Book Review


Hist 33

Santa Monica College

Question Description

Review for book "Haefeli, Evan. New Netherland and the Dutch Origins of American Religious Liberty (2012)."

1. What is the author’s purpose in writing the book? (Use verbs such as "seeks," "wishes," "desires," "wants")

2. What is the book’s thesis? (Use verbs such as "argues," "contends," "asserts")

3. How does the author organize material? What is the logic behind the topics of the chapters, and how do the chapters go together to form the book? There is almost always a fit between the thesis of a book and the logic of the book’s organization. Each points to the other. Thus, if in doubt about the thesis, pay attention to the organizational logic. In the review, include an explicit statement about the fit between the book’s organization and its thesis. This section can also include a brief summary of the book, but make sure that the summary is tied to the issue of organization.

4. To what subfield of history (such as social, political, economic, foreign relations, or cultural and intellectual history) does the book belong? How so? Does the book fit into a particular school of history? How so? Does the author discuss employing or being guided by any notable methodologies (particular ways of studying history, such as quantitative history) or academic theories (particular ways of thinking, such as feminist or postmodern theories), and, if so, which ones? If the author does not discuss methodology or theory, note their absence.

5. What primary sources (sources created during the time of the book’s subject) does the author use to develop the thesis of the book, and why does the author use these particular sources? Do not give just a list of sources; discuss types of sources used and the reasons for relying on certain kinds of sources. Include an explicit statement about the book’s most significant primary sources in light of the author’s thesis. What are the most important secondary sources (sources created after the time of the book’s subject) for the author? Why?

6. Does the author discuss the historiography (the past writing and arguments by historians) of his or her book’s subject matter? If yes, how so? If no, note its absence. How is the book similar to or different from the textbook? Beyond adding more detail, how does the book fit in with the issues raised and discussed in the course reading? In particular, does the book add a different perspective? How so? Does anything discussed in the book connect to an issue in present-day America?

7. How well does the author accomplish the purpose? This section provides an opportunity to make an original, critical evaluation of the book. Address the issues of what is well done, poorly done, and originally done. What are the book’s overall strengths and weaknesses? Are the author’s arguments and uses of evidence, in particular, clear or unclear, strong or weak, convincing or unconvincing? Should a reader agree or disagree with the author’s thesis and conclusions? If a reader is curious about the book’s subject, should he or she choose this particular book?

Writing Guide

Do not print the numbers and questions from the instructions in the paper itself; have the final draft's format look like an essay.

Number the pages of your paper and use parenthetical citations to make reference to the book’s page numbers, such as (Benjamin, 23-24).

Double-space the text.

Do not skip a line between paragraphs.

No title page or report cover is necessary for a short paper.

Avoid the first- or second-person point of view; write instead in the third person.

Write in the present tense when referring to a book’s author (“Benjamin describes the various forms of evidence”) and write in the past tense when referring to past events (“The candidate traveled thousands of miles during the campaign”).

Write in the active voice rather than the passive voice.

With abbreviations, use the full name for the first reference (such as, Federal Bureau of Investigation) and abbreviations for subsequent references (FBI).

But use "US" (meaning United States) only as an adjective and not as a noun.

When referring to a person’s name, use the first and last name for the first reference and the surname for subsequent references.

Use two hyphens--with no spaces before or after--to form a dash.

Avoid dropped quotations: quotations without reference to a speaker or a writer.

Avoid block quotations in short papers. Block quotations are long quotations separated out from the main text of the paper.

In general, try to limit the use of quotations, but be sure to cite any information taken from the book.

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