Example A review of an article

The transition between hunting and gathering and the specialized husbandry of resources: a socio-ecological approach (Layton et al. 1991).

What the student said about this:

When I did this review of an article I found that I partly summarized it and partly analysed it. I tried to put in what I thought were the important things that the authors were saying. It felt different from an essay because I didn't feel that I was trying to develop an argument.

Extract from 'The transition between hunting and gathering and the specialised husbandry of resources: a socio-ecological approach' - Robert Layton, Robert Foley and Elizabeth Williams:

In this article evidence is put forward to show that there is not a unilinear evolutionary transition from hunting and gathering to intensive husbandry, but that these are simply examples of different subsistence strategies chosen by people to offer them the most productive way of life. The authors emphasize the point that population growth is not a cause of intensive husbandry, but a consequence. These main ideas are illustrated through looking at a variety of alternative subsistence strategies which can be found in the present ethnographic record. They examine not only the 'classic' hunter-gatherer society, but also the 'grey areas' of subsistence strategies, more specifically cases of symbiosis, mixed economies and reversion. The cases of reversion in particular are intended to challenge evolutionary preconceptions. Layton et al. also want to provide alternatives to the traditional reasons for transitions to agriculture (particularly in the Near East). They suggest that technology, climate, natural genetic changes in plants and animals and socio-economic change are important factors, unlike population pressure which they criticize as a model. However, there are certain problems with their arguments. The case made for technology is the weakest as the ethnographic examples cited are examples of introduction rather than innovation and so have limited relevance to transition to intensive husbandry in the Middle East. They argue that the key issue is socio-economic; if a society is not in the right frame of mind, agriculture will not occur despite all other factors.


The student starts off by summarizing the main arguments put forward by the authors. She then goes on to challenge some of these ideas. In her interview about this piece of work she described it as analysis rather than the development of her own argument, as she would be doing in an essay.

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