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Complete Passage Discussion

Here, the author introduces the field of historiography, and one source of evidence that has recently been
recognized as valuable in this field of study; on the Pacific coast, consideration of the actions of the early
Chinese settlers can provide valuable insights into the developmental history of the region.

Paragraph 1 Overview

This passage begins with a definition of historiography, the writing of history based on certain authentic
sources. The author points to an area that has recently attracted attention: The focus on response
of explorers and settlers to their new landscapes to provide insight into the land’s transformations.
Previously, settlers’ accounts have been used as the primary source of information about the settling of
the United States Pacific Coast. European American explorers have been the traditional sources of such
accounts, as they were commissioned by the U.S. government to keep detailed written records of their
findings.

Paragraph 2 Overview

In the second paragraph, the author discusses historiographers’ recent recognition of the need to expand
their definition of a source. Historical accounts have often omitted the perspectives of Chinese settlers,
in part because these people were less focused on documentation of such matters and therefore left less
written records. Ignoring their influence would leave a cultural study incomplete, however, which is why
historiographers have come to rely on other sources of historical data, including the actions of the Pacific
Coast’s Chinese settlers.

Paragraph 3 Overview

The third paragraph offers examples of the actions of the early Chinese settlers, showing how such
evidence is relevant to the creation of a more complete cultural history of the area. With less access to
more fertile soil, the Chinese found potential where the Europeans had not, using irrigation and taking
advantage of some of the area’s natural harvests, such as wild mustard, which had generally been seen
only as a nuisance.

Paragraph 4 Overview

In the last paragraph, the author again emphasizes the importance of the Chinese settlers in shaping this
territory, given their vision and expertise in irrigation and swamp reclamation. In the final sentence,
the author argues that historiographers should pay attention to the Chinese influence on this region’s
settlement, considering its modern day irrigated farmlands and various specialty crops.

Summary

This passage was written to introduce the concept of historiography, and to point out the importance
non-traditional information sources, especially with respect to the actions of the Chinese settlers, in
understanding the development of the Pacific Northwest landscape. The author’s attitude appears
positive with respect to the settlers, and supportive of the appropriate addition of relevant sources to the
field of historiography.

The structure of the passage is as follows:
  • Paragraph 1: Introduce historiography, and its traditional sources of evidence
    Paragraph 2: Discuss the recent recognition of the need to expand on sources used, to include
    consideration of the actions of Chinese settlers
    Paragraph 3: List specific influences of the Chinese settlers
    Paragraph 4: Restate the importance of considering the input of these settlers on the landscape
    that developed

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