Russell J. Barber and Frances F. Berdan have created the ultimate guide for anyone doing cross-cultural and/or document-driven research. Presenting the essentials of primary-source methodology, The Emperor's Mirror includes nine chapters on paleography, calendrics, source and quantitative analysis, and the visual interpretation of artifacts such as pictographs, illustrations, and maps.
As an introduction to ethnohistory, this book clearly defines terminology and provides practical and accessible examples, effectively integrating the concerns of historians and anthropologists as well as addressing the needs of anyone using primary sources for research in any academic field. A leading theme throughout the book is the importance of a researcher's awareness of the inherent biases of documents while doing research on another culture. Documents are the result of people interpreting reality through the filter of their own experience, personality, and culture.
Barber and Berdan's reality mediation model shows students how to analyze documents to detect the implicit biases or subtexts inherent in primary-source materials. Students and scholars working with primary sources will particularly appreciate the case studies that Barber and Berdan use to illustrate the practical implications of using each methodology. These case studies not only apply method to actual research but also are fascinating in their own right: they range from a discussion of the debate over Tupinamba cannibalism to the illustration of Nahuatl, Spanish, and hybrid place names of Tlaxcala, Mexico.