American Historical Review 1998
By Michael Grossberg
I have completed my third year as editor of the American Historical Review. I am pleased to report that 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. I am also pleased to report that two recent AHR articles have won prizes: Lizabeth Cohen’s October 1996 article, “From Town Center to Shopping Center: The Reconfiguration of Community Marketplaces in Postwar America,” received the Urban History Association’s prize for the Best Journal Article in Urban History published in 1996, and Robert Moeller’s article from the same issue, “War Stories: The Search for a Usable Past in the Federal Republic of Germany,” won the prize of the Conference Group in Central Europe as the best article in the field for the years 1994-1996. I also want to use this report to reiterate that two goals dominate my approach to the editorship of the AHR: maintaining the journal’s tradition of rigorous editorial and production standards, and fulfilling the journal’s distinctive mandate to publish significant scholarship that engages the common concerns of all historians. The AHR staff and I tried to achieve these goals in a number of ways during the last year.
Two particular policies that we have worked on are worth noting. First, we have continued our efforts to enhance the journal’s coverage of contemporary historical scholarship by actively soliciting article manuscripts and books for review in underrepresented fields of study. The submission patterns of articles and books reveals a slow but steady success in overcoming the belief of many historians that the AHR is a journal primarily for historians of modern western Europe and North America. Most notably, manuscript submissions and acceptances and reviewable books in Asian history, African, and Latin American history have increased. However, few historians of medieval Europe, the Middle East, Asia before the modern era, and early modern and modern Europe outside of France, Britain, and Germany send us their work. I have commissioned review essays and forum essays in many of the underrepresented fields to encourage historians engaged in studying those topics to think of publishing in the AHR. And second, after a series of discussions among the AHR staff and Board of Editors, we will implement a new book review classification scheme in the February 1999 issue. The new scheme is the final part of my attempt to update the journal’s basic policies, which began in 1996 with revisions of the AHR’s article and book review guidelines. The goal of reclassification is to increase the effectiveness of the book review section for all historians by making it more logical and comprehensive. We hope as well that the new classification system will help achieve the AHR’s larger mission of speaking across the specialties of history by encouraging historians to read across traditional boundaries and by contributing to discussions about how to organize historical scholarship. I should add that there will continue to be a topical table of contents of the book reviews in each issue.
Over the course of the last year, we have also pursued a number of specific initiatives. Gina Doglione, our production manager, has redesigned our web page. In addition to making it more attractive and easier to use, she has added a searchable index of AHR tables of contents. The AHR web page can be found at: http://www.indiana.edu/~ahr. In an effort to ease communication we have also changed our basic e-mail address to email@example.com. And we have revised our copyright forms for articles and created new ones for book reviews. The forms are posted on our web site. In the June 1998 issue, we began a new AHR feature: Forum Essays. The major innovation is in terms of commentaries. Periodically we will publish an essay that we think addresses a particularly critical subject and that is written in a manner likely to spur debate and publish it with a call for comments from readers rather than commissioning commentaries. We will then pick the most trenchant three or four comments, send them to the author for a response, and publish the comments and response together in the following issue. We plan to use the June issue for this format because it gives us the largest production time between issues (June to October) and thus the greatest opportunity to evaluate comments and produce the final copy. The first essay in the series was an article by Omer Bartov entitled “Defining Enemies, Making Victims: Germans, Jews, and the Holocaust.” I do want to note, though, that we will also continue to publish the more conventional Forums. Finally, we continue to explore the possibility of taking the AHR on-line. AHA vice president for research Stanley Katz appointed a subcommittee to study the issue, and ongoing discussions of the issue are being conducted among the AHR staff and Board of Editors. A decision should be reached during spring 1999. However, I do want to stress that guiding these deliberations is the assumption that changing methods of distribution should not alter but only enhance the fundamental mission of the journal to publish and review historical scholarship that speaks across the discipline to the common interests of historians.
It has been possible to publish the journal in a timely and skillful manner and to pursue these various other activities because of the skill and dedication of the AHR staff and Board of Editors and the support of the officers of the AHA. Beyond the consistently high level of their daily work, Assistant Editors Moureen Coulter and Allyn Roberts have made major contributions to the development of recent initiatives in the journal. And Associate Editor Jeffrey Wasserstrom has worked very hard and very successfully on diversifying and enhancing the Forums and Review Essays. There have, though, also been several staff changes over the last year. A major turnover occurred among our graduate student editorial assistants. Matthew N. Vosmeier and Stephen Toth completed their three-year terms and are now completing their dissertations; Julia Cummings and Lynn Sargeant left the staff after receiving major fellowships to conduct dissertation research in Mexico and Russia, respectively. Each of these students made major contributions to the journal. They have been replaced by Margaret Puskar-Pasewicz, Sean Quinlan, Jude Richter, and Kelly Tucker.
I have also been very fortunate to work with a distinguished and dedicated group of historians 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. Two members of the board completed their terms of office in May: Jane Caplan and Richard Wortman. Both of them served the journal with distinction. At my request the AHA Council authorized an increase of the size of the Board of Editors from 10 to 12 members. The intent of the increase is to better represent the range of contemporary historical scholarship in both methods and subjects. Accordingly, four new members joined the Board last June: R. Stephen Humphreys (Middle East/World History); Margaret Jacob (historical method/early modern Europe); Robert G. Moeller (modern Europe); Maria Todorova (eastern Europe).
I would also like to thank the members of the AHA Council, Research Division, and Washington staff for their invaluable assistance and support over the last year. In particular I would like to acknowledge the hard work by Robert Townsend of the AHA staff, who performs many of the critical tasks that ensure the timely production and distribution of the journal as well as its financial support. I would also like to thank Vice President for Research Katz for his steadfast support of the journal and his leadership in addressing the issues of its electronic future. And I would like to thank departing Executive Director Sandria Frietag for her advice and support. Most important, I would like to express my gratitude to the countless historians who have helped produce the AHR over the last year by evaluating manuscripts, reviewing books, and offering us their ideas about the journal. Without their assistance, the journal could not be published nor could its editors aspire to achieve its mission.
Michael Grossberg (Indiana University)