Primary Sources

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Historians use both primary and secondary sources to learn about history. For Vermont History Day, YOU get to be the historian who develops a thesis, analyzes primary and secondary sources, and uses evidence to support your argument.

For a topic inspired by current events but connected to the theme of “Debate & Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences,” you could explore Act 250, Vermont's significant land-use law. Passed in 1970, this law created a permitting process for certain types of land development. How did uncontrolled construction in ski towns in the 1960s influence the debates for and against the law? What diplomacy did Governor Deane Davis use to convince legislators to pass the law? What were the successes, failures and consequences of the law that has influenced Vermont land use for over 50 years? Why has Governor Phil Scott proposed changes to the law in recent legislative sessions?

For the larger overview, it can be helpful to start with secondary sources:

As you compare these sources, you might notice differences between a website from the government (State of Vermont) and an advocacy group (Vermont Natural Resources Council). And you might find some hints for places to look for primary sources. How did people understand Act 250 at the time the law was written? What is the impact of Act 250 today?

What are the successes, failures, and consequences? That’s for you to determine and to demonstrate using evidence from the primary and secondary sources that you can find online and in libraries and archives. Good luck choosing a topic and conducting your research!

See other Vermont history topic ideas: Debate & Diplomacy in Vermont History

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