History Essay


“Until lions have their own historians, histories of the hunt will glorify the hunter.”

 — African proverb

Assignment Introduction

These days, there’s an understanding among historians that history is a lot more than simply collecting and reporting facts about past events. Peoples’ memories of an event are always influenced and refracted by other experiences they have lived through. This in some respects explains how it is that two people standing next to each other can give entirely different accounts of the same incident that has unfolded before their eyes.

But it is not the case, therefore, that all historical accounts can be thought of as exhibiting the same degree of accuracy. Some, for instance, will insist on versions of history that are inaccurate or un-proven in order to support their own beliefs or prejudices. (Holocaust deniers are a good example of how history is sometimes modified to serve present-day goals.) Even recording technologies can present a biased and/or incomplete version of an event, as was evidenced in the famous case of the 2003 news reports of crowds of Iraqi people toppling a statue of Saddam Hussein http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/NYI304A.html .

As your reading for this week, Colonialism in the Americas, points out, different versions of history serve the interests of different groups. Given this, it is very important to read critically, to be skeptical, demand proof, and to be on the look-out for emotional manipulation. Just as there are numerous interpretations of current events that require us to decide which account we believe to be true, which positions we support and whose description we trust, we must look at history with the same critical eye. This sort of active critical thinking can and should be applied not only to all of your ventures in this world, but to the media you consume, the advertisements with which you are inundated, and indeed the materials you encounter in your course work.

Here are some questions to ask to yourself in order to help you to read critically:

  • Who is the author? Who/what are they affiliated with?: Often, you can learn a great deal about the perspective or bias of an article by looking at the other works published or positions taken by the author, publisher or organization. Reporters for CNN or Fox News, for example, will consistently present a pro-USA and socially-conservative perspective on world events. Reporters for the British paper, the Guardian, are likely to give a more Britain-centred, socially-progressive perspective on world events.
  • What kind of language is being used in the article?: The words an author uses can also give us clues as to their bias. For example, those who support the state power of Myanmar call the country between Thailand, India and China by that name, while those who disagree with this government tend to still call the country Burma. Some words are very emotionally-loaded. It creates a glaring difference in how we understand someone’s actions when they’re called a “terrorist” rather than a “freedom fighter.” Such choices on the part of an author can give us powerful hints as to what they believe, and what they want us to feel or think when we read their work.
  • What evidence is given for the author’s claims?: It is always important to consider what proof is being offered to support an author’s claims. If there’s none given, that tells you something about the strength of the point or argument. Keep an eye out for suspicious “evidence,” like questionable statistics (such as polls with leading questions), references to events that are impossible to verify, recourse to “experts” without revealing their qualifications, overgeneralization (i.e. all women lack physical strength), and huge or problematic leaps in logic.
  • What is missing in the piece? Is the information/argument contextualized? Are there elements of the history of this issue that you aren’t being told? : Sometimes authors will strategically leave out pieces of information from their work. It’s hard to tell when this happens if you don’t know the subject area well, but if you suspect omissions, you may wish to do some research yourself. For example, news coverage of health care in Canada often discusses the rising cost of drugs, but leaves out the context of Bill C-91, passed by the Canadian government in 1993, which gave drug companies extended patents on drugs, thus substantially raising the price of new drugs. Without this important piece of context (or, in other words, history), one might think governments are powerless to tackle rising health-care costs. Similarly, Michael Moore left important information about problems and debates in health care in Canada out of his movie Sicko, so that he could present the Canadian health care system in a way that makes American health care policy look greedy, mean and foolish in comparison.

Reading History Critically: Article Analysis Assignment

Please follow the steps below to complete the assignment.

Step 1:  Choose and read one article from list A, and one article from list B. While you are reading take notes about what is being presented in the articles you have chosen. You are going to need to provide some commentary on these articles, so be sure your notes are detailed. A good idea is to try to answer some of the questions above as you are reading along in the articles you have chosen

Note: Don’t be distracted by the debate about celebrating Columbus Day in the U.S.A. Since we don’t celebrate Columbus Day in Canada, we’re not concerned with that, rather we are interested in attempting to understand Columbus more generally.

Article List A (Choose one article from this list):

‘On Columbus Day, Celebrate Western Civilization, Not Multiculturalism’

http://www.newsmax.com/Pre-2008/Columbus-DayCelebrate/2002/10/14/id/667879/

‘Let’s Take Back Columbus Day’

https://ari.aynrand.org/issues/culture-and-society/more/Lets-Take-Back-Columbus-Day#filter-bar

Hero History: Chritopher Columbus  http://www.imahero.com/herohistory/christopher_herohistory.htm

Article B (Choose one article from this list)

Why Rethink Columbus? http://www.turtletrack.org/IssueHistory/Issues01/Co10062001/CO_10062001_Columbus.htm

Goodbye Columbus!

http://www.indians.org/welker/byecolum.htm

Celebrating Columbus Day: Americans Observe October Holiday to Honour Mass-murderer (this article is can be found in Module 1 menu as a PDF).

Step 2: In a Word document, write up your response to the two articles following the guidelines below.

Using full sentences and paragraphs, answer the following questions for each article:

(1) What perspective is this article written from (i.e., an Indigenous point of view, one endorsing Columbus’ actions, one endorsing civil or human rights?)

(2) How can you tell? What, specifically, are the clues?

(3) Who benefits from this version of events? How?

Be sure your write-up makes it clear which article you’re discussing. (Include the titles / author)

Answer the following questions about both articles together:

(4) Which perspective makes more sense to you? Why?

(5) Do you take issue with any of the ideas or attitudes in either article? Name and explain your issues.

Tips for the successful completion of this assignment:

  • Clearly organize your work in well organized, clearly worded, and grammatically correct paragraphs.
  • Be certain use evidence from your readings to support your claims.
  • Be sure to double-check your work for errors of grammar, spelling, and logic.
  • Successful submissions should be written in Word, and they should run from 500-800 words in length. What is important here is making sure that your critique is clearly supported by the quotations you use from our course material. You are free to go over the limit in the case of more involved responses. Strive to create organized readable material.

Hint: Be sure you have a clear sense of what the work you are choosing is up to. Read all of this week’s material closely before attempting your assignment.

 Submission Guidelines

1.        If your name is George Brown please “save as” the file as gbrown_Assign1.doc. If your name is not George Brown, please substitute your own first initial and last name. 2.        Submit your assignment in the following way: a.        Click Browse My Computer under the Assignment Materials section. b.        Click My Computer. c.         Select the appropriate folder (e.g. “Canadian Labour”) and the file—gbrown_assign1.doc. d.        Click Open. e.        Click Submit.   Evaluation This assignment is worth a possible 10% of your final mark. Please submit your assignment on time. Late assignments are subject to a penalty of 10% off per day late, including weekends. An assignment more than seven days late gets an automatic grade of 0. Valid reasons for late submissions will be considered. Please allow a minimum of 7 days from the due date for the assignment to be marked and returned to your Assignments link. 


“Until lions have their own historians, histories of the hunt will glorify the hunter.”

 — African proverb

Assignment Introduction

These days, there’s an understanding among historians that history is a lot more than simply collecting and reporting facts about past events. Peoples’ memories of an event are always influenced and refracted by other experiences they have lived through. This in some respects explains how it is that two people standing next to each other can give entirely different accounts of the same incident that has unfolded before their eyes.

But it is not the case, therefore, that all historical accounts can be thought of as exhibiting the same degree of accuracy. Some, for instance, will insist on versions of history that are inaccurate or un-proven in order to support their own beliefs or prejudices. (Holocaust deniers are a good example of how history is sometimes modified to serve present-day goals.) Even recording technologies can present a biased and/or incomplete version of an event, as was evidenced in the famous case of the 2003 news reports of crowds of Iraqi people toppling a statue of Saddam Hussein http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/NYI304A.html .

As your reading for this week, Colonialism in the Americas, points out, different versions of history serve the interests of different groups. Given this, it is very important to read critically, to be skeptical, demand proof, and to be on the look-out for emotional manipulation. Just as there are numerous interpretations of current events that require us to decide which account we believe to be true, which positions we support and whose description we trust, we must look at history with the same critical eye. This sort of active critical thinking can and should be applied not only to all of your ventures in this world, but to the media you consume, the advertisements with which you are inundated, and indeed the materials you encounter in your course work.

Here are some questions to ask to yourself in order to help you to read critically:

  • Who is the author? Who/what are they affiliated with?: Often, you can learn a great deal about the perspective or bias of an article by looking at the other works published or positions taken by the author, publisher or organization. Reporters for CNN or Fox News, for example, will consistently present a pro-USA and socially-conservative perspective on world events. Reporters for the British paper, the Guardian, are likely to give a more Britain-centred, socially-progressive perspective on world events.
  • What kind of language is being used in the article?: The words an author uses can also give us clues as to their bias. For example, those who support the state power of Myanmar call the country between Thailand, India and China by that name, while those who disagree with this government tend to still call the country Burma. Some words are very emotionally-loaded. It creates a glaring difference in how we understand someone’s actions when they’re called a “terrorist” rather than a “freedom fighter.” Such choices on the part of an author can give us powerful hints as to what they believe, and what they want us to feel or think when we read their work.
  • What evidence is given for the author’s claims?: It is always important to consider what proof is being offered to support an author’s claims. If there’s none given, that tells you something about the strength of the point or argument. Keep an eye out for suspicious “evidence,” like questionable statistics (such as polls with leading questions), references to events that are impossible to verify, recourse to “experts” without revealing their qualifications, overgeneralization (i.e. all women lack physical strength), and huge or problematic leaps in logic.
  • What is missing in the piece? Is the information/argument contextualized? Are there elements of the history of this issue that you aren’t being told? : Sometimes authors will strategically leave out pieces of information from their work. It’s hard to tell when this happens if you don’t know the subject area well, but if you suspect omissions, you may wish to do some research yourself. For example, news coverage of health care in Canada often discusses the rising cost of drugs, but leaves out the context of Bill C-91, passed by the Canadian government in 1993, which gave drug companies extended patents on drugs, thus substantially raising the price of new drugs. Without this important piece of context (or, in other words, history), one might think governments are powerless to tackle rising health-care costs. Similarly, Michael Moore left important information about problems and debates in health care in Canada out of his movie Sicko, so that he could present the Canadian health care system in a way that makes American health care policy look greedy, mean and foolish in comparison.

Reading History Critically: Article Analysis Assignment

Please follow the steps below to complete the assignment.

Step 1:  Choose and read one article from list A, and one article from list B. While you are reading take notes about what is being presented in the articles you have chosen. You are going to need to provide some commentary on these articles, so be sure your notes are detailed. A good idea is to try to answer some of the questions above as you are reading along in the articles you have chosen

Note: Don’t be distracted by the debate about celebrating Columbus Day in the U.S.A. Since we don’t celebrate Columbus Day in Canada, we’re not concerned with that, rather we are interested in attempting to understand Columbus more generally.

Article List A (Choose one article from this list):

‘On Columbus Day, Celebrate Western Civilization, Not Multiculturalism’

http://www.newsmax.com/Pre-2008/Columbus-DayCelebrate/2002/10/14/id/667879/

‘Let’s Take Back Columbus Day’

https://ari.aynrand.org/issues/culture-and-society/more/Lets-Take-Back-Columbus-Day#filter-bar

Hero History: Chritopher Columbus  http://www.imahero.com/herohistory/christopher_herohistory.htm

Article B (Choose one article from this list)

Why Rethink Columbus? http://www.turtletrack.org/IssueHistory/Issues01/Co10062001/CO_10062001_Columbus.htm

Goodbye Columbus!

http://www.indians.org/welker/byecolum.htm

Celebrating Columbus Day: Americans Observe October Holiday to Honour Mass-murderer (this article is can be found in Module 1 menu as a PDF).

Step 2: In a Word document, write up your response to the two articles following the guidelines below.

Using full sentences and paragraphs, answer the following questions for each article:

(1) What perspective is this article written from (i.e., an Indigenous point of view, one endorsing Columbus’ actions, one endorsing civil or human rights?)

(2) How can you tell? What, specifically, are the clues?

(3) Who benefits from this version of events? How?

Be sure your write-up makes it clear which article you’re discussing. (Include the titles / author)

Answer the following questions about both articles together:

(4) Which perspective makes more sense to you? Why?

(5) Do you take issue with any of the ideas or attitudes in either article? Name and explain your issues.

Tips for the successful completion of this assignment:

  • Clearly organize your work in well organized, clearly worded, and grammatically correct paragraphs.
  • Be certain use evidence from your readings to support your claims.
  • Be sure to double-check your work for errors of grammar, spelling, and logic.
  • Successful submissions should be written in Word, and they should run from 500-800 words in length. What is important here is making sure that your critique is clearly supported by the quotations you use from our course material. You are free to go over the limit in the case of more involved responses. Strive to create organized readable material.

Hint: Be sure you have a clear sense of what the work you are choosing is up to. Read all of this week’s material closely before attempting your assignment.

 Submission Guidelines

1.        If your name is George Brown please “save as” the file as gbrown_Assign1.doc. If your name is not George Brown, please substitute your own first initial and last name. 2.        Submit your assignment in the following way: a.        Click Browse My Computer under the Assignment Materials section. b.        Click My Computer. c.         Select the appropriate folder (e.g. “Canadian Labour”) and the file—gbrown_assign1.doc. d.        Click Open. e.        Click Submit.   Evaluation This assignment is worth a possible 10% of your final mark. Please submit your assignment on time. Late assignments are subject to a penalty of 10% off per day late, including weekends. An assignment more than seven days late gets an automatic grade of 0. Valid reasons for late submissions will be considered. Please allow a minimum of 7 days from the due date for the assignment to be marked and returned to your Assignments link.