Essay Review of a Book on Michigan History

Our course is a survey of the grand sweep of Michigan history, as presented in a textbook.  In order to give you the opportunity to learn more about a particular aspect of the state’s history, I want you to read a book on the history of Michigan to be selected from the books listed in the Michigan History Bibliography (see Blackboard/Course Information/Bibliography of Michigan History), selecting from a category that most interests you.  I suggest that you take the list with you to the library and leaf through potential books before you make your selection. I want you to enjoy reading this book!


For this assignment, you will write a 5-7-page paper that critically analyzes and reflects on the subject matter of the book.  Note that this assignment is not a book review but rather asks for you to write an essay review of the chosen book.  In addition to the particular information included in the work, you should think about how the author put the work together—the sources he or she used, the particular approach taken, whether it is intellectual, social, or cultural history, etc.  That is, I want you to explore the kind of process that historians engage in. 


In organizing your paper, please follow the format outlined below.  You should discuss the historical narrative presented in the book—laying out the major points and themes covered by the author (see the format under items #1 and #2 listed below).  Second, you should analyze the way in which the author presents the material and then mention whether you believe he or she is successful in covering the topic.  Finally, you should compare and contrast the way(s) in which the book corresponds to the treatment of the topic in our textbook (if at all) or in class lectures.


The aim of this exercise is two-fold:  (1) for you to learn more about a particular topic, based on reading a historical monograph, and (2) to reflect on the historical process of examining evidence and constructing narratives and arguments that present informed accounts of events, people, social movements, cities and regions, time periods, etc. 




Your essay review should be formatted as you would any other formal paper:  it should be typed and double spaced, using 12 point font.  It should be constructed as follows:


This should include your name, the course number, and the instructor’s name, single-spaced at the top of the first page.  Then provide the publication information for the book you are reviewing in place of a paper title.  See the following example (and note that you need to include the number of pages in the book):


Thomas J. Sugrue.  The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit.  Princeton, N.J.:  Princeton University Press, 2005.  403 pp.


Body of the paper:
In fashioning the essay review, be sure to follow the format listed below (although you may find that the questions you ask of your book are different from these general ones!):


1.     Identify the thesis of the book. 


a.    Why is the author writing? 


b.    What is the message he/she is attempting to convey? 


c.     Why does it matter, that is, what is the significance of the topic?


2.     Summarize the book. 


a.    How is it organized? 


b.    What is the focus of its chapters? 


c.     What kinds of historical evidence does the author use to support his/her argument (that is, archival records, oral histories, secondary sources, etc.)?


3.     Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the book. 


a.    In what way is the author’s argument compelling? 


b.    What aspect is particularly persuasive? 


c.     Where does it fall short? 


d.    Is anything missing?


4.     Place the book in the context of the course. 


a.    How does the book fit in with the material we have covered in the textbook, our lectures, and discussions? 


b.    What does it add to your understanding of the historical topic it addresses that is different from the textbook? 


c.     How does it compare to the coverage of the particular topic (if any) given in our textbook? 


5.     Conclusion.


a.    Sum up your assessment of the book.  One way to conclude is to note whether, were you to write an account of this topic, you would go about it in the same way as the author. Why or why not? In short, do you think this was a good book and that you learned something interesting from it?


Note on plagiarism.  You will be submitting your paper via SafeAssign, which provides a report about the web pages you may have visited in putting your paper together.  DO NOT COPY AND PASTE FROM SOMEONE ELSE’S REVIEW OF YOUR BOOK!  I want to know what YOU think of this book, not what anyone else does.  If you plagiarize, you will receive 0 points for the assignment, which will bring down your course grade by one letter.


Finally:  Save the file using your last name, for example:  “Richmond_Essay review” and then submit it to SafeAssign:  Blackboard/Course Information/Essay Review.  Note:  I cannot accept files sent via email.


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