The purpose of a critical analysis/review essay is to evaluate a book, in our case a piece of non-fiction, of historical relevance. Your review should analyze several aspects of the text under consideration, including the argument, content, organization, main themes, and relevance for understanding the historical time period in which it covers (The Scramble for Africa and the period of colonial rule in the late 19th and early 20th century).
A critical review essay is not a book report. It does not summarize the text; rather it analyzes the author’s arguments, evaluates his/her supporting evidence, and determines its contribution to the field of history. Review essays can be full of praise, disdain, or somewhere in-between but always approach the text with a critical perspective.
Again, this is not a book report. You are not simply summarizing the book and what it is about.
Review essays will be graded on your ability to indicate the book’s central thesis, main themes,
evidence, and conclusions.
Try to create an understanding of the book’s historiographical significance, and the contribution
it makes to the field of history. To do this, it is expected that you will use secondary and perhaps even some primary sources to support your argument from both the course assignments and outside material (specifically the FIT Library and Databases). It might be best to begin by finding several academic reviews of the book you are reading. Use these reviews to help you understand both what a review essay looks like and how to construct your own critique of the text. Remember to make use of the textbook and other external readings we have used so far in this course.
You should have a title page, footnotes or endnotes, and a bibliography, as well as page numbers on every page except the title page and the first page. A well-written paper is obviously more effective in presenting an argument than a poorly written one; thus the quality of the writing will affect your grade.
You should make a concerted effort to present a cogent and focused argument in your paper. Your first or second paragraph should state your position clearly and concisely.
Consider your audience to be an educated layperson who wants to understand the author’s thesis,
the key commentary it makes to the historic time period, and your evaluation of it. If you are unclear about the parameters of a Critical Analysis paper, see this link from the
University of Washington’s Writing Center:
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