Longdivi's Reviews > Towards A Better Understanding

Towards A Better Understanding by Bernard Norling
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
May 09, 2012

really liked it

This book was published in 1960, intended to prepare incoming college freshmen for the study of history.

The book outlines some very basic approaches that can be employed to study specific incidents, time periods, places, people, etc. For example, history can be approached from an economic perspective, or it can be approached as the study of people (i.e., great leaders or important figures in history). In each case, the author's main point seems to be that it is futile to argue for the study of history from any single approach, stressing the importance of each factor and how it relates to the others. Discounting the economic approach for the "great leaders" approach, or vice versa, would be to limit one's understanding of the subject.

The author illustrates this point in the structure of the book itself: chapters and sub-sections are introduced and organized each according to a different approach to history (e.g. the economic approach and the "great leaders" approach). He then offers, in each case, one or more examples of how this approach can be employed to analyze specific incidents in history.

I can't picture this book resonating very well with college freshmen in 2012, but I found it interesting and it taught me a few things despite my advanced age. Some of the language is quite humorous, as when the author chastises students who write in the manner of "telegrams" and "dime-store detective novels."

I'd give it 5 stars, but there is a bunch of boring stuff about how to write research papers that I sort of skimmed over. Interestingly, his advice on writing research papers runs directly contrary to what I understand to be the contemporary thesis-based approach to college-level academic writing. It seemed like he was advising students to basically regurgitate things they found in other books. He also outlined some organizational techniques involving index cards and other things, most of which are completely out of date.

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Towards A Better Understanding.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.