World History


Then Again




The Book Review



I. The Purpose

Book reviews are one of the most common forms of historical writing. This assignment not only gives a chance to practice this form of writing, it should also help sharpen your skills at evaluating historical scholarship. Finally, this exercise should help you fulfill the requirement in the research paper of including an historiographic controversy.

II. The Assignment

You are to write a book review of one of the monographs you are using in writing your research paper. This review should be between 350 and 500 words. This essay will be worth 10 points.

III. The Procedure

  • 1. Select one of the monographs you have read while working on your research paper.
  • 2. Write a brief book review based on the models you have found in the historical journals. While a good book review need not have all of these features, unless there is compelling reason a book review should:
    • a. Provide a complete bibliographic listing for the work.
    • b. Provide a brief biography of the author and provide some assessment of the author's qualifications for writing a book of this kind.
    • c. State the author's thesis and summarize the author's argument.
    • d. Describe the kinds of evidence the author uses to arrive at the thesis.
    • e. Offer a critique of the argument pointing out both its strong points and its weaknesses. Your critique should focus on the question, "Has the author proven the thesis?" Based on the evidence presented, has the author given you good reasons for believing the thesis true? Has the author overlooked significant evidence which might call the thesis into question? Can the evidence be looked at from a different point of view which might lead to other conclusions?
    • f. Make some effort to place the work in a wider context of historical writing. What other books have been published on this subject and how does this one differ? [This will be the most difficult part of the assignment. You might wish to use your own research as a point of comparison.]
    • g. Offer some suggestions for further research. What new questions does this book raise?
  • 3. After you have written your review, find a review of that same book in one of the professional historical periodicals. Make a copy of that review and attached it to yours.

IV. Evaluation

This book review will be based on the following criteria:

  • 1. Is the book review written following the conventions of English grammar and spelling?
  • 2. Does the book review follow the conventions for book reviews found in professional historical journals?
  • 3. Does the review demonstrate understanding of the author's thesis and argument?
  • 4. Does the review attempt to place the book in the context of an historiographic debate?
  • 5. Did you attach a copy of a professional review of the book you reviewed?

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