Books, like undergraduate essays, do require a few concluding remarks. It is not simply a matter of convention, for the convention has its reasons. First, it is a way of separating the analyst from the data which he or she has chosen for analysis. In this case, the data have been used to describe and explain how and why France entered the Second World War, and how and why her military campaign ended so badly. But the book is independent of that collapse, and cannot simply end with it. Rather, a conclusion affords an opportunity to remind both author and reader that we have, at best, no more than an interpretation. Also, it affords authors a moment to recall whatever points they consider the most salient and instructive, while offering readers the same moment to judge whether the author’s conclusions are consistent with the author’s evidence, and whether the inquiry seems to have been fair-minded.
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Robert J. Young
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