American Historical Review 2002
As I complete my eighth year as editor of the American Historical Review in July 2003, I am pleased to report that the journal continues to be produced in a timely and fiscally sound manner. I am also pleased to announce that a June 2000 AHR article by Daniel A. Segal, “‘Western Civ’ and the Staging of History in American Higher Education,” won the AHA’s 2002 William Gilbert Award for Teaching Articles. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the teaching of history through the publication of journal and serial articles. In addition to these general developments, I would also like to report on the most significant activities of the journal during the past year.
A few of our current editorial projects warrant comment. Edward Ayers and William G. Thomas of the University of Virginia on the origins of the United States Civil War are now making revisions in their commissioned electronic article. We are using it to explore the analytical potential of digital scholarship and to devise peer review procedures for such works. We have commissioned reviews for each of the completed Gutenberg-e electronic books. In doing so, editors followed the recently adopted guidelines and selected reviewers based on their expertise in the subject matter of the book, not in digital technology. According to those guidelines, the reviews will be placed in relevant book review categories and not in a special section on electronic books. In another initiative, I have developed an arrangement with Educational Testing Services in which ETS selects articles likely to interest secondary school teachers and commissions revised versions of the essays by their authors. The intent is to increase the distribution of AHR scholarship in a form most useful and relevant to secondary school teachers and students. And I have also tried to extend the general subject matter of AHR articles by commissioning articles on subjects outside the usual purview of the journal, such as essays on the challenge of preserving digital archives and on the implications for historians of the emergence of the new field of the scholarship of teaching.
During the past year, we also made a number of significant policy decisions. We revised the AHR book review guidelines to provide a clear set of guidelines for handling plagiarism. We have also instituted a new archival policy that will allow us to resume depositing AHR materials at the Library of Congress as we are mandated to do under the AHA’s congressional charter. Archival material—manuscript readers’ reports, editorial correspondence, book review information, and the like—will be open to researchers 15 years after it was received by the AHR or written by its editors and staff. Another initiative is aimed at increasing the number of books reviewed in fields that have largely been marginalized in the journal during the past such as Middle East history. Our hope is that by more aggressively identifying reviewable books in the field we will be able to make our preferences clearer to presses and that they will begin to send us such books as a matter of course. If the tactic proves successful, we may use it for other fields. Finally, during the forthcoming year I plan to launch a discussion of the AHR’s policies and procedures on film reviews. While I am firmly committed to retaining film reviews, I think it is time to reevaluate our current approaches.
I also want to report that the History Cooperative, which produces electronic versions of the journal, has continued to flourish. Five new journals joined the Cooperative in 2002: History of Education Quarterly, Environmental History, Journal of World History, Oral History Review, and the Oregon Historical Quarterly, which is the first state history journal in the Cooperative. Diversification of Cooperative content continues as well with the inclusion of AHA conference proceedings, documentary editions, and archival initiatives such as the Newberry Library project on maps of the Old Northwest United States. And Cooperative members voted to join LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe), a Stanford University Library project to preserve archival versions of electronic journals. The project meets one of the main challenges of the new electronic era—of preserving digital material—by creating a basic archival system, and does so in the kind of collaborative fashion between journals and libraries that the Cooperative was founded to foster.
Finally, I want to stress yet again that producing the AHR is a collaborative effort. It has been possible to publish the journal in a timely and skillful manner and to pursue these other activities only because of the talent 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, Production Manager Beverly Sample, and Office Manager Mary Anne Thacker continue to make major contributions to all journal initiatives, as have the journal’s seven graduate student editorial assistants. And I have been very fortunate to work with a distinguished and dedicated group of historians on the journal’s board of editors. They have always responded to requests for assistance on manuscripts and journal policies with thoughtful and useful advice. Three members of the board of editors —Dipesh Chakrabarty, Jack Greene, and Bonnie Smith—complete their terms of office in June 2003. Their work and advice have been invaluable. So too has that of AHA Vice President for Research Gabrielle Spiegel. And I would like to thank the members of the AHA Council, the Research Division, and the headquarters staff, especially Executive Director Arnita Jones and AHA assistant director for publications and research, Robert Townsend, for their invaluable assistance and support over the last year. Most important, 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 is editor of the American Historical Review.