Review Essay

Due MONDAY, APRIL 1 by 5pm (via email)


By Monday, April 1 [REVISED], students will be required to submit a 5- to 7-page review essay analyzing how Eric Foner’s Gateway to Freedom contributes to the historiography on the Underground Railroad.  The best review essays will deftly summarize the work in question while also explaining with particular examples how the book attempts to expand knowledge about either the institution of American slavery or the nature of the resistance to it.   All essays should have a title page and Chicago-style footnotes.  No bibliography is required.  Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points per day.


  • To demonstrate the key historiographical contributions, students must cite both Foner’s book and additional outside sources, such as reviews, historiographical essays or other academic studies of the Underground Railroad.
  • These type of review essays are mostly about placing historical interpretation into context. They are not like popular movie reviews, offering simple thumbs up / thumbs down opinions.  One helpful way to organize such review essays would be to proceed with this framework:
    • Summarize –What is the author attempting?
    • Analyze – How does the author proceed (in a few revealing examples)?
    • Assess –Why is this work significant (or not)?
  • Remember that historiography is the study of how historical interpretation evolves.  Try to demonstrate shrewd historiographical insights in this review essay.  Here are some special tips for approaching historiography, including an overview from History 404 and some basic Dos & Don’ts
  • On tenses, remember to write about modern historians and their work in the present tense, but to describe historical figures and events in the past tense
  • This assignment will include a peer review component.