American Historical Review 2006

This is my second annual report as editor of the American Historical Review, covering my first full year in that position. I am happy to report that all is well at 914 Atwater St., in Bloomington, home of the editorial offices of the AHR. The five issues of 2006, in both print and electronic forms, were published on-schedule. One crucial staffing transition was effected: Maria Bucur, who had served as Associate Editor for the last three years, has been succeeded by Sarah Knott. I am particularly grateful to Maria, for her expertise and editorial savvy were indispensable in tutoring me in the ways of the journal. With Sarah, we are fortunate to have found a replacement whose considerable strengths and discerning intelligence will serve the journal well.

The year’s five issues contained one Presidential Address, 17 articles, 3 Forums, and a new feature, the “AHR Conversation.” In recent years, the AHR has aimed to broaden the range of its coverage. This year continued that trend. We published articles on Japan, China, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa, as well as Europe and the US.  The Forums dealt with such subjects as “Anti-Americanism,” “Ocean History,” and “Homicide in America.” In our extensive book review section, which typically takes up at least half an issue, we reviewed 911 books out of the 2337 received. 196 articles were submitted for review. The AHR prides itself in publishing only the best and most original work; our review process is rigorous, thorough and labor-intensive. Consequently, only a fraction of those articles submitted make their way into our issues. Nevertheless, historians should be aware that even if a submission is rejected, the author is the beneficiary of invaluable readers’ reports which can only serve to improve one’s work. Indeed, the editorial process at the AHR is designed to aide scholars even if we ultimately reject their submissions.

We have undertaken several editorial initiatives. One is to revive a section of the journal, “Featured Reviews,” devoted to reviewing books which, in the opinion of the editors, deserve more extended treatment than our usual book reviews. These would be books that for a variety of reasons represent the kind and quality of scholarship that ought to be called to attention to historians across the discipline. A number of book reviews of this type have been commissioned, and have begun to appear in the April 2007 issue.

Another initiative is what we are calling the “AHR Conversation. An online conversation among six historians (and myself) on the topic of “Transnational History” was begun in May 2006. Those who participated were Chris Bayly (Cambridge Univ.), Sven Beckert (Harvard Univ.), Michael Connolly (Columbia Univ.), Isabel Hofmeyer (Witswatersrand Univ., South Africa), Wendy Kozol (Oberlin Coll.) and Patricia Seed (Univ. of California at Irvine). The rather protracted conversation was finally completed in early November and, with some frantic editing, appeared in the December issue. The topic for the 2007 Conversation will be on “Religious Identity and Violence.”

Since the early 1960s, the AHR has been published by the American Historical Association, meaning that, for all intents and purposes, that we are self-published. It has become increasingly clear, however, that in the age of digital publishing and rapidly evolving technology and with the additional challenge of international markets, we had to think of establishing a relationship with a major academic press. During the past year, we have been exploring this possibility. Indeed, as of this writing, negotiations have proceeded on a rather serious basis. By next year’s report, if not sooner, I fully expect to be able to announce their successful conclusion. It should be emphasized that whatever relationship we establish will in no way compromise the autonomy of the AHR as the flagship publication of the AHA.

The AHR is a publication that requires the commitment, expertise and labor of a number of people, from the 13 members of the staff in Bloomington, to those in the Washington, D.C., office of the AHA, to the historians on the Board of Editors, to the scores of reviewers without whose thoughtful and prompt reports on manuscripts the journal could not publish. But it also relies upon the larger community of historians, both as readers and as contributors. Without the steady stream of creative and novel submissions sent to our editorial offices, we would not exist. Without readers who want to be introduced to the most important historical scholarship of our day, we would have no reason to exist. We are very aware of how indebted we are to the people we serve and to those who support us. This is why we are always eager to hear your thoughts on the journal and how it could be improved.

Robert A. Schneider is the editor of the American Historical Review.