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HST 216: Source Studies – Instructions and Questions
o The pursuit of the past, and the study of History is all about asking questions and interrogating primary
sources that can give us answers to our questions.
o A Source Study is a critical analysis of assigned primary sources to answer a set historical question,
which is written in a historical essay format.
o The intended learning outcomes: that students will learn how to interpret Byzantine primary sources,
using internal and external criticism; will learn how to write historical essays; and will gain a deeper
understanding of the question’s subject.
How to Write a Source Study Essay:
o In general terms, your essay should express an educated point of view. You must construct a
persuasive argument that answers the question/s fully; a passive summary of the document’s content
will not suffice and will score a low grade.
o The average source study essay should be about 5 pages in length, typed, and double-spaced. Handwritten copies will NOT be accepted.
o Upon starting a source study always place your name, the question, and its number at the top of the
o For working with primary sources see Handout: Aims and Methods, and Rampolla, Writing in History,
Sections 1 (Introduction), 2a-1, 2b-1, 3a, 3c-1, and all of section 4 on writing papers, especially section
4d (constructing arguments and developing historical thesis).
Required Format for a Source Study Essay:
For excellent advice on writing historical essays, framing your arguments, and revising your essay, see
Rampolla, Writing in History, section 4 (Following Conventions of Writing in History).
INTRODUCTION: Your answer must begin with an introduction that introduces and sets up your essay
– the topic, the question, your proposed answers, and the source used. A good introduction is
therefore crucial to the success of a good paper. Try writing the introduction last, after writing out
your arguments and conclusions – this often makes writing the introduction easier and clearer. Use
the sample Introduction here provided as a model, and the read carefully the excellent explanation and
examples of what is, and is not a thesis in Rampolla, Writing in History, sections 4c and 4d.
Your Introduction should (and in this order):
o introduce the topic of the question, e.g., the importance of craftsmen/merchants or food
supply for maintaining Constantinople, or the importance of official speeches and treatises in
shaping the imperial image, and public expectations of the emperor.
o repeat the question chosen (you can repeat it word for word) and the supply your proposed
answers to it – what historians call your historical thesis.
o name the primary source that you will use to prove your thesis, also briefly explaining what
kind or type of primary source it (e.g., official law code, an official speech, a treatise on
kingship, epic literature, poetry, religious/ritual text, historiography, philosophical tract, law
code/edict, historical biography, etc.), its author (if known), its intended audience and
ARGUMENT: Your argument follows the introduction and is the main part of the essay. Here you
answer the question at length, making points based on your interpretation of the set text.
o Your argument should follow the same order as the question.
o You should support your points by quoting and by citing your primary source/s in footnotes or
o Quotations should be brief (no more than one sentence) and to the point (remember to enclose
such quotations within “ ” speech marks).
o On the appropriate quotation of the source in support of your argument see Rampolla, Writing
in History, section 7, especially 7b and c (footnotes and endnotes, bibliography, and formatting
o For citations you must use either footnotes (listed at the foot of the page) or endnotes (listed
at the end of your paper). Your word processing program will perform these functions for you
automatically – you just need look at the program’s “help” files and to click on the right button!
Do not mix these two systems together – choose one and stick to it. All footnotes or
endnotes, and bibliographies must be in Chicago Manual of Style format, as used in
humanities scholarship. The footnotes or endnote should contain the full bibliographic citation
and the exact page, extract number, and even chapter heading and line number referred to in
the text. For more guidelines on note (and bibliography) citation in Chicago format see
Rampolla, Writing in History, section 7c (documentation models).
o So-called MLA citation or APA citation in brackets or parentheses used in the social sciences
are NOT acceptable and papers adopting this form of citation will be returned to be
reformatted in Chicago format.
CONCLUSION: Your essay must close with a conclusion, summarizing your argument/points made,
perhaps ending on a note of broader historical significance regarding the question and topic of the
BIBLIOGRAPHY: A bibliography of the reading materials used to write your source study essay must be
attached to the end of the paper. This will be brief as you will be citing wither a Handout or
o All bibliographic references must be in full and in alphabetical order by author/s second name;
if there is no known author then they can be ordered alphabetically by title.
o Each entry should follow this order: first, known author of the source (if known), title of source
enclosed by “ “ speech marks. If this is on a handout, then the title of the handout will suffice,
e.g., “HST 216: Constantinople: Emporium of the World.”
o If the primary source for the essay is in Geanakoplos you must write the full bibliographic
citation of the book, starting with the author’s/s’ name/s and title of the book, then followed by
the place, press, and date of publication.
o This information can be found on the back of a book’s title page, or in the syllabus. For more
documentation models for the preparation of bibliographies in Chicago style format, see
Rampolla, Writing in History, sections 7c-2 and 7c-3.
When analyzing primary sources, think like a Historian: see Rampolla, Writing in History, sections 1a, 1b & 4b).
o Do not be tempted to psycho-analyze your subject, OR to see the past as a literal mirror of the present,
assuming that people in the past thought like us today, OR to condemn the past, judging it in the light
of what we assume to be ‘true’ in the present. You must always interpret texts in the light of their
historical conditions or historical context while seeking to explain WHY or HOW ancient people
behaved, thought, etc., and what this can tell us about ancient cultures.
o Do not use sloppy language, conversational English or expressions of amazement in your writing. This
includes clichés, or old, hackneyed expressions, such as “last nail in the coffin” or “changed the course
of history”. Do not use the term “etc.” – this is lazy and an excuse not to explain in full. You must
explain in full exactly what you mean. Essay writing is formal writing and so requires the formal
language and conventions of intellectual discourse.
o Avoid sweeping and problematic generalizations that cannot be supported, e.g., “Since the beginning
of time human nature has remained unaltered…”. Avoid vague, empty statements – be specific in your
points and the evidence cited from the sources in support. Explain the meaning of specialized terms
and concepts and identify individuals and institutions you mention. You may assume that I know what
they mean, but the point of the exercise is for you to show me how much you know and understand.
Examples of how to cite in Footnotes following Chicago Format
For a detailed description of footnote/endnote formatting see Rampolla, Writing in History, sections 7b-1 and
Examples of citing in notes (book/journal titles can be italicized, as here, or underlined):
D.J. Geanakoplos, Byzantium. Church, Society, and Civilization Seen through Contemporary Eyes.
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 293-295, #212a.
J. Alchermes, “Constantinople and the Empire of New Rome,” in Heaven on Earth. Art and the Church
in Byzantium, ed. L. Saffran (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998), 19-22, fig. 1.8.
Herrin, J., Byzantium. The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
Non-Published Media: How to Cite a Class Handout:
Handout, HST 216: Constantinople: Emporium of the World, 4-6, #3, Book of the Eparch.
Examples of Bibliography following Chicago Format
Bibliography should be placed after the end of the source study essay and arranged alphabetically by author
second name. If no author, by title – titles of books/journals in italics or underlined.
Take note of the differences between this system of citation compared with that for footnotes or endnotes,
which cite specific pages, sections, chapters, lines, and figures.
For a detailed description of bibliography Chicago formatting see Rampolla, Writing in History, section 7b-2,
Primary Sources in Translation:
Geanakoplos, D.J., Byzantium. Church, Society, and Civilization Seen through Contemporary Eyes. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1986.
Handout, HST 216: Constantinople: Emporium of the World.
A book chapter: Alchermes, J., “Constantinople and the Empire of New Rome,” in Heaven on Earth. Art and the
Church in Byzantium, edited by L. Saffran. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998, 13-38.
A book: Herrin, J., Byzantium. The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press,
SOURCE STUDY #1 QUESTIONS
Choose ONE ONLY of the following numbered questions to write as a source study essay. This assignment is
due on blackboard no later than Tuesday 15 March @ 11:59 pm.
1. Handout: Constantinople: Emporium of the World, Book of the Eparch, pp. 4-6, text #3, AND the
Prooimion (Preface) on p. 9; Geanakoplos, text #212a (Book of the Eparch).
Question: How was the production of luxury goods (goldsmiths, jewelry, silks, linen, and perfumes)
regulated by the Book of the Eparch in 10th century Constantinople? Where in Constantinople could
these luxury goods be made and sold, and what were the practical and propagandistic purposes of this
legislation for the Byzantine state?
2. Handout: Constantinople: Emporium of the World, Book of the Eparch, pp. 6-7, texts #4-5, AND the
Prooimion (Preface) on p. 9.
Question: How were industrial processes and their products (soap, tallow, and wax production) and
the supply of foodstuffs (groceries, meat, fish, bread, vegetables) regulated by the Book of the Eparch
in 10th century Constantinople? Where in Constantinople could these products and foodstuffs be made
and sold, and what were the practical and propagandistic purposes of this legislation for the Byzantine
3. Geanakoplos, text #1 (Eusebius Pamphyli, Oration in Praise of Constantine).
Question: According to Eusebius, what was the new Christian conception of the Roman Empire, and
how is it meant to imitate (mimesis) Heaven? How does this text justify Christian monarchy as superior
over all other forms of government? What is the special status of the emperor, what is his relationship
with Christ/God, and how does the emperor acquire “royal virtues”?
4. Geanakoplos, texts #2 and #226 (Agapetus, Points of Advice to the Emperor Justinian I).
Question: According to Agapetus, what were the desired imperial virtues of a good Christian emperor?
How should an emperor conduct himself, rule the Empire, and behave towards his subjects? What was
the source of these imperial virtues and how could the emperor cultivate them? What does this text
tell us about the Byzantine conception of the Imperial Office?
HST 216: Writing Source Study Essay Introductions and Thesis Statements
A good introduction is crucial to open and appropriately frame a good Source Study essay.
Your Introduction should:
o Introduce the topic of the question.
o Repeat the question chosen (you can repeat it word for word) and then,
o Supply your proposed answers to it – what historians call your historical thesis.
o You will also need to identify the primary source required by the question that you will use to
prove your thesis, also briefly explaining what kind or type of primary source it (e.g., official law
code, an official speech, a treatise on kingship, epic literature, poetry, religious/ritual text,
historiography, philosophical tract, law code/edict, historical biography, etc.), its author (if
known), its intended audience and purpose/s.
A Model Essay Introduction Broken Down into its Constituent Parts:
Model your own Source Study essay introductions on the structure, language, and type of content in this
1. Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitos, “Preface” to The Book of Ceremonies (composed in the 950s)
Question: What does the “Preface” to the Book of Ceremonies tell us about the importance of ceremonies at
the Imperial Court? According to Constantine, why should ceremony be preserved and what qualities did it
project? What were the desired effects of the ceremonies in the Book of Ceremonies on both participant and
audience, and how was this intended to reinforce respect for the Empire as an institution?
Your opening sentences – the source study topic: explain who, when, what, where: The Emperor Constantine
VII Porphyrogenitos (reigned 913-959), who was a scholar in his own right, commissioned or supervised
several scholarly initiatives during his reign, including a biography of his grandfather Emperor Basil I, an
encyclopedia (called the Suda), and handbooks dedicated to statecraft (the De Administrando Imperio),
agriculture (the Geoponika), and the provinces of the empire (On the Themes – the De Thematibus). Identify
the primary source required by the question that you will use to prove your thesis: Another handbook
sponsored by Constantine is called the Book of Ceremonies (De ceremoniis aulae Byzantinae). This handbook
was never completed, and the manuscript now comprises finished chapters and an attached dossier of
research materials. The Source Study essay question (you can repeat verbatim): This essay discusses the
“Preface” of the Book of Ceremonies and asks what does it tell us about the importance of ceremonies at the
Imperial Court? According to Constantine, why should ceremony be preserved and what qualities did it
project? What were the desired effects of the ceremonies in the Book of Ceremonies on both participant and
audience, and how was this intended to reinforce respect for the Empire as an institution? Your proposed
answers to the Question – what historians call your ‘historical thesis’: Using the “Preface” in the Book of
Ceremonies, this essay will argue that court ceremonies were considered a vitally important means of
celebrating and projecting imperial power. According to Constantine, ceremonies needed to be preserved
because they had fallen into neglect and disorder. The Book of Ceremonies was intended to correct this by
establishing standard ceremonies for the emperor and his court, drawing upon past precedents and models.
This essay will show that the ceremonies of Constantine’s Book of Ceremonies intended to project the qualities
of taxis, meaning good order or hierarchy, and mimesis, meaning imitation on earth of the timeless and
perfect divine order of heaven, both key political concepts for the imperial ideology of the Byzantine state. If
ceremonies were disordered the dignity and majesty of the state would be insulted and diminished. By having
“well-ordered” ceremonies, Constantine believed that the imperial majesty would be glorified, and that the
power of the state would be amplified by inspiring awe and admiration among Byzantines and foreigners alike.
This essay concludes that The Book of Ceremonies was therefore intended to promote imperial propaganda
and statecraft, by demonstrating the timeless and serene power and majesty of the Roman Empire.
Handy Tips for Writers on Testing Your Thesis from Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History:
Another Handy Tip: Write your Source Study essay introduction last, after you have worked out and written
up your argument and conclusion – this will make summing up your thesis-argument in your introduction very
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