Book Essays

Hist 102: World History Since 1500 (Spring 2012)

Book Essays

20% of the course grade

For each assignment, using the assigned book and course materials, answer the question in a 700-1500 word essay (page count will depend on spacing, etc.). Essays are to be handed in as printed/paper copies, at the beginning of class on the day assigned. Late papers are accepted, but will be penalized as described in the syllabus.

Eating History
Due in class, 3/16 (F)

Based on Smith’s evidence, for either the 19th century (1800s) or 20th century (1900s), explain which of the following factors was most influential in changing the food habits of average Americans: Politics, immigration, or media (print and broadcast). Don’t just list every mention of the topic in the index or chapter titles; don’t assume that a chronological structure is the most effective; explaining why one factor is important without comparing it to the others is not an answer to the question. Some of the chapters you’ll need to reference will be fairly obvious, but you should be careful to consider the whole work.

The Sunflower
Due in class, 4/23 (M)

Based on the evidence of The Sunflower, book one, both Wiesenthal’s experiences and the German testimony he relates, why did the Holocaust of the Jews happen in WWII? Look for both stated reasons (words like “We did this because…”) and incidents or statements that aren’t intended to explain things but nonetheless give you clues to the behavior and beliefs of the people involved. You’re not trying to research a balanced historical answer, but to explain what a witness and participant in the history, like Wiesenthal, might conclude. For the purposes of this essay, assume that Wiesenthal’s account of the words and actions of the Germans in the story are reliable and representative.

Instructions and Guidance

  • This is an essay assignment, not a book report or homework: I am expecting introduction, thesis statements, paragraphs, conclusions, etc.
    • Don’t assume that “an answer” will be easily found in one section of one book, or in the textbook. These essays require careful reading, analytical thinking, and substantial evidence.
    • Be concrete: evidence is always more convincing than generalization or simple logic. In fact, it’s the entire point of the assignment: using evidence to generate an answer to a real historical question. Showing me that you’ve read and considered the evidence carefully is an important part of the assignment.
    • Don’t summarize the reading materials: describe or quote the evidence you need to answer the question, with proper citations so your reader can find your source, but don’t waste time by repeating easy-to-find or irrelevant material.
    • Your essay should have a point, also known as a thesis, and a conclusion in which you clearly show your reader what your answer is to the question at the beginning of the essay.
    • This is not a five-paragraph theme: if you give me an intro, three body paragraphs with one piece of evidence each, and a weak conclusion, you will do very poorly.
  • The grade is based primarily on the strength of your argument as an answer to the question: thesis, evidence (completeness and handling), logic.
    • Basic courtesies like correct spelling and writing in grammatical standard English will be expected.
    • Clarity is crucial; structure is essential to a clear and effective argument. Paragraphs, topic sentences, thesis statements, are all essential elements to a properly structured essay.
  • Citations and Plagiarism
    • failure to acknowledge the source of your ideas or information is unacceptable. Plagiarism will result in no credit for the exam. Poor paraphrasing and poor citation will be penalized.
    • A Works Cited or Bibliography page is not required unless you use sources outside of the course readings and lectures. You must cite the source of information and ideas that are outside of “general knowledge,” including information from your course texts. Format of the notes is up to you: I prefer Chicago Manual of Style footnotes for my research, but parenthetical citations are fine as well; any format will be fine as long as it is used consistently and it clearly identifies the source and page of your information.
    • These questions can be answered more than adequately with reference to assigned readings and lectures. Using outside sources instead of course materials will result in penalties.
  • Technical Details
    • Make sure that your name, section, e-mail address and the question are clearly indicated at the beginning of each essay. Title pages are not required.
    • The assigned word count is what I think a decent, responsible answer to the question requires. Penalties for failing to meet the word count requirement will be real, but what’s more important is that writing more or less than assigned is almost certainly evidence that you’ve not properly understood or answered the question.
    • Double-spacing and title pages are not required, but readable type and font are.
    • Essays are due in class as printed/paper copies on the assigned date.  Emailed files will only be proof of completion, but will not be graded; printed copies of the essays must be delivered within 24 hours, and must be identical to the emailed files.