American Historical Review 2003

I will complete my ninth year as editor of the American Historical Review in July 2004. Over the last year, the journal has been produced in a timely, fiscally sound, and, I hope, intellectually challenging fashion.

The journal staff and editors continue to try and find ways to meet the journal’s fundamental mission of producing articles and reviews that speak across specialties to common concerns of historians. One of our most sustained efforts to date has been the development of electronic historical scholarship, which is a major challenge in a medium that in our discipline has been dominated by pedagogical and archival initiatives. In our attempts to foster the construction of digital articles, we published in the December 2003 issue an analysis of the origins of the United States Civil War by William Thomas III and Edward L. Ayers. The full version of “The Differences Slavery Made: A Close Analysis of Two American Communities” can only be read in electronic form. In developing it, we tried to ensure that it contributed to our understanding of the past in both substantive and technological terms. We are currently working on a few other electronic articles. Our goal in these efforts is to make the AHR an important site for this new form of scholarship and to demonstrate that such articles can be constructed in a number of ways.

The publisher of the AHR’s electronic version, the History Cooperative, continues to flourish. Use of the e-AHR and the Cooperative both increased significantly over the last year; total visits almost doubled. And the expansion of the Cooperative site continues as well. During the last year links to map collections and other major historical resources have been added. Similarly, conference proceedings will be added to the Cooperative site and be made searchable as well. And finally, Cooperative members have discussed strategies for making librarians more aware of the Cooperative site and its journals.

Over the course of the last year the AHR staff revised the journal’s procedures for reviewing films. The changes include a new method for commissioning reviews. They are now processed by the AHR staff in the same way as books instead of by a contributing editor in another location. The intent of the change has been to increase the number of reviews and the number of historians (in contrast to scholars of film) reviewing films for the AHR. Our assumption is that historians with an expertise in the subject matter of a film will write reviews of greater interest and relevance to their colleagues. It appears that we are succeeding on both counts—more film reviews have been commissioned and more historians have accepted the commissions. The February 2004 issue inaugurated another change: book and film reviews were integrated. As a result, a reader interested in Latin America, for example, will find both types of reviews in the same section. We hope that this will make the film reviews more useful.

In another change, the AHR’s book reviewing guidelines have been revised to police plagiarism more effectively. The revised guidelines create new obligations for the journal. And they express our understanding that an editor’s disciplinary gate-keeping role must include this responsibility as well as the more conventional one of publishing peer-reviewed scholarship and book reviews. The new policy is also premised on the assumption that publicity and open debate is the best way to handle ethical problems such as plagiarism. And thus the policy complements the recent decision of the AHA to cease adjudicating particular grievances and instead foster general discussions of professional problems. The revised guidelines and other journal policies can be found on the AHR web site.

Finally, I want to stress yet again this year 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 and staff 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. Four members of the Board complete their terms in June 2004: Rudy Koshar, Patrick Manning, Gale Stokes, and Kären Wigen. Their work and advice has been invaluable. So too has that of AHA Vice President for Research Roy Rosenzweig. And I would like to thank the members of the AHA Council, Research Division, and Washington staff, especially Executive Director Arnita Jones and Robert Townsend, AHA assistant director for research and publications, for their invaluable assistance and support over the last year. 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 try to achieve its mission.

Michael Grossberg is editor of the American Historical Review.