the limitations of the source.
0 marks = There is no description or evaluation of the sources.
1 mark = The sources are described but there is no reference to their origin, purpose, value and limitation.
2-3 marks = There is some evaluation of the sources but reference to their origin, purpose, value and limitation may be limited.
4-5 marks = There is evaluation of the sources and explicit reference to their origin, purpose, value and limitation.
Example 1: Evaluation of Sources
Source 1: Foster, J. (1976) 'British Imperialism and the Labour aristocracy' in Skelley, J. The General Strike, 1926, London: Lawrence and Wishart, pp. 3-57.
The origin of the source is of value because the author is a professional expert in the field of history, studying at St Catherine's College, Cambridge, and lecturing in politics at Strathclyde University. He was awarded a PhD 'for a these on working-class consciousness in the early nineteenth century' (1), showing he is a peer-assessed professional in early 20th-century British history and politics. The essay is part of J. Skelley's book The General Strike, 1926, which is a collaboration of historical essays, including bibliographical information throughout.
The purpose of Foster's essay is to analyse the run-up to the General Strike of 1926. This is valuable, since it enables a variety of information to be given over a long period of time, providing academic analysis and historical evidence of the political and economic causes.
The origin of this source also limits its value, however, as Foster is a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (2), therefore the evidence presented in the essay may not be accurate as it may focus on the trade unions and Communist Party. Also, as it was published in 1976 more evidence might since have come to light.
The purpose of this source also makes it limited; the title, 'British Imperialism and the Labour Aristocracy', uses biased language, referring to the government as 'aristocracy'. This displays Foster's political views, which are extremely left wing, and therefore the analysis may not be objective.
(1) Skelley, J., 1976, The General Strike, 1926, London: Lawrence and Wishart, pp. vii-viii.
(2) Skelley, J., op. cit., pp. vii-viii.
Source 2: Cabinet Conclusions. The National Archives, 6 October 1921. Accessed 19 May 2010. http://filestore.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pdfs/small/cab-23-27-cc-76-21-3.pdf
The origin of the source is valuable since it is the minutes from a government cabinet meeting on 6 October 1921, from the British National Archives. It discusses a number of foreign and domestic issues, including unemployment and the economic situation; and contains confidential information vital to the event being researched. Present at the meeting were the prime minister, Lloyd George, and a number of other ministers who were figures of authority and would have had access to government statistics and confidential information.
The source is also valuable because its purpose is to inform a number of ministers of the foreign and domestic situation in Britain. This means that it would consist of statistics and valuable information relating to the causes of the miners' strike.
There are limitations to this source's origin. The meeting was conducted by government officials and the prime minister, therefore the information may be in line with government policy and to justify future government action. The meeting was conducted in 1921 and although it presents information about the build up to the General Strike, it does not produce evidence in the short term for why the strike occurred in 1926.
The purpose of the source is limited since the government may not have understood the miners' frustrations at the time. The purpose is to look at an overview of the situation in the country, and would not have focused specifically on coal mining.
Example 2: Evaluation of Sources
Source 1: 'Goodbye to All That' by Robert Graves
With regard to its origin, the source can be considered valuable as when the book was first published in 1929, only 10 years had passed since the end of the war; permitting Graves to take enough time to formulate substantial, detached objectivity towards the recounted events and obtain some broader knowledge to give context to his memories, whilst simultaneously, not letting too much time pass by for his memories to became blurry.
However, the origin of the source can be considered limited as Graves became mentally ill after the war. He suffered from 'shell-shock' (8). He became rather disconnected from reality due to 'a sequence of events so crazy, they seem more suitable to fiction than reality' (9). To quote Graves, "I partly wrote... during a complicated domestic crisis". Moreover, the book was republished in 1957, in that prologue; Graves says, "a good many changes have been made in the text" (10). Graves evidently felt that the book incorrectly represented reality, but what says the events described now don't stray even further from reality? Additionally, Graves was not simply an author, but also a dramatist and a poet. Prior to writing 'Goodbye to All That', he wrote several "historical novels" (11), best known as the author of "I Claudius and Claudius the God" (1934), a two-volume fictional autobiography of the Roman emperor of the first century (12). It would be almost impossible to abandon this fictional writing style when producing his biography, making its factual reliability questionable.
Source 2: Forgotten Voices of the Great War. [Appendix C]
In terms of purpose, the source is valuable because Max Arthur intended "to capture through the words of men and women, what life was like in the First World War" (13). Making it in the author's interests to produce the most factual account possible. With regard to origin, these oral testaments were collected as a task set by the Imperial War Museum. They consist of "ordinary veterans and survivors of the... war" (14) describing their experiences. When judging the value of such oral testimony, "interviews are valuable as sources of new knowledge about the past and... perspectives on it... providing information about everyday life and insights into the mentalities of... 'ordinary people' unavailable from more traditional sources" (15). For instance, soldiers having to eat "German turnips again and again" (16) due to food shortages. This drove some soldiers, including Gunner Philip Sylvester, to eat "biscuits that had been left by troops two years previously" (17).
However, the source also presents limitations. In reference to origin, the problem with oral testaments is that individuals usually lack the detached objectivity and broad knowledge, which helps them to make sense of the events they were involved in. Historians exercise critical judgement towards the values of the interview, as "just because someone says something is true... doesn't mean it is true. Just because someone 'was there' doesn't mean they fully understand 'what happened'" (18).