GGR240: Geographies of Colonialism in North America

GGR240: Geographies of Colonialism

University of Toronto, Winter 2023 Instructor: Matthew Farish ASSIGNMENT 2 (20% of final mark)

Assignment 2 requires you to develop your research skills in historical geography, including the formulation of an effective research question. It builds on your search for and blending of sources (Assignment 1) and will lead directly to a short essay (Assignment 3).

Assignment 2 has three related components:

  1. A two-page double-spaced description and interpretation of TWO PRIMARY SOURCES (one page per source) relating to a topic in historical geography. See the options below. (50%)
  2. An annotated bibliography of FOUR SECONDARY, SCHOLARLY SOURCES (books, book chapters, or articles from academic journals) on the same topic. (25%)
  3. A SINGLE RESEARCH QUESTION that creates a pathway from the work you’ve done for components (1) and (2) to Assignment 3. (25%)

For Assignment 3, you will be writing an essay that blends your primary and secondary sources (and other sources, if you wish) to address your research question, or a revised version of it.

For now, the key is to select a topic and work toward a question related to that topic. Here are your options – and remember that these are topics in historical geography, and that the course concerns North America:

  1. A site or event for the making of national identity (treat ‘national’ broadly)
  2. A cartographic exercise supporting or challenging dispossession and colonial land-taking
  3. The production of ‘settler ecologies’ drawing together race, nature, and property1

1 See Lindsey Dillon, “Civilizing Swamps in California,” Society and Space 40.2 (2022).

Whatever you choose, your emphasis should be on a period before 1950. Be sure to focus your work: it is difficult to cover (say) 100 years or (for example) five different sites in a short essay!

After selecting one of these topics you will be ready to put together the three components of Assignment 2.

  • First, find your two primary sources. These can range from memoranda, official reports, correspondence, and diaries to photographs, illustrations and even newspaper stories (if they are from the historical period in question).

When searching for these sources, remember that some can be found using the U of T Library’s various online databases, but also in many, many other places on the web. Some prominent archives and libraries, such as the National Archives and Records Administration in the US or Library and Archives Canada, have placed a significant amount of material online. There are also major archives in the GTA, including those of the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario.

A historical image from a secondary source, even if the book or article is recent, can also be considered a primary source. If you have any questions, please e-mail or visit me or the TAs, or consult with a U of T reference librarian.

You should use two distinct types of primary sources. Don’t select two photographs.

Include copies of these two sources – or, if the item in question is a lengthy text, the first page – with a two-page description and interpretation (one page per source) that situates them alongside your chosen topic. Begin by briefly describing each source

– what does it say, or show? Then, offer an interpretation of these sources, as research materials in historical geography. Why have you chosen these sources? How do they shed light on your topic, and on the course content more broadly? What does the combination of your two sources suggest about your chosen topic?

At the end of this description, indicate where you found your sources, by including standard bibliographic references and a URL (depending on the source, you may not need to include both).

(The most common stumbling block with this assignment is a poorly chosen pair of primary sources, leading either to an excessively general research question or [in Assignment 3] excessively general answers to that question.)

  • Submit a list of four secondary, scholarly sources that address your topic – sources that you will probably use for Assignment 3 (although you may eventually choose to replace them). List them as you would in a standard bibliography, using an accepted format (MLA, Chicago, etc.). Then, under each source, include an annotation of no more than 150 WORDS, describing the content, relevance, and quality of the source.

Unlike a descriptive summary, annotations can be both descriptive and critical; they should contain some sense of your point of view with respect to the source. Please use full sentences.

I encourage you to look at more than four before you choose. Some will be more relevant or more interesting than others. Please do not use sources that are on the syllabus.

  • Your investigations and reading will allow you to prepare a single, one- sentence question, which you should include after the annotated bibliography.

This should not just be the topic you chose from the list above, turned into a question. It should reflect the specificity of your sources, and therefore make a broad topic more focused. As the saying goes, every argument worth making begins with a question. And in Assignment 3, your thesis statement, which will essentially answer your research question, will capture that argument.

With these three components in place, you’ll be on your way to completing Assignment 3.

Tutorials relating to Assignment 2 will be held in the week of February 15, with TA office hours during Reading Week (details TBA).

Assignment 2 is due via Quercus on FEBRUARY 27. I will deduct 1 mark (out of 20) for each day that it is late (5%). Aside from Accessibility-related or other medical extensions, I will not accept assignments after 11:59pm on March 6. Good luck!

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