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This week we begin our most significant writing, emphasizing themes. We have been practicing so we can get to this point, doing more of what historians actually do.
As you know, historians do not memorize facts. They see trends throughout time, and use these trends to understand both the past and the present.
A historical theme is a trend, presented as an interpretive thesis, but supported by evidence from several different eras instead of just one or two.
A number of weeks throughout the semester, we have posted evidence from one particular time-frame or era on a Primary Sources Board, but our writing this week must include evidence from multiple eras.
Yes – the work you do here may be considered as the outline for your final essay, so long as you are happy with your subject!
Themes are narrow enough to have a point of view, even though they are broad enough to cover several eras. They show a repeating trend, rather than progress over time.
One way to begin a theme is to focus on a topic area, such as fashion, sexuality, class differences, cloth-making technology, the role of philosophy, ways in which literature reflects society, sports, games, furniture design, domestic architecture, dancing, political conflict, holiday celebrations, religious texts, expressions of spirituality, mass communication – the possibilities are endless.
For this assignment we start with a theme (in bold text), and use six sources in pairs with a topic sentence (in italics) that covers them both. The format will be like an essay, with no numbers or letters:
I. Historical themeII. Topic sentence that supports the theme A. Primary source #1 with explanation B. Primary source #2 with explanationIII. Topic sentence that supports the theme A. Primary source #3 with explanation B. Primary source #4 with explanationIV. Topic sentence that supports the theme A. Primary source #1 with explanation B. Primary source #2 with explanationV. Brief conclusion
Avoid problems with themes
Here’s a list of common problems to avoid for themes:
• The progressive theme problem.The theme features advancement or improvement over time, when it needs to focus on a repeating trend.
• The “throughout history” problem.The theme should not use phrases like “throughout history” or “across the ages”.
• The “and” problem.The theme should not try to cover more bases by using “and”, unless everything in it is proven in every paragraph.
• The “or” problem.The theme should not contain “or”, which encourages paragraphs that focus on only part of the theme.
• The so broad it’s obvious problem.This is similar to the big, factual thesis problem.
Writing assignment instructions (70 points):
Create an outline with a theme and three topic sentences, each supported by two fully-cited primary sources from various Primary Sources Boards, with a brief explanation of how each source supports the topic. All sources must be from a Primary Sources Board (you may add any fully cited sources to any Board at any time).
Here is an example of an A assignment:
Many of the ideas that influenced the revolutionary era and which helped to lead ultimately to independence from Great Britain can be traced back to the teachings of various ministers, politicians, and philosophers during the 17th and 18th century. The ideas of equality, natural rights, religious toleration, and government can be seen in the many sermons, pamphlets, books, and other means of communication of those two centuries.
Of the many philosophers of that time, John Locke would have the greatest influence in that era. His works, for example, the “Two Treatises on Government” published in 1689 and his “A Letter Concerning Toleration” published in that same year, both contained ideas that influenced the revolutionary era and can be found in our Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence makes references to the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God, natural rights, social contract, and the purpose of government. These ideas can be found In Locke’s “Two Treatises on Government (John Locke. Two Treatises of Government. 1689. https://en.wikipedia.org/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. wiki/ Two_ Treatises_of_Government). In his “A Letter Concerning Toleration”, like his “Two Treatises on Government”, Locke discusses the role of government and the role of the Church. He calls for toleration among churches and further spreads the ideas of liberty especially as it pertains to the freedom of conscious. He believed liberty to be a natural right, a right that the goverement or the church cannot violate (John Locke. A Letter Concerning Toleration.1689.https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. A_Letter_ Concerning _Toleration). These ideas of religious freedom and religious toleration were dominate themes during the revolution as seen in the “Virginia Stature for Religious Freedom” and would be further actualized in our Bill of Rights, the 1st Amendment to our Constitution.
Jonathon Edwards and John Whitefield are among the ministers whose ideas would come to influence the revolutionary era. In a very famous sermon entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, Reverend Jonathon taught that mans only hope was to be born again. Man could be set free by God, without the help of the authority or direction of the church. His message taught that the common man was equal before God in that all have sinned, and are in need of Christ (Edwards. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. July 8, 1741. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinners (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site._in_the_Hands_of_an _Angry_God). His message was one of individual freedom and self-government. These ideas would influence the common people to also demand ultimately political freedom. Freedom against arbitrary rule, both from the church and from the monarchy. These ideas would continue to grow over time and help to ultimately lead the colonist to declare their freedom from Great Britain. Later, it would also help to disestablish the Anglican Church. Like Edwards, John Whitefield would preach a message of individual freedom and equality. In his sermons, He attacked the established church, the Anglican Church. He taught that one did not need to be part of an organized church to experience God. His message too was one of rebirth, equality, and individual liberty (Thomas Walley. George Whitefield Preaching in Bolton. June 1750. https://artuk.org (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. /discover/artworks/george-whitefield-preaching-in-bolton-june-1750-163882). Like Locke, these two ministers spread ideas of equality, individual freedom and self goverement, ideas that can be found in the revolutionary era.
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(USA, AUS, UK & CA Ph. D. Writers)
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