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As historians, we are constantly engaged in an ongoing intellectual conversation stretching back generations. The purpose of this assignment is for you to enter this conversation by reading, analyzing, and critiquing the argument presented in an important piece of secondary literature. Each student is to select the secondary readings listed in ONE week of the syllabus and write a short paper summarizing the argument, situating it in the historiography of the Civil War, and analyzing its strengths and weaknesses. For some tips on reading historical scholarship and writing analytical reviews, see the relevant handouts posted in the Writing Resources folder on our class Blackboard site.

Task: In a well-organized, thesis-driven paper of 3-5 pages, students will:

  • briefly summarize the central argument of each piece
  • discuss the methods or sources used by the authors
  • explain how the piece relates to other shared readings from the course
  • evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each piece
  • Do you agree or disagree strongly with either author? Why?


  • All papers should have an introduction and conclusion that clearly state the paper’s central argument.
  • Papers should have a single-spaced heading that includes the student’s name, course number, and date, followed by the paper title. A separate title page is not necessary. All pages should be numbered.
  • Standard formatting rules apply – 12 pt. font, Times New Roman or other standard font, 1” margins, double-spaced.
  • All sources MUST be cited with Chicago Style footnotes (see Chicago Style Citation handout on Blackboard)