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Essaying the Past: How to Read, Write, and Think about History / Edition 3

Essaying the Past: How to Read, Write, and Think about History / Edition 3

by Jim Cullen Jim Cullen
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Pub. Date:
Essaying the Past: How to Read, Write, and Think about History / Edition 3

Essaying the Past: How to Read, Write, and Think about History / Edition 3

by Jim Cullen Jim Cullen
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Learn to craft the perfect historical research paper with this approachable and practical guide

Essaying the Past: How to Read, Write, and Think about History, 4th Edition continues the tradition of excellence established by the previous editions. Equal parts research manual, study guide, and introduction to the study of history, this book teaches readers how to write excellent historical prose with approachable strategies and actionable tips.

Noted teacher and writer Jim Cullen has created an invaluable resource for novices and experts in the field of historical study, offering practical insights into determining how questions should be framed, developing strong introduction and topic sentences, choosing evidence, and properly revising your work.

Essaying the Past includes six appendices covering the major issues facing students today, including the pitfalls and temptations of plagiarism and the role of the internet. It also contains an annotated case study outlining one student’s process of writing an essay and demonstrating the application of the concepts contained within the book. Essaying the Past covers topics including:

  • How to think and read about history and ask the right questions about what you’re reading
  • The three components of crafting a compelling argument
  • How to deal with counterarguments and counterevidence
  • How to properly construct a bibliography and insert footnotes
  • How to assess the credibility of online resources

Perfect for students taking surveys or courses in methods or historiography, Essaying the Past also belongs on the bookshelf of anyone with even a passing interest in studying, researching, consuming, or writing about history.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781119111900
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 12/19/2016
Edition description: Third Edition
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

JIM CULLEN, PHD, received his doctorate in American Studies from Brown University and is the author of many books and anthologies. His articles and reviews have appeared in prestigious publications, including The Washington Post, USA Today,, the Journal of American History, and the American Historical Review. Jim has taught at Harvard University and Sarah Lawrence College and is a member of the faculty at the Greenwich Country Day School in Greenwich, Connecticut.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition vii

Preface to the Third Edition xi

Preface to the Fourth Edition xiii

Acknowledgments xvii

Introduction to the Student: Why Would You Look at a Book Like This? 1

Part I Thinking and Reading about History 5

1 History: It’s about Time 7

2 What’s the Story with History? 15

3 The Sources of History 21

4 Good Answers Begin with Good Questions 31

5 Search Engines, Research Ingenuity 37

6 How to Read a Book without Ever Getting to Chapter One 47

Part II Writing about History 61

7 Analysis: The Intersection of Reading and Writing 63

8 Making a Case: An Argument in Three Parts 73

9 Defining Introductions 81

10 Strong Bodies (I): The Work of Topic Sentences 95

11 Strong Bodies (II): Exposition and Evidence 103

12 Strong Bodies (III): Counterargument and Counterevidence 115

13 Surprising Conclusions 123

14 Scaling the Summit: Crystallizing Your Argument 131

15 Writing is Rewriting: The Art of Revision 137

16 Putting It All Together: The Research Essay (A Case Study) 145

Conclusion: The Love of History 165


A Writing an Essay: Ten Easy Steps in Review 169

B Essay Varieties: DBQs, Reviews, and Comparison Assignments 171

C Let’s Give a Hand: Bibliographies and Footnotes 177

D Credit Scams: The Dangers of Plagiarism 187

E Web of Lies? Weighing the Internet 191

F A Glossary of Key Terms 195

G More Reading about Writing 201

Index 203

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for the first edition:

“There's a level of sophistication in Essaying the Past that is disguised by its utterly clear and engaging style. Jim Cullen tells students just what they need to know to write about the past.”
Mari Jo Buhle, Brown University

“The ultimate insider’s guide to historical writing, the new gold standard in the field.”
Kerry Walk, Otis College of Art and Design

Praise for the second edition:

“Newly revised and better than ever, Essaying the Past remains the single most useful resource for history students and instructors in high school and college.”
Burke Miller, Northern Kentucky University

“Jim Cullen presents a compelling case for the historical essay as a tool of learning and plots the course for success with a rare combination of clarity, sophistication, humor, and easy candor.”
James E. Wadsworth, Stonehill College

“A clear, concise and engaging guide to the practice of history. Jim Cullen excels in walking students through all the steps of researching and writing a persuasive paper.”
Carter Jones Meyer, Ramapo College of New Jersey

“In this first-rate book, Jim Cullen delivers a concise and accessible guide to the critical work that historians do: reading, writing, and thinking about history. Students will find it informative and a pleasure to read.”
Elizabeth Smith-Pryor, Kent State University

“With lucidity, verve, and empathy, Cullen lays the writing process bare, including fumbles, setbacks, and paths not taken. In analyzing the writing of history, he also shows why it matters.”
Roberta Pergher, The University of Kansas

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