UTILITY - how useful is a source?


How to do this question:

This question is one of a number of questions which require you to think about the PROVENANCE and the CONTENT, and then to use the ideas you get to frame an answer.


When evaluating utility:


1.     Begin AND END by emphasising how it is useful.   You may wish to point out limitations, but don’t concentrate on this – every source is useful in some way.  


2.     Look at the PROVENANCE, and come up with some ideas of why it is useful based on its:

Nature -- Is it a letter, speech, diary, textbook etc.?   Why might therefore it be useful?   NOTE that, last year, answers which addressed this were less valued by the examiner, who paid more attention to:

      Origin -- who wrote it, when and where?   What context (e.g. in a totalitarian state?)   How might this make it useful?

        NOTE that, last year, answer which addressed this reached level 2.   To get level 3 you had to address:

     Purpose -- Why did the author produce the source (e.g. propaganda, speeches to persuade etc.)?   How does this make it useful?


3.     Look at the CONTENT, and find some way that it is useful to an historian.


NOTE that ideas which come up with general reasons of utility (e.g. ‘diaries give us insight into people’s inner thoughts’) scores less highly that arguments which address the specific context of the source (e.g. ‘this is a diary by Goebbels in 1945 so is shows us his inner thoughts as the war was coming to an end and the Nazis were losing it.’)




Target: Evaluation of the utility of a source (AO 6.3) in context (AO 6.1)



Level 1: Simple statements

Either looks at the provenance or the content and makes a simple factual statement (e.g. ‘It is useful for showing that crowds of people saluted Hitler’.)

Or ‘learned response’: makes simple statements which could apply to any source (e.g. ‘It is useful because it is an official poster and must be accurate.’).



Level 2: Simple points

Either uses the provenance of the source to make statements based on ORIGIN – e.g. it was a Nazi poster and so will be biased).

Or uses the content to make simple comments on the reasons – e.g. it shows people cheering him and I know he was popular at this time.


To get to this level, these ideas MUST include some explanation of why this makes it useful.



Level 3: Developed points

Develops an argument using provenance or content to draw out the purpose of the source and then suggest reasons why it is useful – e.g. it shows us how the Nazis used propaganda to attract support.

Up to level 3 the examiner seems to be looking only for an answer to: 'How is the source useful?'



Level 4: Sophistication

As Level 3, but develops convincing arguments using BOTH provenance and facts/ debating limitations/ showing depth of knowledge to substantiate the arguments about usefulness.

For level 3 the examiner needs an answer to: 'How useful is the source?''



So, for this question, you MUST demonstrate that you can:
1.   Examine the provenances to find differences of origin and purpose

2.   Look at the content to evaluate its usefulness.

3.   Explain how these ideas answer the question HOW the source is useful.




Sentence Starters:


1.    This source is useful because of its provenance…

a.    When I look at the origin of this source I notice...

                   … and this is useful because it helps us to understand how…


b.    When I look at the purpose of this source I notice...

                   … and this is useful because it helps us to understand how…


2.    This source is useful because of its content…

                   … and this is useful because it tells us that…




(in the following examples, you can see the points which were ticked ü by the examiner, and - if you mouseover the maroon 'Mark ' at the end of each example - you can see what level and mark the answer got and why)



All the following answers are actual answers by pupils in the 2005 examination.

  1. For each, study them with a friend and - using the markscheme - work out what mark you would have given the answer and why.   Then mouseover the maroon 'Mark ' at the end of the question and see what it actually got and why.

  2. When you think you have got the measure of 'what makes a good answer', try one of the two 'exam practice' questions at the end for yourself.   Show it to your teacher (or your friend) and discuss what level and mark your attempt would have got.

    The KEY to this question is: 'Have I used PURPOSE to get ideas about usefulness?'.





Source H         A poster saying: 'Yes Leader, we are following you.'

                                A Nazi Party poster of 1933.



(c)    How useful is Source H to an historian studying the attitude of the German people towards Hitler in the year in which he became Chancellor?   Use Source H and your own knowledge to answer the question.                                                                                                                                (9 marks)


a.   Source H is useful to a Historian as its true because Hitler was a leader and the people did follow him he was a powerful chancellor.



b.   Looking at the content of source H, the poster of Hitler in terms of usefulness to a Historian studying German people’s attitudes towards Hitler could be quite useful.

        In the provenance we can see it was put up in 1933, the year he became chancellor, giving it some usefulness already.üL1

        However, from my own knowledge I know that Hitler was imprisoned for an attack during the Munich Putsch, which may have turned the people against him.  However, he turned the people against him.  However, he turned it to his advantage and managed to become chancellor, making him powerful.  This got his people back.

        Again looking at the provenance, the people in the background seem happyüL1and overjoyed that Hitler is reigning in Germany.

        In judgement to the source the historian can note that Hitler was supreme and his people loved him.



c.   I think that source H is not very useful for many reasons first of all, I think that as it was produced by the Nazis, it may not be totally true and therefore not useful.üL2   The poster shows people holding out their right hands, but it does not show who to.  There is a picture of Hitler transferred on top and it does not show that the people are following him.  They could just be following the Nazi party.  The words on the poster suggest that the crowd are solely behind Hitler, not the whole Nazi party.

        As I can see, Hitler is posing as a sole leader, he is not doing the Nazi sign with his right hand in the air as the people are doing.  However, the votes in source E do suggest that the Nazi party had a lot of followers.



d.   The usefulness of Source H to an historian studying the attitudes of German people towards Hitler in the year he became chancellor is very useful.  The poster shows Hitler being the main figure in the middle of the poster being admired by ordering fans behind him and with writing underneath saying ‘ leader we are following you’.

        I know from source H and my own knowledge that opinion polls towards the Nazi’s were at an all time high until the year Hitler became chancellor.  So the poster is very useful to an historian studying German people’s attitudes towards the Nazi’s and Hitler.üL2

        But however the poster may not be as useful as it could be.  The poster says ‘yes leader, we are following you’ Hitler was a leader but not of the country.  He was only Chancellor not fuehrer so that meant not everyone was siding with Hitler and the Nazi’s and though through my own knowledge I know the majority of German people supported the HitlerüL2 and the Nazi’s there was still a minority the still would not follow.

        But overall the usefulness of the poster to an historian would prove useful because the poster even created by the Nazi’s is very useful to a historian studying German attitudes Hitler because through my own knowledge I know that the German people felt like the feeling given by the poster that Hitler was a leader and that they were ready to follow him.



e.   Source H clearly shows a picture of Hitler standing in front of thousands of people, with the words “Yes, leader, we are following you”.  The many people behind Hitler appear to be happy that he is there and are saluting him.  Therefore if anyone saw this poster, they would see that Hitler was very popular and loved by his people,

        The words in the poster make Hitler indestructible almost, because they give the opinion that the people of Germany relied totally on him.üL2   From my own knowledge I know this is fairly accurate. Hitler did have an immense power over the German people, and they did see him as a father figure.  However, this poster was issued in the year Hitler became Chancellor not when he became dictator.  Therefore I think that this poster exaggeratesüL2 how poplar he was, although it does reflect how popular he became.

        Furthermore, the poster was issued by the Nazis in 1933.  Therefore I think that it does reflect some of the love the German people had for Hitler, but it is glorifiedüL2 in an attempt to get the German people to vote for him.

The fact that it was created by the Nazis makes the poster slightly less useful to a historian studying German attitudes to Hitler in this year.  The poster would be deliberately trying to show Hitler in a positive way,üL2 and, although he was very popular at this time, I don’t think he was as popular as the poster makes him out to be.



f.   How useful source H to an historian studying the attitude of the German people towards Hitler in the year in which he became chancellor is very useful.  What can be seen is Hitler’s followers respecting and obeying Hitler, from the People’s faces they are happy and shows no sign of corruption.  I know from my own knowledge that when Hitler became chancellor everyone did love him and respect him because of everything he had promised them in return if they vote for him.ü  And since it was published at the time he became chancellor (1933) it adds to the usefulness and it was also a Nazi party poster to show the thoughts of people about him.  However, the source is also useful because the poster was used as propaganda to influence German Citizens to love himüL3 and follow most importantly it shows what people thought of him on the surface – they lived in terror.

        Overall the usefulness of source H it shows the attitudes of the German people towards Hitler is quite useful, even though their were many hidden grudges towards him, other Germans benefited from his rule as chancellor which shows their attitudes in the poster.



g.   This poster was produced by the Nazi party, so was designed to encourage support of Hitler.  It was basically propaganda.üL3  This is useful to a historian when looking for pubic opinion of Hitler’s rise to power, but it shows how his image as ‘sold’ to the German people by the Nazi party.  It was also created in 1933, when Nazi support was very highü in comparison to previous years.  Overall, this means that it is quite useful in giving a historian a picture of Nazi propaganda and when looking at how and why Nazi support increased in the early 30’s.  It shows how Hitler appeared to the Germans, but shows no real German public opinions, so is only partly useful to a historian.ü

        The poster also holds the claim ‘Leader, we are following you’ to show that Hitler has the support of the public.  I know from my own knowledge that the Nazis gained a record number of seats in parliament that year – 44% of the vote. Therefore, we see that the posters claim can be trusted, and at this moment in time, Hitler had the support of thousands of Terms, even though the poster was designed to attract more.

        Overall, this poster is quite useful to a historian.  It shows Nazi propaganda at a time of success.  The provenance shows the image Hitler portrayed, and the actual content shows he aimed to create support.  I know that at the tie, many Germans did in fact support him, showing that source H is a useful source for a historian looking at Hitler’s image and public opinion in 1933.



h.   From the poster of source H we can see that it is saying that everyone will be obeying Hitler and following him as people do with Gods.üü  It seems as if that everybody loves him and looks up to him as if it is obvious from the poster as the crowd seems to be saluting him and the figure of Hitler is outstanding and striking with character.  There is no hint of opposition and disloyalty at all.  This is a contrast to what I know actually happened.  Although some people genuinely trusted Hitler as there ‘father & mother’ and did think of him as a God, many lived in terrorü as they lost freedom of speech and religion.  Also the poster doesn’t include Communists or Jews as they were being discriminated against and treated like animals therefore the poster does not portray a balanced view of Germany.ü

        The poster was a Nazi poster which automatically decreases its reliability a lot as Nazi’s were under Hitler’s control too and only good things were said about him.  The Nazi’s all supported Hitler so he was obviously going to have a lot of appraisal from a Nazi poster.ü

        Therefore, I can say that the source is unreliable as it isn’t providing a balanced view of everyone, every race in Germany, but in providing only views of the Aaryn race (if even that!) as I know many were unhappy when trade unions were banned.  Also it was a Nazi poster as propaganda at the timeüüL3 (1933) when Hitler was rising to his peak of power.  The only sources that were distributed at this time were Nazi propaganda posters gaining support from the German people because opposition had been abolished.

        Overall, from looking at source’s context and provenance I can say that the source is not very trustworthy, only giving limited formation.  So the source isn’t very useful in the way that it was propagandaüüL3 and could be exaggerating and finding how people actually felt that it can be useful saying what Nazi’s felt towards Hitler.











Source B         Stalin's Purges

                                A cartoon drawn in the form of a travel poster by a Russian living in Paris in the late 1930s.  

                                The caption says: 'Visit the pyramids of the USSR'.

(c)    How useful is Source B to an historian studying the purges of the 1930s?   Use Source B and your own knowledge to answer the question.    (9 marks)  


Source F         Nazi attitudes towards Jewish children

                                From a children's book published in Germany in the 1930s.

                                The picture shows Jewish children being taken out of the school to be taught separately.

(c)    How useful is Source F to an historian studying Nazi attitudes to the Jews?   Use Source F and your own knowledge to answer the question.    (9 marks)  



Answer a          Level: No Level          Mark: 0

•   This seems a little harsh - until you realise that - apart from starting 'this is useful because' - the candidate simply makes a factual statement about Hitler, which has nothing to do with the source or its usefulness.

•   Learn to live in with a situation where - if the examiner thinks you haven't said anything which answers the question, you will get zero.  

•   This is a Grade u answer.  

Answer b          Level: 1          Mark: 2

•   Notice that the first sentence gets no credit until lower down, where the candidate says what attitude the German people were showing ('happy and overjoyed'üL1).

•   Saying that 1933 was the year he became Chancellor and this this is useful also gets a üL1

•   The whole paragraph about the Munich Putsch (1923) is fairly much irrelevant and gets no credit.  

•   This is a Grade G answer.  

Answer c          Level: 2          Mark: 3

•   This pupil gets to L2 when he says that the poster was produced by the Nazis and that it may not be useful because it 'may not be totally true' (he could have said 'may be biased').

•   The rest of the answer is just taken up with random comments about  what the candidate has noticed about the source - Hitler is superimposed/ he is not saluting.   This would only have scored marks if the candidate had explained why this information is useful to an historian.   As it is, it seems more about the reliability of the source than its usefulness.   You must always explain how the points you are making answer the question you were asked.

•   This is a Grade E answer.  

Answer d          Level: 2          Mark: 4
•   The second paragraph 'uses the source and his own knowledge to make a simple point about usefulness' - so this pupil gets to L2.

•   The third paragraph does the same thing to draw out the limitations of the source (it does not tell an historian about the millions who opposed Hitler) - but although this is a clever point, it still only gets a L2.

•   This is a Grade D answer.  

Answer e          Level: 2          Mark: 5
•   This answer only makes simple statements about usefulness (the source is useful because it reflects the truth of Hitler's popularity/ it was created by the Nazis so it is limited because biased)
so it only gets to L2.

•   Note however that - because it makes simple points about usefulness based on the provenance AND the content - it scores at the top of  L2 - 5 marks.

•   This is a Grade C answer.  

Answer f         Level: 3          Mark: 6
ü This candidate was chugging along towards a L2 for most of her answer.   Notice that, in fact, it is not a very lucid answer at all.

•   üL3 But then she added a single sentence which made a stab at explaining the source's usefulness based on its purpose ('propaganda').   Thus - even thought it is not very clear - it gets to L3.   Notice the key words: 'The source is useful because the poster was used as propaganda ... this shows ...'

•   This is a Grade B answer.  

Answer g          Level: 3          Mark: 7

•   üL3 This candidate gets to L3 in his first couple of sentences. - it is propaganda (purpose) and this was useful because it shows an historian how Hitler was 'sold' to the people.

•   The rest of the first paragraph makes some good points - the last sentence is particularly good.

•   The third paragraph is barely relevant, and seems to more about reliability than usefulness.

•   This is a Grade A answer.  

Answer h          Level: 3          Mark: 7

•   The first paragraph makes a couple of points comparing the source to the candidates own knowledge.   Notice that she doesn't really USE this information to make comments about the usefulness of the source.  

•   The second paragraph makes a points about the provenance - but notice how the candidate has strayed off the point and is talking about reliability!   Up to this point, the answer would be lucky to get a L2.

•   But this answer gets a good L3 in the last two paragraphs when it argues that the source isn't useful for telling us about what people really thought because it is Nazi propaganda (i.e. an argument about the source's usefulness based on its PURPOSE.).

•   This is a Grade A answer.