Friday, December 10, 2010

How to write a brilliant history essay

1. Select your title with care making sure it gives you plenty of scope for discussion. Check with me of you're not sure. Then look at the title you have chosen. What is it asking? Underline the key words. These should appear throughout the essay.
2. The aim is to get beyond simple narrative and produce an argument or analysis. Sort out your views before you start.
3. The opening paragraph should refer directly to the question and should state what your argument is going to be.
4. The middle (and longest) section of the essay will be a statement of the argument. You will be making (probably) three or four main points. Your paragraphs should link. Use words or phrases like, ‘Another example of ...’, ‘However, it can be argued that ...’, ‘Nevertheless ...’
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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Who defeated Napoleon?

[Above is a picture of the Russian general Kutizov at Borodino in 1812.]

You might be interested in this review in the Spectator of Dominic Lieven's Russia against Napoleon (Allen Lane, 2009).

This quotation from the review gives a flavour of the whole:
What [Lieven] is keen to demonstrate is that because the campaigns of 1813-14 are generally buried, so to speak, beneath the snows of 1812, the real quality of the Russian army remains unseen. For here was an army that followed up its success by fighting through Prussia all the way to Paris, a considerable feat of logistics, command and control as well as of arms — and without the depredations of the Red Army the following century. Indeed, when they marched home again, Alexander’s troops were feted in many a German town.
In all this, Lieven makes a compelling case that Russia is the biggest gap in contemporary Western understanding of the Napoleonic era, and that study reveals a hitherto hidden military quality. The book stands, therefore, as an essential reference.