History 111 Critical Book Review Assignment
Critical Book Review Assignment
Assignment: Write a critical book review of Bernstein’s A Splendid Exchange, through Chapter 7.
A book review is not the same as a book report—you do not retell the story of the book, or tell me your personal reactions to it. Instead, a book review provides critical analysis and scholarly assessment of a work.
Begin your review with the author, title, and publication information in standard bibliographic form, as follows:
William J. Bernstein, A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World (New York: Grove Press, 2008).
Your answers to the following questions will form the substance of your review. Incorporate your answers, in the order given below, into a well-crafted essay, devoting one or two paragraphs to each question.
1. What is the author’s purpose in writing the book?
Why did he write it?
What perceived need was he trying to fill?
2. What is the author’s thesis or main argument?
Historians do not just report the past. They interpret evidence and use it to craft arguments about how and why they believe events in the past occurred.
What does Bernstein want to convince you of—what does he want you to believe when you’ve finished the book?
3. How does the author organize the material?
What is the logic behind the topics of the chapters, and how do the chapters work together to make a book?
There is almost always a “fit” between the thesis of a work and its organizational logic.
Note: do NOT say “the book is organized into chapters”!!! I’m looking for deeper insight and analysis.
4. What sources does the author use to support and develop the thesis of the book?
What are the different kinds of sources used?
Why did he choose these sources?
In what ways are these particular sources reliable and useful?
In what ways do they present problems or challenges?
5. What is your overall assessment of the book? Explicitly answer all the following questions.
How well does Bernstein accomplish his purpose (as stated in question1?
Do you find his argument (the thesis you stated in question 2) convincing?
Why or why not?
Again, I am not looking for whether you liked or enjoyed the book. Use this section to make an original critical evaluation. Address the issues of what the author does well, what he does poorly, what he does originally, and so forth.
Length: At least 1,000 words. There is no maximum length.
Format: Since you will not turn in a paper copy of the essay, it may be single- or double-spaced, as you
prefer. A separate title page is unnecessary, but do include your name at the top of the first page. A
bibliography is not necessary for this assignment.
If you quote directly from Bernstein’s book, enclose the phrase in quotation marks and include the page
number in parentheses after the quote. Do not let quotations stand alone; always incorporate a quote
into a sentence (e.g., Heloise’s reply was bitter: “quote”) and then follow the quote with your analysis.
No paragraph should end with a quote.
When you paraphrase ideas from readings in your own words, be careful to attribute them properly; e.g.,
“Bernstein claims . . .”, etc. Make sure your reader can tell which words or ideas are another author’s
and which are your own.
Use quotations sparingly—this is your paper, and the bulk of it should be written by you in your own
words, providing your analysis.
Bring an outline of your review essay to class on Monday, May 9.
The final paper is due before the beginning of class, Monday, May 16. Submit it electronically to the
D2L dropbox (no paper copy necessary).
Plagiarism: Be sure you are familiar with DePaul’s Academic Integrity policy. Plagiarism will result in a
grade of F for the assignment.
Grading criteria: See the grading rubric posted on D2L. In addition to assessing how well you answer each
of the questions in the assignment, I concentrate on three areas:
how well you have understood the author’s ideas,
the logic and persuasiveness of your analysis and argument, and
conformity with rules of standard English grammar and spelling and lack of typographical errors.
Careful proofreading and editing are important if you hope for an above-average grade.