Review: Going to the sources : a guide to historical research and writing

Going to the Sources

Going to the Sources

Dr. Anthony Brundage earned his PhD from UCLA in 1970 and his popular historiography, “Going to the sources : a guide to historical research and writing “ was first published in 1989. This review is of the new 4th edition, published in 2013. Intended to be an introduction to the art and science of doing history Brundage managed to explain the schools of historical thought on agency, what causes history to happen as it does, in a short 18 pages. He had to cut to the bone of the ideas and the explanations are not in depth but for an introductory text such as this they work.

The remaining chapters are just as cursory but they accomplish the goals of the writer by providing a basic understanding of the different types of sources, how to locate them, how to read them and what skills a historian will need. I wish I could endorse the work as a basic introduction to the field of history but I cannot.

Although Brundage goes to great lengths to explain intellectual honesty and its importance he neglects the issue that took the forefront in every college class I have attended in the last decade, plagiarism. What makes Brundage’s omission stand out is the praise he heaps on a historian exposed as a serial plagiarist. Although the facts of the case were not public when the book was first published they were well known in time for both the 3ed and 4th editions to be revised. I am concerned how including high praise for a known plagiarist in an introductory work will influence new students. Could an introductory book on finance praise Bernard Madoff?

In spite of the advantage of this book’s brevity I would have to recommend looking for an introduction to the field of history that is more than serviceable and one that makes it clear that doing your own work is not simply a virtue, it is a necessity.

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Filed under Book review, Education, History

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