Enquiry Skills/What is CABPLACE?

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CABPLACE is a mnemonic (i.e. memorization device)that will form the center of this book. It stands for:

  • Consistency
  • Accuracy
  • Bias
  • Purpose
  • Language
  • Author
  • Contemporary
  • Exaggeration

Each of these can be used to examine sources and give us an idea of what the time we're studying was like.

There are two types of question that you can be asked in enquiry skills:

  • How useful is the source?-What can it tell us about the time period concerned?
  • How reliable is the source?-Can we use it to examine the time period in question accurately?

Consistency[edit]

If something is consistent with other sources, it is reliable because the information it gives matches information found elsewhere.

Source A is a newspaper article from 1914, speaking about the German attempt to capture France through neutral Belgium. This is consistent with other sources, for instance, a school textbook on WWI, therefore Source A is reliable.

Accuracy[edit]

Very much like Consistency. If something is accurate, it can be relied on.

Bias[edit]

If something is bias, it does not give impartial information, and therefore is not reliable, BUT, it can be useful.

If a peasant from the French Revolution wrote an account of how disgusting they found King Louis, it would be bias, because he or she lives in poverty, and so is blaming her harsh life on the king. The account is bias, so it is not reliable, but it is useful, because it can tell us what some people thought at the time.

Purpose[edit]

What was it meant to be?

A diary account is reliable, because it's purpose was to express opinion. A letter to a friend is reliable because it's purpose is to express opinion or state fact. (However, this may be bias. See above.) A political speech to a population may not be reliable, because it's purpose was to change people's opinions.

Language[edit]

Words can tell us a lot about history. Adjectives are useful to historians because they describe the time. Nouns can give us an idea of what things were called and what was invented at the time.

In a letter to a politician, a member of the public may use words that express anger, telling us what some or many people thought at the time.

Author[edit]

The people who paint or write things can be very influential in history.

If an article in a newspaper is written by an infamous journalist, we know it is not reliable because it is bias.

Contemporary[edit]

Is it a primary or secondary source?

This usually comes last. If something is a primary source, it is one of two things.

  • Reliable, because it was made at the time.
  • Not reliable, because it was subject to bias.

If something is secondary, it is usually reliable because the author has compiled it from many different sources to form an unbiased opinion.

Exaggeration[edit]

The last letter in CABPLACE refers to things that exaggerate the truth.

The usual suspect is a cartoon. Cartoons are exaggerated in nature, and so are usually not as reliable.