American Historical Review 1997

By Michael Grossberg, Editor

I have completed my second year as editor of the American Historical Review. I am pleased to report that under my stewardship the journal continues to be produced in a timely manner and, I hope, continues to speak to the interests of the members of this Association and other historians. Two goals dominate my approach to the editorship of the AHR: (1) maintaining the journal’s tradition of rigorous editorial and production standards, and (2) fulfilling the journal’s distinctive mandate to publish significant scholarship that engages the common concerns of all historians. During the past year the AHR staff and I have tried to achieve these goals in a number of ways. We have used them to evaluate the daily operation of the journal, the need for policy changes, and the development of specific initiatives.

In terms of policy, we have continued our efforts to enhance our coverage of contemporary historical scholarship by actively soliciting article manuscripts and books for review in underrepresented fields of study. And we have inaugurated a series of review essays with the intent of publishing at least one such essay in each issue. In our ongoing attempt to raise issues that we think are of particular importance to historians, a number of AHR Forums have also been organized. In addition, “Film Reviewing in the AHR,” the first formal statement of our guidelines for film reviews, appeared in the February 1997 issue. This statement completes the project begun in February 1996 with the publication of new guidelines for articles and book reviews. The guidelines and other basic information about the journal can be found on our new Web page: http://www.indiana.edu/amhrev. The February issue also marked the beginning of a new journal policy of printing film reviews in each issue rather than once a year.

Over the course of the past year, we have pursued a number of specific initiatives, and two of these are worth noting in this report. First, in the fall of 1996 we conducted a readership survey. The response was significant both in terms of numbers and useful comments. A few of the results are illustrative. For instance, as in previous surveys, book reviews elicited the highest number of readers and AHR Forums also garnered strong support. Conversely, readers split rather evenly over the attractiveness of dedicated theme issues and the utility of film reviews. And readers overwhelmingly opposed putting the journal online. We are continuing to analyze the surveys and incorporate the findings into our discussions about journal policy. Second, during the first week of August the AHR jointly with the AHA, the Journal of American History, and the Organization of American Historians (OAH) convened the conference “History Journals and the Electronic Future” on the Indiana University campus. The conference, funded by the Mellon Foundation, brought together the editors of 25 history journals and a variety of experts on various facets of electronic publication. The intent of the conference was to begin a discussion among history editors and other historians about the challenges that new digital technologies pose for the construction and dissemination of historical scholarship. The conference succeeded in launching that discussion, and in giving the editors a clearer understanding of the general and discipline-specific implications of electronic publication for their own and other history journals. The editors attending the conference also formed a coalition of history journal editors. The coalition will disseminate the information and conclusions reached at the conference and provide a forum for the discussion of electronic publication among history journal editors.

It has been possible to publish the journal in a timely and skillful fashion and to pursue these other various activities because of the skill of the AHR staff and Board of Editors and the support of the AHA. The members of the AHR staff in particular have been impressive in their commitment to producing the journal with the highest standards and most compelling contents. Inevitably, though, there have also been several staff changes over the past year. In January, Jeffrey Wasserstrom became Associate Editor, replacing Peter Guardino, who served a two and a half year term with distinction. Last summer, Thomas Prasch, currently a Contributing Editor on the journal, left the AHR office to accept a tenure-track position at Washburn University. Tom has served the journal long and well in many roles, and I am pleased that he will continue to oversee the film review section. Sheryl Smith, the journal’s office coordinator, departed to accept a position teaching Spanish at an Indiana high school. We have been fortunate to hire a skilled replacement, Beverly Sample. Finally, two graduate student Editorial Assistants also left the staff. After several years of valuable service, Martha Taysom completed her term of office and will now complete her dissertation. And after a shorter but equally distinguished term of service as an Editorial Assistant, Gregory Schroeder completed his dissertation and joined the history faculty of the College of St. Benedict-St. John’s University as a tenure-track assistant professor. Raymund Canoy and G. William Van Arragon have joined the staff as new Editorial Assistants.

I have also been fortunate to work with a distinguished and dedicated group of historians who serve on the journal’s Board of Editors. Time and again I have turned to them individually and collectively for advice on manuscripts and journal policy. They have always responded with thoughtful and useful advice. Four of the Board members completed their terms of office in May: Prasenjit Duara, Daniel Scott Smith, Reba N. Soffer, and Gabrielle Spiegel. Each of them made major contributions to the journal and survived the transition to a new editor with resulting changes in their duties with skill and good humor. Joining the Board are Mary Elizabeth Berry (Asia), John Gillis (Modern Europe), William C. Jordan (Medieval), and Karen Ordahl Kupperman (Early America).

I would also like to thank the members of the AHA Council, Research Division, and the Washington staff for their assistance over the past years. In particular, I have been the beneficiary of support and advice from Executive Director Sandria Freitag and Vice President of the Research Division, Stanley Katz. As the same time, I would like to express my great appreciation to the countless historians who have aided the American Historical Review by evaluating manuscripts and reviewing books, and offering us their ideas about the journal. Without their assistance, the AHR not only could not operate but it would be a greatly diminshed enterprise.