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Guide to the Case Commentary

What is a Case Analysis?
A case commentary is an extended commentary on a particular court case. A successful case analysis combines description and analysis. The case itself needs to be described succinctly. At the same time the judgment must be analysed and its socio-political impacts discussed. The analysis will be helped by some understanding of the state of the law with which the case in question is concerned. Understanding the state of the law means having some knowledge of relevant treaty/customary law and of precedent decisions in the area under investigation. This may require doing some background reading, for instance from a leading textbook.
Required Format:
1,500 words max, excluding the title page and bibliography.
Required External Sources:1
50 points
The Study of History: Primary Sources and Changing Interpretations
Sources Texts: Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, by Matthew Restall The Jesuit Relations, edited by Alan Greer
Video: Cracking the Maya Code
Assignment Interpretations of the human past are constantly changing, as new sources are made available – such as demonstrated in the film Catastrophe – and old biases are revised. This exercise introduces you to examples of these processes of early cultural observation from the past (Jesuit Relations) and changing interpretations of the past (Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest and Cracking the Maya Code).
Prepare a report of three pages, typed and double-spaced, that summarizes important themes from these sources: two texts and one film. Professor Arguello will comment on this assignment during the class.
A. Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest (Interpretation) Historians have been reevaluating the past, that is, rewriting what others have said before them, since the time of a Greek historian named Herodotus.
In the case of one of the most commented on events of modern history, the Spanish Conquest of the Aztec and Inca empires, European and American historians have been contesting how and why it happened since Hernan Cortes sent a report to the Spanish king, Charles I, celebrating his own accomplishments. That interpretation would soon be challenged by other participants in the conquest of Mexico, and by dozens of historians since then.
So we have multiple points of view (POV) of this event. This latest revision by Professor Matthew Restall is different because it includes documentation from native allies of the Spanish that have often been excluded from the story. This new POV changes our understanding of this age of contact and conquest, as well as of the very nature of the “Spanish” empire.
As another historian, Henry Kamen, has noted recently in his study of the Spanish empire, the “Spanish” made up probably no more than 10-15 percent of the population, and leadership of, the empire that stretched from the coast of North Africa to the Philippines. Africans, Asians,
and Native Americans were active participants in this empire; the Spanish could not have maintained the empire without them, just as the British could never maintained their empire in Asia and Africa, especially India, without the collaboration of local elites and bureaucrats.
Required Reading
? Introduction, “The Lost World of Bernal Diaz”, pp. xiii- xix.
? Chapter 1. “A Handful of Adventurers: The Myth of Exceptional Men”.
? Epilogue, “Cuauhtemoc’s Betrayal”, pp. 147 – 157.
Selections Select one of the remaining chapters to summarize in your report:
? Chapter 2. “Neither Paid Nor Forced: The Myth of the King’s Army”.
? Chapter 3. “Invisible Warriors: The Myth of the White Conquistador”.
? Chapter 4. “Under the Lordship of the King: The Myth of Completion”.
? Chapter 5. “The Lost Words of La Malinche: The Myth of (Mis)Communication”.
? Chapter 6. “The Indians Are Coming to an End: The Myth of Native Desolation”.
? Chapter 7. “Apes and Men: The Myth of Superiority”
In summary, your essay should comment on 4 sections from this book.
B. Cracking the Maya Code
Video Source Cracking the Maya Code (52 minutes), PBS video from NOVA series. Available for viewing in the course Blackboard site, as well as at the PBS/NOVA web site, and at YouTube. Netflix has had this film on their streaming video service.
The PBS/NOVA web site for this film also contain useful information to supplement the film.
PLEASE NOTE A more detailed version of this story is also available in video (but not required): Breaking the Maya Code (118 minutes). A link to information on this source is provided in the folder for this assignment.
This is a story of how scholars have struggled to regain an understanding of a lost language. And how this effort was stymied in the past by religious intolerance, and in the 20th century by personal rivalries and jealousies, including differences based on the Cold War between “the West” and the Soviet Union.
In contrast to the “lost” Maya written language, there is a tremendous history of the people of central Mexico due to the efforts of other Spanish clergy after the Conquest, particularly Bernardino de Sahagun. Both Sahagun and Diego de Landa were from the same religious order, the Franciscans, but different generations.
By the way, if you think that what Diego de Landa did regarding the destruction of the Maya books was bad, are you aware that the Aztecs burned their own books in the early 15th century to create what they saw as a more “politically correct” history of their tribe?
C. The Jesuit Relations (Primary Sources) The activities of the Jesuit religious order in New France was essential to the French presence in North America during the first century of colonization, as the French monarchy was financially unable to support colonization at this time. The Jesuits raised funds through the reports on their activities amongst the native peoples of Canada.
The Introduction to this documentary collection explains the significance of these reports as what historians refer to a “primary sources” on this historical process. These sources have a definite bias (as all historical sources do), but they remain a valuable source of information of this historical process and these Canadian societies.
Required Reading
? Introduction (pp. 1-19) to The Jesuit Relations
? Comment on themes from the Introduction and 3 chapters from the 8 chapters of documentary readings in the text The Jesuits Relations.
o You should discuss the following in your report:
? The general theme for each selection of documents
? What we learn of the lives of the aboriginal peoples of Canada from these sources
? According to the editor of this collection, why are these sources important for historians and students of history today?
Recommended Viewing
? Black Robe, feature film;
o Links to film and online information at Wikipedia, in course Blackboard site.
Structure of the Essay The essay will be 3 pages, typed, double spaced, with one inch margins and a separate title page. Use a 12 point type face, such as Ariel or Times Roman.
The title page must include: Your name, the course name – History 140 – History of the Americas – the term, and the title of the essay (listed above).
Your essay must be submitted as a Word document, which means that it has an extension that is either.doc or .docx. Popular word processing programs such as Pages and Open Office allow you to save your work as Word documents in the “Save As” menu. Online word processing services can be saved to your desktop as Word documents.

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