Writing a thorough book review (1200 Words).
Be sure to provide a full citation for the book you are reviewing at the top of your review: Author, Title (Place, Date). Also be sure to put your name on your paper.
All book reviews require the following elements: a discussion of the topic of the book, a presentation of the book’s thesis (or lack of a thesis if this is the case), a discussion of the historiographical context* in which the book is presented, a discussion of the organization/structure of the book, i. e. number of chapters, sections, the main arguments of the individual chapters, whether it is has a bibliography, whether it has an index, whether there is a scholarly apparatus of foot notes or end notes, a discussion of the sources used by the scholar, and finally an assessment of the success of the work in terms of argument, presentation, and style, including an assessment of the likely audience for this work. In discussing the sources, it is important to address the question of how the author uses particularly types of sources to answer particular kinds of questions.
*The historiographical context of a book is the overall discussion of this topic by previous scholars. It is almost never the case that an author is the first one to address a historical question. In almost every case, the historian is responding to what other earlier scholars have written about the topic. In some cases the historian whose work you are reading disagrees with previous scholarly views. In some cases, the historian whose work you are reading thinks that previous scholars have missed a valuable issue, and seeks to address this issue in his or her own study. Whatever the case may be, your task is to inform the reader regarding your author’s discussion of previous scholarly treatments of the issue, and the ways in which your author intends to challenge or augment previous work on the topic.
In fairness to the readers of the review, who depend on the review for a decision about whether the book is worth reading or even purchasing, the reviewer must strive to provide an impartial presentation of the author’s intent in the subject matter and thesis. Once these have been presented, it is then the reviewers obligation to state his or her opinion about whether the book succeeded in discussing the subject matter in a compelling manner and whether the author made his or her case with regard to the thesis. Similarly, it is the reviewers task to examine carefully both the scholarly works and the sources employed by the author to see if there are significant gaps, e. g. no scholarship in German, no citations to Latin texts but only to English translations.