History 17A Analysis Paper
1776: How accurate is it?

In class, we've been watching a History Channel documentary on the life and times of "founding father" Thomas Jefferson. Immediately after, we're watching the film 1776, a classic musical from the 1970s that chronicles the events surrounding the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. As the author of this instrument of separation from Britain, Jefferson figures prominently in the history and folklore of the American Revolution, and in this movie.

Note: Since we're moving online-only (to Canvas) starting March 23, we won't be able to finish watching 1776 in class together. See this announcement for details.


In this paper, it's your job to compare the musical - which is an adaptation of history, not a documentary - with the documentary. How accurate is 1776? How does it approach historical subject matter differently than the documentary? What type of analysis and information were the historians featured in the documentary able to provide that the 1776 filmmakers could not? What events/facts/ideas are commonly considered key when it comes to telling the story of the Fourth of July and the signing of the Declaration of Independence? Do these video presentations cover those key things? Pay special attention to Jefferson's role, and the philosophies that undergirded his Declaration and the discussions surrounding independence.


Use both videos, your textbook, our assignmed primary sources, and at least two "outside" sources (i.e., not assigned by me - this is the ONLY assignment in the class that allows for outside research/information) to help you demonstrate how accurate both the documentary (which is a good one) and 1776 seem to be.

You must use a minimum of seven sources total (including the videos). For the purposes of citation, the documentary information is here and the film information is here.

Remember, for your 2+ "outside" sources, I highly recommend you use either primary source documents from the period/associated with key people who were present and involved in 1776 and/or scholarly books and articles from more recent times. You must run your outside sources by me - all you need to do is show me after class, or email me links or descriptions.

Format and Due Date: