History indexes reviewed

Further to my blogs below about how book reviewers address book indexes, I find that Catherine Sassen from the University of North Texas has written an article on reviewer’s comments about indexes appearing in Reviews in History between 1996 and 2013. The article appears in the September 2013 issue of The Indexer, so is not free to view. In over 1400 reviews she found 123 reviews which contained 131 evaluative comments about the index, and 8 further reviews commented about the absence of an index. Catherine then goes on to categorise and discuss the different kind types of comments that were made, for example about the accuracy, the exhaustivity, the extensiveness, the usefulness of the index etc.

All very interesting stuff. However, it also means that less than 10% of reviewers found anything at all to say about the index of the book they were looking at. The Guidelines for Reviewers document doesn’t specifically ask for comments on the index of the book. So given that reviews can stretch between two and three thousand words, it is perhaps unfortunate that so few reviewers thought to add a mention about the indexes that they encountered.

Catherine closes her article with a quote from David Dymond’s 1999 publication Researching and writing history –  “In a substantial book, the discerning reader deserves an index”. And I’d like to say that any history book review should comment on the index. Of course history books fall into a myriad of different types and fields and the type of index that is appropriate will vary from book to book. But in the territory between local history publications meant for dissemination across a relatively small geographical area and in-depth academic research studies surely it should be possible for them all to have an index?

I’m very much interested in expanding my indexing skills by taking on projects indexing history books so please do contact me if I can be of any help to you.

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