This exercise asks you to analyse and evaluate a published article or book-chapter. Essentially, you are trying to decide what the paper is trying to achieve and whether it is any good. Read the paper carefully and try to identify the key point(s) the author is trying to make and the evidence on which the argument is based. Now you have to decide whether the argument is convincing. You should consider the author’s choice of data, how it is handled, and the validity of the arguments the author makes. (E.g. if your article is about the realities of Roman farming and the only evidence the author uses is Vergil’s Georgics (a poem), you might question the choice of evidence and suggest something more appropriate, e.g. archaeological survey results. If, on the other hand, the article is about the representation of farmers and farming, the Georgics would be appropriate evidence.) You should also try to place the article and the theories and ideas presented in it within their broader academic context. How does the paper position itself in relation to prior scholarship on the subject?
Does it draw on particular key pieces of earlier work? If so, does it try to build on them, modify or correct them, overturn them, or apply them to new data? To do all of this, you will have to read around: you are unlikely to be able to do a good job of the article critique if you read only the assigned paper. The select bibliographies on the following pages should get you started. You can also use the lecture and seminar bibliographies above and the reference bibliographies on MMS to find relevant further reading. You should present a full bibliography of other works you have used and should properly reference any ancient or modern texts (including the article itself) and any archaeological sources you mention. Your review should be clear, fair and as objective as you can make it. In this context, ‘critical’ evaluation means analytical, not just negative!
The final part of the challenge is to cram all of this into 2000 words (or fewer). This is a key skill and over-length work will be penalised. Bibliography to use: Greene, K., ‘Technological innovation and economic progress in the ancient world: M.I. Finley reconsidered’, The Economic History Review 53 (2000) 29-59. Finley, M.I., ‘Technical innovation and economic progress in the ancient world’, The Economic History Review 18 (1965), 29-45. Humphrey, J., Ancient Technology (London, 2006), chapter 8 (‘Technology, innovation and society in antiquity’). Lavan, L., ‘Explaining technological change: innovation, stagnation, recession and replacement’, in Lavan, L., Zanini, E. and Sarantis, A. (ed.), Technology in Transition, AD 300-650 (Leiden 2/25/2019 and Boston, 2007), 15-40. Wilson, A., ‘Machines, power and the ancient economy’, The Journal of Roman Studies 92 (2002), 1-32
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