How should I analyse a historical source like the one below?Looking at things like origin, value, limitations, purpose and so forth. Source B. AJP Taylor The Origins of The Second World War,...
How should I analyse a historical source like the one below?
Looking at things like origin, value, limitations, purpose and so forth.
AJP Taylor The Origins of The Second World War, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1961, p.51.
One other territorial provision was strictly of a strategic nature in origin. This was the occupation of the Rhineland by Allied forces. The British and Americans proposed it as a temporary measure of security, and laid down that it should last only fifteen years. The French wanted it to be permanent ; and since they failed to get this by the peace treaty, hoped to achieve the same result by tying evacuation to a satisfactory payment of reparations by the Germans.
When you do a historical analysis, you need to look at who produced the work and what their motivations might have been. You need to look at this in order that you can analyze whether the source might be biased, and therefore limited. By doing these things, you can also think about what the value of the source is--why it is useful to you.
I start by finding out who wrote the source, in this case, a major
British historian who was a leftist pacifist between the wars. I then think about what I know about the issue being written about. In this case, I know that the occupation of the Rhineland is seen as one of the causes of German unhappiness with the Treaty of Versailles. I know that some historians think that this was a way in which the Allies were unfair to Germany.
So now I think about whether the source might be biased in a particular way. The passage given tends to justify the Allies' actions. Would Taylor have been biased in a way that would make him more likely to take the Allies' side?
So then I balance possible bias on his part with the fact that he is an eminent historian who lived through the period in question. This allows me to decide the degree to which the source is valuable.