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Historical Book Review- Celia, A Slave (Holmes): Home

Writing a Historiography for Celia, A Slave

Library Research Process: Your research is going to take time so make sure to plan accordingly. Before beginning your research, make sure to have your copy of Celia, A Slave to refer back to.
Next, start researching using reliable and authoritative library resources. As Dual Credit students, you have access to a wealth of information. You may use AHS and EPCC library resources in your research. Begin your research analysis by reading books, journal articles, and periodicals on your topic
Read each piece thoroughly and think about how the historian addresses his/her position or stance on the topic This is what you will be analyzing. Cite the article and write an annotated summary in NoodleTools. Re-read the article and take notes using the notecards in NoodleTools.
After you have completed your library research, organize your notecards into an outline which will help you draft your historiography essay.


  1. Lay out an author’s argument 
  2. Critique the historical argument 

Procedure: (Make notes) 

  1. Research the Author (Melton McLaurin, Celia, A Slave) 
    1. Academic discipline 
    2. Other books, articles, or papers written. How does this book relate to or follow from previous works? 
    3. Awards 
  2. Author’s Approach 
    1. Gender, class, race, politics, labor, law? 
    2. Identify the type of history that is written (makes it easier to determine the historical argument the author is making) 
  3. Summarize the author’s subject and argument (should only consist of a few sentences
  4. What is the structure of the book?           
    1. How is organized? (Chronologically, thematically, by group or historical actors, or some other way?
    2. Does the structure of the work enhance or detract from the argument? 
  5. What kinds of evidence/ sources does the author use to prove the argument? 
    1. Is it based on data, narrative, or both? 
    2. Should some other evidence have been included? Is the evidence convincing? 
    3. Is there part of the historical argument not supported by evidence? (explain)

Library Curated Sources:
You may use these research database articles to help you get you started on your research:
Reference sample: Celia from West"s Encyclopedia on American Law (US History in Context)
Scholarly journal sample: "Mad" Enough to Kill: Enslaved Women, Murder, and Southern Courts from The Journal of African American History (US History in Context)
Periodical (newspaper) sample: Missouri v. Celia, a Slave: She Killed the White Master Raping Her, Then Claimed Self-Defense from The Washington Post (US History in Context)

What Can I Use For My Research?

  • Book Reviews: Use a book review for quick analysis of an author's work. Book reviews provide insight of how the reviewers (usually other historians) react to the author's thesis/ or argument.

  • Books: Books are essential in research because they provide in depth background knowledge. When reading a history book, think about how  the author builds their argument and what do they indicate is the most important part?

  • Magazines/Newspapers: These generally are easier to read and understand. The trick is to figure out the importance of the article to the field as a whole. Quick tip: Look to see if the article is frequently cited by other authors writing about a similar subject.
  • Scholarly Journals: Use scholarly journals as the gold standard when you need original research on a topic Scholarly journal articles are essays written by scholars and/or subject experts, The articles published in scholarly journals go through a "peer-review" process. In other words, the articles are checked by a panel of academics and other experts in the field before the work is published. Thus, the articles are reliable and authoritative Use scholarly journals to support your research with factual documented information.
  • Reference: Reference materials are generalized sources that cover a specific subject, They are organized alphabetically and are often in sets or volumes.These are great starting points for fact-finding, getting background topic information, learning of key events and individuals, or starting a research paper/projects.

Helpful Tip: Read through a book's and/or journal article's bibliography as a research launch pad to locate additional resources.

Assignment Guidelines

Research Steps

Step 1: Choose a topic
Step 2: Research using reliable and authoritative resources from AHS and EPCC Libraries
Step 3: Develop an annotated bibliography using NoodleTools (Chicago style format)
Step 4: Re-read and take notes while evaluating the authors' stances as your are reading
Step 5: Organize your notes and create an outline using the X-123-Y thesis model
Step 6: Write the first draft of your history book review using your outline and notes in NoodleTools
Step 7: Revise and edit your history book review- have a friend or teacher provide constructive feedback
Step 8: Write the final copy of your historiography essay

Organzing Your Historical Book Revew Essay

Common Format: (Historical Book Review)

  1. Introduce the author, the historical period and topic of the book. Tell the reader what genre of history this work belongs to or what approach the author has used. Set out the main argument. 
  2. Summarize the book’s organization and give a little more detail about the author’s sub-arguments. Here you would also work in your assessment of the evidence and sources used. 
  3. Strengths and weaknesses or flaws in the book are usually discussed next. It is up to you to decide in what order these should come, but if you assess the book positively overall, do not spend inordinate space on the book’s faults and vice versa. 
  4. In the conclusion, you may state your recommendations for readership unless that has been covered in your discussion of the book’s strengths and weaknesses. You might review how convincing the argument was, say something about the importance or uniqueness of the argument and topic, or describe how the author adds to our understanding of a particular historical question.