Project Topic — you will determine the topic for your project
It is a good idea to begin by reading the project assignment:
For our primary research project, we are going to do historical thinking by beginning with an historical interpretation/primary source and then placing that source within the local and larger context of the Civil War. We are using the term “historical source” rather carefully. The source that you must use should be a newspaper or periodical (magazine) from the Civil War Era.
There are two primary ways to proceed with this project.
You can explore the newspapers and periodicals of the era looking for interesting topics. You may stumble on something of interest while exploring. For example, you might find the following illustration by Thomas Nast. This could take you in many different directions. Any could make for a great final project.
1) You might explore what are the significance of the different images in the illustration?
2) How did Thomas Nast “participate” in the Civil War with his cartoons and illustrations?
3) What was the reaction to emancipation in the press and magazines in 1863?
4) How is “race” illustrated in a magazine like Harper’s or Atlantic Monthly?
Take time and explore the primary sources below (although you are not limited to these). You may end up focusing on fashion or you may get caught up in a report on “The Sanitary Condition of the Army“ that takes you into camp life for the average soldier and how camp life is depicted in newspapers and/or periodicals. Or you might be interested in food. Or a poem, “The True Herione,” about a mother sending her children off to war, may lead you to research life on the home front or Civil War poetry.
.When we get to the final project, you will have several options; you can do a traditional analytical essay about your source. One key is to place the source within the local context and the larger context of the war. The other key will be to pay attention to the comments from your instructors (as well as exploring what others are doing).
Be aware that the Civil War is a very popular online topic. You will find a great deal of information online that is incomplete or incorrect (or simply mis-information and myth).
To avoid errors, use trusted sites such as the Library of Congress, the National Archives, official state archives, university libraries and archives nationally, and private organizations like the Civil War Trust, the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History, etc.
The key to your project is to use a newspaper or periodical (magazine) “historical source” (article, series of articles, image, poem, short story) from a newspaper or periodical from the Civil War era as both a way to focus your project (on the topic of the article) and as a jumping off point for writing your project. We will talk more about this.
The first problem is to find your “historical source” (article, image, poem, short story).
You can use one of three methods:
Determine a topic. Then look it up in different newspapers or periodicals to find your “historical source.”
Determine a newspaper or periodical. Then page through or dip in during different issues and years to find something of interest.
Serendipity. This is the way I find things. Set out to search for one topic and stumble on something else good.
Look at and old stalwart like the New York Times.
Look at more popular magazines of the era: The Atlantic Monthly, The Century, The Continental Monthly, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.
Use key words and/or in your searches from your reading/viewing of required materials.
Set date parameters when searching.
Ask questions if you are having problems