Tactics of Interpretation

Essay by yousucktimes7 October 2006

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A document holds only so much information. But a historian, using reading techniques can draw more out of the document than just the letters on the paper. When examining a document of extreme importance in history this can be very helpful. This was especially true when examining the Declaration of Independence.

One of the first things that a historian should do when examining a document of importance is to read it with an open mind. One must read a document with an unbiased approach as to not cause any prejudice that might distort information that the historian comes upon later. The only question that the historian should be asking himself should be about the basic construction of the document. Such as how is it organized? What are the main ideas that the document is trying to get across to its audience? If you read Declaration of Independence in an unbiased fashion you will see that it is organized into the statement of the documents purpose in the beginning, and two that justify the revolution.

The first is the theoretical reasons for a people to revolt and overthrow a government. The second is a list of complaints and crimes that the King has committed against the colonies people. This gives the reader a good idea of what information the document was intended convey.

Thomas Jefferson once said, " The sentiments of men are known not only by what they receive but by what they reject also." The same is true of documents too and asking what a document might not have said is therefore an important part of analyzing a document in depth. You can do this by comparing the document to previous or more recent documents like it. You can also do this by examining rough drafts and excised parts...