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Guide to Writing Book Reviews

For our purposes, an ideal book review should:

  • start with full bibliographic details of the book discussed in the heading;
  • summarise the structure, method and main points of the work, which may include some direct quotes (identified by inverted commas and the relevant page no following in round brackets);
  • discuss how the author's arguments fit into other writing on the subject;
  • comment on the range of sources used and how they contribute to the argument;
  • explain the strengths and weaknesses of the book from your point of view;
  • assess whether / how the work will advance relevant debates;
  • acknowledge other sources of information in footnotes and a bibliography.


It may be helpful to look at how other people have reviewed relevant books (such as those listed below) in scholarly journals (typically 1-3 years after the publication date), e.g:

  • Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte: Literaturbericht; Central European History; English Historical Review; German History; Historische Zeitschrift; History: The Journal of the Historical Association; Journal of Early Modern History; Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Geschichte; Sixteenth Century Journal; Zeitschrift für historische Forschung etc.
  • Hardcopies (and in many cases digital versions) of most of these periodicals are held by the UL (search for the respective journal title in the catalogue); an advanced search function for identifying reviews is available in JStor.


Many websites and discussion fora also offer reviews and related materials, see e.g.:

  • Guide to reviewers issued by the Humanities and Social Sciences internet platform H-Net (esp. passages on 'effectiveness', 'content', 'evaluation', 'professionalism')
  • 'H-German' (forum for historians of German-speaking Europe; in English)
  • 'JStor' (providing access to reviews in numerous journals)
  • 'Reviews in History' (compiled by the Institute of Historical Research in London)
  • 'H-Soz-u-Kult' (information platform for social and cultural historians; mostly in German)
  • Historische Rezensionen online: searchable database of online reviews offered by the German history platform "Clio"
  • 'Sehepunkte' (online review journal specializing in historical works; mostly in German)


Assessment and marking criteria - while similar to regular history essays, particular importance is placed on:

  • critical evaluation of source base, methodology, argumentation and conclusions of the book concerned;
  • ability to embed a work into the wider historiography of the field;
  • congenial structuring and lucid presentation of your review.

A first-class review will excel in all these aspects, an upper second will demonstrate good competence / clarity of expression, while lower marks will reflect limited critique, historiographical coverage and lucidity of argument.

The following is not a definitive list but merely suggestive of books you might like to review. If you have other ideas please discuss them with your seminar tutor:

P. Blickle, The Communal Reformation (1992)

Th. A.Brady Jr, The Politics of the Reformation in Germany (1997)

O. Brunner, Land and Lordship (1995)

Close, C. W., The Negotiated Reformation: Imperial Cities and the Politics of Urban Reform 1525-1550 (2009)

C. Scott Dixon, The Reformation and Rural Society (1994)

H.-J. Goertz, The Anabaptists (1996)

K. Hill, Baptism, Baptism, Brotherhood and Belief in Reformation Germany (2015)

H. A. Oberman, Luther: Man between God and Devil (1990)

R. K. Rittgers, The Reformation of the Keys: Confession in 16thC Germany (2004)

L. Roper, The Holy Household. Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg (1989)

U. Rublack, Reformation Europe (2005)

R. W. Scribner, Popular Culture and Popular Movements in Reformation Germany (1987)

G. Strauss, Luther's House of Learning (1979)

P. H. Wilson, The Holy Roman Empire, 1495-1806 (2nd edn, 2011)



The Fuggerei almshouses founded by Jacob Fugger at Augsburg in 1516 [Picture source]