The review article “Gulag Historiography: An Introduction”, written by Wilson T. Bell, a former visiting professor at Dickinson College, attempts to explain what an actual Gulag is. Although the term was originally used as an acronym for Stalin’s labor camps, it currently is used to describe various forms of labor camps all over the world along with having numerous definitions. The second review article, written by Steven Maddox and has no title, compares two books: Preserving Petersburg: History, Memory, Nostalgia–a compilation of essays edited by Helena Goscilo and Stephen M. Norris– and From Ruins to Reconstruction: Urban Identity in Soviet Sevastopol after World War II, written by Dickinson College professor, Karl D. Qualls. This review article reviewed the two books on how they “discuss issues of urban identity, historic preservation, and persistence of local memories and cultures in St. Petersburg and Sevastopol” (Maddox 241).
Although both articles are review articles, they are very different types. Bell’s article reviewed the history of the word “gulag”, which called for the use of many different sources. About half of each page consisted of footnotes. It wasn’t focused on specific works, but rather the topic as a whole.
Maddox’s article goes into great depth on each of the books, while comparing and contrasting the two books. Maddox’s positive review had me intrigued and interested in reading the books he was reviewing. At the end of the review, I found it interesting how Maddox’s questions for the authors truly demonstrated how closely related the two books are to each other, and how there are avenues for greater exploration on the topics.
Overall, I found both reviews extremely well written and interesting. Although they were both different types of reviews, the common theme between the two is that they both easily explain their concepts and ideas to the reader.
Is it more effective to cover a topic using many different sources, or to focus the topic with just a few?
This is a well written comparison and analysis of the two review essays. It intrigued me how each page of Bell’s essay was more than half footnotes. To me, this showed just how integral all of the different sources are to constructing the essay. In response to your question, I think that many different sources are more effective because they can give a wider variety of viewpoints on the topic.
I think that it is hard to determine which of the two methods of review that you mentioned would be more effective, as they serve different purposes. The Bell review, as you noted, is a review of a particular area of historiography. As a result, it focuses less on the assessing the quality of the sources themselves and more on creating an accurate portrait of the Gulag and suggesting how this portrayal could be built upon by future studies. Conversely, the Maddox review would be more useful to student searching for sources for an upcoming research paper or for a professor/academic trying to decide whether the books being discussed would be appropriate for a particular syllabus. Ultimately, I feel that the effectiveness of these two review styles is dependent upon the needs of the reader.