Published Date

May 1, 2004

This resource was developed in 2004 as part of “The Conquest of Mexico” by Nancy Fitch.

Now that you have analyzed individual sources, it is time to think about how to interpret the sources collectively, so you you can identify preliminary questions.  These questions are designed to develop critical thinking skills useful in historical analysis.


Analyzing Primary Sources

Considerations in Examining All of the Primary Sources

  • How did the documents’ creators’ viewpoints influence the language (including visual language) used in the documents?
  • How did the creators of the documents understand peoples’ desires?
  • If the documents refer to a different culture, how do the sources treat the people of the other culture?
  • What do the authors find interesting, relevant, repulsive about other people?
  • What do the authors find interesting, relevant, repulsive about their own culture?
  • What language (including visual language) is used to describe/interpret other cultures?
  • What language (including visual language) is used to describe one’s own culture?
  • Note:  It could be useful here to make lists and see what overall patterns you discover.

Considerations in Examining the Visual Images

  • Are there any common motifs in the paintings?
  • Are there any inconsistencies with how things are represented?
  • Why do you think things are represented the way they are?
  • Do the paintings shed light on the texts?
  • Do the texts shed light on the paintings?

Preliminary Questions

  • What consistencies and inconsistencies are there between the various sources you analyzed?
  • Do you find major gaps in the evidence?
  • What would you like to know more about?
  • If you were from the culture, class, gender, race that is described in the sources, would you feel you were treated fairly? understood correctly?
  • What are your conclusions after answering these various questions?
  • How will you use the evidence in your essay?

Write the essay!