Pick a book from the list below and write an analytical essay in
which you will identify the primary argument made by the author, review the historical evidence that the author used in support of that argument and provide a critical reaction to the book. Feel free to disagree with the author, but be prepared to back up your argument.
(If you are looking for used books try www.abebooks.com or www.exlibris.com.)
Allen, Danielle, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in
Defense of Equality, New York, Liverwright (2014), a fascinating and highly original
interpretation of the Declaration of Independence as a profession of universal equality.
Ellis, Joseph, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789,
New York, Knopf (2015), a very readable account of how the Constitution was drafted as
told in the form of biographical sketches of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton,
James Madison and John Jay.
Gordon-Reed, Annette, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy,
Charlottesville (VA) and London, University of Virginia Press, 1997. A forensic analysis
of the evidence concerning the sexual relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his
enslaved mistress, Sally Hemmings. This is a prequel to Prof. Gordon-Reeds multiple
award winning The Hemings of Monticello. While perhaps not as well known, this
earlier book is a wonderful example of how the lawyers forensic techniques can be
applied to history.
Johnson, Walter, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, Cambridge
(MA) and London, Harvard University Press, 1999. An award winning history of the
Louisiana slave trade which ably demonstrates how historians use legal records to write
Waldstreicher, David, Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification, Hill and
Wang, New York, 2010. A thought provoking study of the critical role that slavery
played in the drafting of the Constitution.