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"Book review" for Yale History Ph.D. application

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Hello all. I'm applying for a number of Ph.D. programs, and almost all of them have more or less the same requirements. But Yale has not only a special section where, if you have been away from your academic or professional path for more than 4 months (!) you have to explain it, but also a book review section.

  • Book review (maximum two pages, to accompany the application. It should cover the book that has most shaped the applicant's understanding of the kind of work he or she would like to do as a historian.)

I've done a few book reviews for food history journals (Gastronomica, Food, Culture, & Society) but I'm not sure I know what they want here. I don't think I'm supposed to pretend I'm an expert, but is it a review or am I supposed to describe how it changed me as a historian?

Any advice from past Yale applicants (and, if possible, current Yale students)?

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  • 2 weeks later...

You should do all the things in it that you would in a standard review. Put the book in its historiographic context, break down the argument, methodology, source base, and cover its strengths and weaknesses. Don't make it personal. The committee should understand why that book has shaped your understanding of the kind of work you want to do after they've read your personal statement, so you don't need to make that explicit in your review.

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