American Historical Review 2004

I will complete my 10th and final year as editor of the American Historical Review in July 2005. My successor, Robert Schneider, will assume the editorship in August.  While the journal has continued to be produced in a timely and, I hope, intellectually challenging fashion, inevitably it has been a year of transitions at the AHR. The transitions have been expected and unexpected.

The unexpected event of the year was a very sad one: the death of a key staff member, Assistant Editor Allyn Roberts. She died in October 2004 from complications resulting from cancer surgery. She had worked at the AHR since 1986. Her main task was to oversee the articles we published, but she did much more. There is no doubt that she has had a major impact on the journal. As countless authors have told me, she could take a sow’s ear of a manuscript and turn it into silk. All of us were the beneficiaries of the dedication to the craft of editing and the high standards that she brought to her job. Her legacy is in page after page of almost 20 years of the AHR. Her loss has been profound, both personally and professionally.

The expected transition has been in the AHR editorship. As my term ends, I would like to reiterate the approach I have taken to the position. My fundamental goal has been to produce issues of the journal that engage the imagination and interest of readers. I have tried to realize that goal in a number of ways: reclassifying the book reviews and adding new categories such as comparative and world history, theory and methods; creating guidelines for film reviews and publishing the reviews in each issue; making review essays a regular feature of each issue; commissioning AHR Forums on topics from millennialism and collective memory to the changing meaning of Renaissance and of regionalism; taking the journal online and helping to create the History Cooperative to publish the AHR and other history journals; publishing the AHR’s first e-only articles and holding the first online discussions; and even changing the print font and the paper used for the journal.

All of these changes and others have been made in a continuing effort to fulfill the journal’s fundamental mission of producing articles and reviews that speak across specialties to common concerns of historians. That is the mission of the journal established by its first editor, J. Franklin Jameson, in 1895, and it is the one I bequeath to my successor. I leave the editorship convinced more than ever of the importance of that mission and thus the importance of ensuring that the AHR continues to perform its unique role in our discipline.

Though I realize that my goals for the journal have not all been realized, it has been an honor and a privilege to try to achieve them. Editing the AHR has been one of the major highlights of my academic career. I thank the members of the Association for the opportunity to take on this critical responsibility.

It has also been a privilege and even a joy at times to edit the AHR because of the people I have worked with over the last 10 years. The journal staff in Bloomington has been extraordinary. The staff has a commitment to the craft of editing and to the aesthetics of publishing that make the AHR an international model for scholarly publications. Countless members of the AHR’s Board of Editors, and of the AHA’s Council and Research Division have demonstrated to me over and over again that producing the journal is a collaborative enterprise. Their work and advice have been invaluable. So too has been the assistance provided by the members of the AHA staff, especially Executive Director Arnita Jones. And during my tenure in office, no one has contributed more to the journal than Robert Townsend, AHA’s assistant director for publications and research. I have come to consider him a member of the AHR staff. Finally, and most importantly, I would also like to express my great appreciation to the innumerable historians who have aided the AHR by evaluating manuscripts, reviewing books, and offering us their ideas about the journal. One of the most gratifying aspects of my job as editor has been to learn of the commitment of colleagues to the journal and its important mission. Without their assistance, the AHR would be a greatly diminished enterprise.

Michael Grossberg was editor of the American Historical Review from 1995 to 2005.