The explication de texte method

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Four-part primary source analysis. I will upload the prompt with the source.

HIST 118A: The Crusades in Cross-Cultural Perspective
Winter 2022

The explication de texte technique of analysis is used by historians to extract
historical insights from a primary source, a document or text written in the
historical period of focus.

There are generally FOUR parts to an explication de texte.

I. Introduction: Identify and describe the text under analysis
• What is it?
What kind of source is it? Identify the genre. How would you classify it?
And, is it an excerpt from a larger work? What is this larger work? Is it
part of a chronicle? A philosophical treatise? A court record? A letter?
A sermon? A law code? What is the usual purpose of this kind of source?
To describe contemporary events? To govern behavior? To articulate
abstract principles?
• Who wrote it?
Who composed the work? What was his/her profession? Social standing?
• What language was it written in?
• When was it written?

II. Textual Analysis:
• Give a brief overview/summary of what the text says, in your own words.
• Situate the document within its historical context. Describe what you know

about historical context in which it was written.
• Consider who the intended audience was for this work. What assumptions

would the audience need to share with the author in order of the point of the
work to be made successfully? Would the audience need to share the author’s
religious beliefs? Would they need to share assumptions about gender? About
social class?

• Articulate what you think the author’s broader aim or purpose was in
composing this text.

• Analyze the language utilized. How does the author try to achieve his/her
goals? Does the author appeal to the readers emotions? Make a reasoned
argument based on logic? Mock the opposing point of view?

III. Commentary:

• What historical insights can be gained from reading this text? (i.e., about
the Crusades in general or the specific focus of this week’s readings)

• Be sure also to demonstrate these various insights by citing/quoting
specific passages from the text directly in your discussion and then
analyzing them in greater depth.

• Be sure also to demonstrate that you are reading this text critically, that
you are bearing in mind all the observations about the author’s agenda that
you noted in the previous section. How might the author’s purpose in
writing the text shape the information contained therein? Can we take
what the author is saying here at face value?

IV. Conclusion:

• Summarize your findings.
• Also, include a more forward-looking statement which points to

possibilities for future research and discovery. Acknowledge how your
conclusion here is based on the analysis of just one document. What other
sorts of evidence might you analyze to confirm and/or extend your

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