Analyzing a Primary Source Text Using the SOCC


One of the essential skills for historians is utilizing outside evidence and close reading to critique a primary source. Synthesizing the information from various references can help identify specific elements of an excerpt such as the date, events, and sociocultural context, among others. The process helps in acquiring tangible evidence of past events and individuals. Thus, the archival texts make the focus of study more realistic as opposed to when textbooks are used exclusively. The objective of this paper is to sequentially analyze an excerpt of a primary document using the procedure of Source, Observe, Contextualize, Corroborate (SOCC).


This document was written to commemorate the works of Constantine the African. Specifically, the primary source was written during the late eleventh century, the medieval; specifically written on 22 February 1086. The person who wrote the literature was monk Peter the Deacon, who is credited as being the first one to write the biography of Constantine the African. The document is a eulogy or biography that depicts the works and praises the sacrifices and roles of the Constantine of Africa. The primary audience for this source was the religious people at the monastery of Monte Cassino. The excerpt is a memorial article for Constantine the African.


First, the document explains when Constantine the African came to the Monastery of Monte Casino, citing that it was at a time of abbot by Desiderius. Constantine is recognized as a religious person who followed the “holy habits” and even donated to the Church of St. Agatha (Wallis, 2019, p.137). Aside from religion, Constantine is described as a well-educated philosopher who interpreted several books. For forty years, the man pent his tome studying human science before dying at 90 years, having fulfilled his days (Wallis, 2019). One of the things that are important in the document is the list of books that Constantine translated. The other vital thing is a description of his life as a devoted monk, scholar, and translator who made significant contributions before his death.


This primary source indicates that the people in this social setting were religious, as evident by the mentioning of monks, holy way of life, and church. In addition, the document shows that there are developments in the scientific field such as medicine hence the need for translation. One of the significant events is the translation of biological studies into various languages. The other is that abbot Desiderius is the ruler and was recognized in many nations. The knowledge of Peter the Deacon, who was an Italian writer, helps in understanding the context of the document in that it was mostly written in Italy.


One of the questions that this excerpt raises concerns the value of education to various ethnic groups. For instance, it mentions that Constantine had to go into hiding to avoid being killed by fellow Africans because of his academic prowess. However, in Italy, he was hosted and respected and his skills were used in translating books. Accounts of Prince Richard of Capua, who gave Constantine the church that he donated, can be useful in enhancing the understanding of the text. Furthermore, finding the original texts that were translated by Constantine can strengthen the evidence provided in the text.


Historicism involves close reading, observation, and analysis of primary documents to garner evidence of past events or occurrences. The excerpt analyzed in this essay is a biography or eulogy of Constantine of Africa, which was written in the late eleventh century, the medieval. The biography summarizes the life and works of Constantine, revealing him as an educated and religious person. From the document, the sociocultural setting was characterized by studies on human science, political rulership, and religiosity. A few questions arise from this source which can be clarified if other texts written within the same period would be available.


Wallis, F. (2019). Medieval medicine: A reader. University of Toronto Press.

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