Under the category of “Context” the book review assignment says:
Context: What is the background of the author? Is their personal background relevant to the subject of the book? What is the historical context, the time period discussed by the book? What other books discuss the same kinds of things, and how does this book compare? Note that your textbook is an invaluable resource for comparisons and context.
Obviously, there are several different issues going on here, but they basically fall into two categories: Historical context and Historiographical context.
Historical context is about how the material in your book fits with the rest of what’s going on in the world at the time: if you’re writing about Japanese 19th century industrialization, for example (nobody is, unfortunately), you’d want to note that Japan was a late industrializer compared to other major industrial nations, that it was the age of unequal treaties, and that industrialization happened at the same time as the rise of nationalism, parliamentarianism, and imperialism.
Historiographical context, on the other hand, is about how the book fits with the rest of the books written on the same topic: what are the normal interpretations of this event and how does this book change that; who is this book arguing with, and why?
In both cases, your textbook is a good starting place, because it does look at the broader context, and because it represents a kind of “current consensus” on most issues. Sometimes the book itself will describe the context for you; sometimes you have to work at it a bit.
* Yes, the context assignment was supposed to be due Friday the 6th, but I forgot to mention it in class, so I’m pushing it back to Monday the 9th.