Posted: September 4th, 2022


After completing Enlightenment on Trial, read two of the following reviews:

Norah Gharala, H-Net
 (Links to an external site.)

Michelle McKinley, American Historical Review
 (Links to an external site.)

Nancy Van Deusen, Hispanic American Historical Review
 (Links to an external site.)

Rufus F., Ordinary Times
 (Links to an external site.)

(A pdf of the McKinley review is 


  Download here

; a pdf of the Van Deusen review is 
  Download here.)

Using some (
but not all) of the reflection questions below, analyze the reviews and answer the question: what makes for a “good” book review? Your answer should be between 500 and 750 words. You may use footnotes or parenthetical citations. 

Reflection questions:

What do the reviewers say is Premo’s argument? How do their summaries of the argument differ? Why?

What do the reviewers say about Premo’s source base? Which sources, if any, do they mention?

In which historiographies (conversations among historians about certain questions) do they place Premo’s book? 

What is the authority of the reviewer to provide a review of the book? (Don’t hesitate to Google the reviewer!)

Do the reviewers raise any criticisms of Premo’s work? If so, what are they? Do you agree? 

How does the reviewer tailor (or not!) their review to the audience of the journal or forum for which they wrote the review? 

Which portions of Enlightenment on Trial are featured, highlighted, or emphasized in the reviews? How do these change between reviewer? Why might that be? 

Do the reviewers discuss Premo’s potential biases? The book’s historiographic contributions? Its failings? Directions for further research?

In your opinion, are any of the reviews unjustifiably harsh? Do they wander into the terrain of “this is the book Premo should have written”?

Which review, in your opinion, best captured the “essence” of Premo’s work – her argument, the subject matter, the contribution/importance, etc? 

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