Week 3 Reading & Writing Assignments

Reading and taking notes on primary and secondary sources:

The readings for this week include five primary sources (works written by people in the past). If the primary source /secondary source distinction is unfamiliar to you, I recommend that you look at the more detailed explanation in the glossary on the history J300/J400 Resource Pages. Everyone would do well to look over the other information available on this resource site. It will be a useful reference as you prepare your final research paper.

The history J300/J400 website lays out several methods for organizing the many sources of information that go into a historical research paper, ranging from index cards to bibliographic software. You are welcome to choose whichever method seems most appropriate for your needs. In my own work, I use the bibliographic program Zotero, which is an open source program available through George Mason's center for history and the new media. In the past, I have also used EndNote, which you can download for free as an IU Student. See the Indiana University Knowledgebase for instructions on how to do this.

Regardless of the method you choose, you will want to end up with the equivalent of a master "index card" for most of the things you read. Please review these general strategies for interpreting primary sources. At a minimum, your notes should allow you to answer the following basic questions for each primary source:

  • Who wrote it?
  • When and where?
  • To what events does it refer?
  • Who were the main actors?
  • What was the author's relationship to these actors and events? Why is s/he writing about them?
  • Who was the intended audience?
  • What seem to be key terms and concepts?

For secondary sources, there are useful guidelines for "How to Read a Source" on the J300/J400 Resource Pages. In general your notes on secondary sources should aim to include the following:

  • citation information
  • the period covered by the reading
  • the kinds of sources used
  • Quotations of and/or a restatement of the articles’ the main question(s) and argument.
  • Two or three examples of key points & the evidence that supports them.
  • Questions you have about the article. These can be points needing clarification, or things that connect it to other readings.

Questions to think about (Essay questions are at the bottom of the page):


  1. When and where were each of them written?
  2. When and where are they writing about? (H105 Timeline)

Approaching the primary sources for this week:

You might find working with the primary source readings for this week a bit challenging, but I also know that once you get past the unfamiliar aspects of these texts, you will find them comprehensible and surprising. Try the following techniques to aid your understanding:

Make yourself a hard copy on which to take notes, while referring back to the on-line texts. (These image files can be slow to print, so please plan accordingly.) Please bring your print-outs to class, to aid in discussion.

Try reading aloud if you find yourself getting hung-up by the fonts and vocabulary.

Read strategically, rather than plunging straight into the text. Look for headings. Use the primary source exercise questions to direct your readings, rather than going in blind. If a section seems baffling, move forward and use the information that comes later to make sense of the confusing part.

Questions specific to the primary source readings include:

    1. What does William Gouge's preface tell you about his audience?
    2. What do you think prompted William Gouge to write his treatise? What does he hope it will accomplish?
    3. Identify, using concrete examples:
      • a point on which William Gouge, Margaret Cavendish, and/or Samuel Richardson agree; that is, how does their advice on the proper organization of households overlap.
      • a point on which Gouge, Cavendish and/or Richardson might disagree.
      • a point where Gouge, Cavendish OR Richardson's discussion of household order overlaps with the household order dictated by the colonial Virginia slave codes or evident in William Byrd's diary.
      • a point where Gouge or Richardson might be troubled by the Virginia slave codes or William Byrd's behavior.
    4. Byrd, diary (1709-1712):  In this diary written in secret code (later deciphered by historians), Byrd described his daily life on the bountiful Virginia plantation he inherited from his father, as well as his visits to the capital of Virginia as one of the leading politicians in the colony.  What kinds of work did Byrd do in his days?  How did he reinforce his authority over his various social subordinates, such as his wife, his ship captains, his overseers, and his slaves?  What were the limits to his power to dictate the lives of others?  How did violence fit into his world?  How did sexuality?  How did piety?
    5. Virginia Laws of Servitude and Slavery (1643-1691):  These laws attempted to set boundaries between different categories of people in Virginia.  What, according to these laws,  were the basic differences between “servitude” and “slavery,” and how did the use of these terms change over time?   Why do think the laws were so concerned with regulating familial and sexual relationships?  As you read, try listing the cultural categories that people were placed in, under each law:

      1643:  "masters," "mistresses," "servants," "freeman," "runaways"









    Now, notice how these categories have changed, and not changed, between 1643 and 1691.  What categories continued over time?  What old categories faded away?  What new categories were invented?  How did religion fit?  How did race fit? When was the  category of a "white" person invented?  What did this category "white" eventually evolve from?  Why?


Questions to write about:

  1. Pick 2 or 3 of these sources, and explain what the authors think is the purpose of marriage. Where do your sources agree or disagree?
  2. What was the relationship of marriage to other forms of household government?
  3. Were wives in early modern England / colonial America powerless?
  4. Was there room for love (or pick another term) in early modern / colonial American marriages?
  5. Identify an instance in the primary source readings in which a concept or term we have covered in class appears. How does the way it is used in the primary texts compare with the way it was used in our classroom conversation and by the historians we have read? For example, William Gouge’s detailed table of contents includes references to marriage as a sacrament. After reading his outline, how do you think his views compare with the use of the term on the first day of class? Other concepts might include household government, love, forgiveness, public and/or private. Alternatively, you might also comment on a concept that is conspicuous by its absence. This could be a term that seems important to the understanding of marriage and household in the primary source, but which we haven’t discussed. It might also be a term we used in our definitions of marriage that is missing from or at odds with the ideas in these sources.
  6. Bring two of these readings into conversation with the reading assignment from week 2.