Synopses & Reviews
In this unique new book, two history professors team up to teach you not only how to think like a historian but how to write persuasively like one too. Intended for anyone being introduced to historical analysis and the basics of clear historical writing, the book examines the process of writing history from two different perspectives. The first is in a series of thoughtful essays from Sylvie Murray on America’s involvement in World War II and how it has subsequently been portrayed. Murray examines three periods—the buildup to war, the war effort on the home front, and the return to peacetime—trying to recapture the mixed emotions of each period and the larger forces shaping public opinion and the notion of citizenship. Her approach challenges traditional themes of “the greatest generation” and “the good war” to show how ordinary Americans responded to the call to arms and why views changed as the war effort progressed. She also examines the central role that propaganda played in mobilizing the public and excising dissent from the history of the war. The second perspective offers a look into the process of writing itself. At various points in the book, the noted historian Robert Johnston chimes in to critique Murray’s prose, demystifying her analytical techniques while helping readers become more critical readers of all historical writing.
“Sylvie Murray delivers a master class in the writing of history for serious readers and students of American history. Her ingenious book of nine short essays on our nation's involvement in World War II . . . illustrates the critical role of interpretative choices in presenting history.” —Shelf Awareness “This slim book could make an awful lot of people mad. And thats a good thing. Author Sylvie Murrays target is the mythology growing like barnacles around popular history. Its epitome is the 'Greatest Generation' ancestor worship popularized by Tom Brokaw, spun out of Hollywood melodramas often far removed from the gritty textures of real life during wartime . . . Murray tackles this task with provocative candor. She demonstrates that our past is a moving target, and understanding comes from constantly unearthing, interpreting, and reinterpreting evidence—and arguing over the results . . . This admirable experiment is aimed at college undergrads, but any history buff would profit from arguing seriously with it.” —Gene Santoro, World War II Magazine “This unique and provocative collaboration provides an insightful look at the historiographical debates surrounding World War II. At the same time, it offers a behind-the-scenes look at how historians pursue their craft.” —Elaine Tyler May, author of Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era
An indispensable tool for high-schoolers, undergraduates, or even amateur enthusiasts, Writing World War II teaches the craft of history writing—by example. In a series of thoughtful essays, Sylvie Murray examines American involvement in World War II and how it has subsequently been portrayed by historians. Murray addresses three broad topics—the prelude to war, the war effort on the home front, and the atypical experiences of soldiers—in an effort to recapture the mixed emotions of the time and the larger forces shaping public opinion. Her work challenges the traditional notions of “the greatest generation” and “the good war,” and explores viewpoints that have been largely ignored in popular retellings. The book serves a dual purpose, critiquing the approaches of various historians while at the same time offering Murrays own writing as a model for constructing a persuasive essay. But as Murray is rightly critical of one-sided historical arguments, Writing World War II offers another layer of analysis and instruction throughout. At various points in the book, her fellow historian Robert D. Johnston chimes in to assess Murrays prose, demystifying her techniques while helping you to become more critical of all sorts of historical writing—including your own.
About the Author
Sylvie Murray teaches American history at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Robert Johnston is a professor of history at the University of Illinois-Chicago.