American Historical Review 2000
By Michael Grossberg
I will complete my sixth year as editor of the American Historical Review in July 2001. This year is also the start of my second term as editor and I have been fortunate to be on leave for much of the year. During my absence, Jeffrey Wasserstrom has served as acting editor and Dror Wahrman began his term as the new associate editor. Jeff has administered the journal on a daily basis and produced five issues of the AHR. I have continued to be responsible for representing the journal at the meetings of the AHA Research Division, Council, and History Cooperative as well as overseeing general policy, personnel, and budgetary matters. Under this arrangement, the journal has continued to be published in a timely fashion and Jeff has performed the role of acting editor with skill and grace.
I am also pleased to report that articles published in the AHR continue to win prizes. Jo Burr Margadant's essay in the December 1999 AHR, "Gender, Vice, and the Political Imaginary in Postrevolutionary France: Reinterpreting the Failure of the July Monarchy, 1830–1848," was named as the "Distinguished Article of the Year" by the William Koren Jr. Prize Committee of the Society for French Historical Studies; and
Lisa A. Lindsay's article, "Domesticity and Difference: Male Bread Winners, Working Women, and Colonial Citizenship in the 1945 Nigerian General Strike," was one of two essays awarded the Berkshire Prize for the best article by a female historian.
And I would like to report on the most significant activities at the journal during the last year. The submission patterns of articles and books continue to demonstrate the slow but steady success we are achieving in overcoming the belief among many historians that the AHR is a journal primarily for historians of modern western Europe and North America. Manuscript submissions and acceptances in African, Asian, 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. We also receive relatively few manuscripts in economic and diplomatic history. I have commissioned review essays and forum essays in many of these fields to encourage historians engaged in studying those topics to think of publishing in the AHR.
I also want to note a few of our recent editorial initiatives. The second AHR online article discussion was held last September. The discussion focused on Charles S. Maier's Forum Essay in the June 2000 issue, "Consigning the Twentieth Century to History." It is now archived as part of the electronic version of the article. The discussion generated more responses than our initial online discussion and suggests a gradual acceptance of this medium of exchange by our readers. We have thus decided to continue the experiment and will stage a similar exchange next September on a Forum Essay to be published in the June 2001 issue. The discussion will be on an essay by Patrick Wolfe, "Land, Labor, and Difference: Elementary Components of the Colonial Project." We also continue to experiment with electronic article supplements. The December 2000 issue included a tripartite review essay on the work of the "L.A. School" of urban theorists. In addition, urban historian Philip J. Ethington of the University of Southern California constructed an electronic supplement to the reviews. It is a visually driven essay on mapping urban areas that uses animated maps to demonstrate the relevance of new technologies to historical argumentation and analysis. We have also commissioned electronic articles on the U.S. Civil War and a recently discovered Roman city. These projects are part of our attempts to take advantage of the possibilities that the new electronic version of the AHR offers us to enhance the journal's contribution to scholarly exchange.
The History Cooperative is functioning quite well. Four journals have joined the Cooperative: the History Teacher, William and Mary Quarterly, Law and History Review, and Western History Quarterly. Online versions of these journals will be produced early in 2001. The new members add journals with a significant range of subjects, size, and constituencies to the Cooperative. Not only do they portend well for the growth of the project, but they also fulfill our commitment to make electronic publication a possibility for journals with small circulations and limited resources. We hope to add about three or four journals to the Cooperative each year for the next few years.
I should also note some of the significant policy decisions made by the Cooperative. Though presently the Cooperative site and the journals are open to all users, they will be gated on March 1, 2001. From that day forward, the contents of the Cooperative journals can only be accessed by members of a Coop-affiliated association such as the AHA or through an institutional subscription at a library. Other readers will be able to pay for access to the entire Cooperative for two-hour blocks of time. The costs will be $5 if the user is a member of any association represented in the Cooperative, $10 if not. Thus an AHA member who wants to read articles in The History Teacher would pay $5. General access allows users to take advantage of the content of the entire Cooperative collection and its innovative searching mechanisms. And the policy may create an incentive for a reader to join a society if he or she finds himself or herself using a Cooperative journal regularly.
At the same time, we are continuing to work with JSTOR and the Mellon Foundation to link the e-AHR with the back issues available only through JSTOR. Once the connections are completed, readers will be able to search the entire run of the AHR electronically. Finally, late last summer, the committee adopted paragraph numbering as the Cooperative's primary citation method. Many electronic journals are adopting this strategy, and indeed it is a solution long ago adopted for classical works of literature to avoid the vagaries of different editions. It is, though, a more radical step away from print than an attempt to replicate pages in some fashion. However, paragraph citation also avoids the problem of explaining to users the differences between electronic and printed pages of the same article. Equally important, it presents a clear visual difference between print and electronic media that underscores the decision to avoid textual parity, and it is a solution to the problem of citation that reinforces our determination to make the Cooperative an innovative electronic publisher. The new system has now been put in place and includes an easy-to-use guide for citing material from the e-AHR and other Cooperative journals. We are also continuing to develop research tools that will enable readers to use the e-AHR more effectively. For example, an understandable set of instructions has been added to the "Search Builder" feature of the journal site that explains how readers can find links within an article and locate other relevant material.
Over the winter we developed guidelines for the review of electronic books. Books from the AHA's Gutenberg-e project will arrive at the journal in the spring of 2002. Other e-books will soon follow. We must be prepared to evaluate them and commission reviews when appropriate. However, we realized that our present book review guidelines were not adequate to the task (neither were those of many other journals). As a result, we had to revise our existing guidelines to incorporate reviews of books produced in the new medium. The revisions are intended to legitimate and normalize electronic books through scholarly reviews. They do so by focusing evaluations on the contribution of the book to historical scholarship and not on the technology itself. The new procedures for reviewing electronic books are an example of our periodic review of all journal policies.
Finally, I want to stress that it has been possible to publish the journal in a timely and skillful manner and to pursue these 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 and Production Manager Beverly Sample continue to make major contributions to the development of journal initiatives. The journal's graduate-student editorial assistants have also made significant contributions. There has, though, been a rather substantial turnover among them. Ray Canoy, Sean Quinlin, Kelly Tucker, and Will Van Arragon completed their terms with distinction. Adam Ehrlich, James K. Honeyford, Mara I. Laza, and Margaret E. Nobes have joined the staff and are already making significant contributions to the journal.
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 over the last year Jeff and I have turned to them individually and collectively for assistance on manuscripts and journal policies. They have always responded with thoughtful and useful advice. Five members of the Board of Editors completed their terms of office: Mary Elizabeth Berry, John Gillis, William C. Jordan, Karen Kupperman, and R. Stephen Humphreys. They have each made major contributions to the journal and I have greatly appreciated their advice. The AHA Council approved five new board members to take their places: Dipesh Chakrabarty, Robin Fleming, Jack P. Greene, Patrick Manning, and Bonnie G. Smith.
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 once again the critical contributions of Robert Townsend of the AHA staff, who helps ensure the timely production and distribution of the journal as well as its financial support, and Executive Director Arnita Jones. And I would like to thank the Vice President for the Research Division, Gabrielle Spiegel, for her continued commitment to the intellectual mission of the AHR. Most importantly, I would like to express my gratitude to the countless historians who 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 Univ.) is editor of the American Historical Review.