ERIC Number: ED235094
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1983-Apr-6
Reference Count: 0
Good History vs. Bad History: The Changing Art of Book Reviewing.
Bilhartz, Terry David
A content analysis of 560 book reviews published in the "Journal of American History" over the past 30 years reveals changes in the criteria scholars use when evaluating works on history. Data were collected for several categories and then analyzed by computer. The paper begins with a discussion of distinguishing characteristics of reviews for each of the recent decades: (1) reviewers of the 1950's were less concerned with the scholastic contribution of the work and more concerned with its readability and narrative excitement; (2) 1960's reviewers devoted more space to critiquing rather than summarizing the book; (3) by the 1970's histories applying social science methods received high praise, and boldness in interpretation was lauded; (4) current reviewers expect histories to have a sharply focused and well-analyzed thesis. Reviews are then examined according to topic (military, political, and nonsocial histories); historic period (Gilded Age, early national, middle, Civil War, and modern eras), and genre (monographs and biographies). Next, the reviews are examined according to whether the reviewers were Senior scholars (born before 1900), Progressive Age historians (born 1900 to 1920), Depression historians (born 1920 to 1940), or Recent historians (born since 1940). The dates of both the reviewer's birth and the author's birth are also compared. Finally, the publisher and price of a book is compared to the kind of review it received, and the proportion of male to female reviewers is considered. (KC)
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Organization of American Historians (Cincinnati, OH, April 6, 1983).