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Some aids for reading primary source documents.
1) Know how English was used at the time the document was written. Some words and phrases may have had different meanings then than now.
2) Know the history of the times in which the document was written. If there is any mention made in the document, about a person or event that you do not know about, look it up.
3) Read the document from the perspective of the values that were held by people in the time that it was written, not the values of today. Look for indications in your document of that society's values.
4) You can't judge the document fairly unless you read all of it, so as not to take any part of it out of context, which you might do if you do not read all of it.
5) You can't read all of the important primary documents of history, so for those that you need to know about, but cannot read all of, find a work by someone who has read all of the document and then commented upon or summarized it in his work. Read what he says about the document.
I got these suggestions from How to Study History by Cantor and Schneider. The LLCN is D16.2.C32. Go to that area of you library and see if there are any other books with chapters about how to read historical texts.
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