What is a critical summary of the merits and significance of the book The Jacksonian Era?

1 Answer

geosc's profile pic

geosc | College Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted on

How to examine and evaluate a history book: What is a critical summary of the merits and significance of the book, The Jacksonian Era?

I have not read that book, but I can give some advice about discovering the merits and significance of a history book. First, look at the Table of Contents to see what topics the author writes about and how the author organized the book. Sometimes the Table of Contents is a good outline of the book. Next, look at the Index to see what topics have the most pages listed under them. It may help you to read a few pages for the most indexed topics. Third, check whether the book has either 1) an introduction, preface, or prologue, or 2) a conclusion, summary, or epilogue. If the book has a section which falls into either one of these categories, read it (or them). This part of the book will usually tell you what the author thinks is significant and meritorious about the book. By now you may have discovered enough to write your summary. If not, check the beginning and end of each chapter. Sometimes chapters are introduced or summarized in one or a few paragraphs. If you still do not have enough information to write your summary, you may have to read the whole book. As you read, look for clues from the author, as to what the author thinks is important. Sometimes, the author will tell you "this is important." Other times you will figure it out because the author has written a longer discussion about one or a few topics, than about the rest of the topics in the book.  And if you still feel lost, make an appointment with your professor to ask for more guidance in how to read the book or write the summary.  (And, since your summary is to be critical, you must give your own opinions.  For example, "I have never read anything about the Jacksonia era, so I cannot compare to other authors' works, but I had an economics course last year, and the author's interpretation of xyxbxmz just does not ring ture to me because of ...."  Or "In my experience, people just do not do what the author describes for the reasons the author gives; instead people do that for these reasons: ....")