American Historical Review 2007

by Robert A. Schneider

I am happy to report that the American Historical Review is enjoying robust health and vitality on all fronts. As far as we can tell, readership is at an all-time high and the quality of the articles and book reviews is equal to the expectations of our sophisticated and diverse readers. The five issues of 2007, both print and digital forms, were published on schedule. The major change has been our new relationship with the University of Chicago Press. After over 18 months of negotiations, the AHA signed a contract with UCP last spring. The October 2007 issue was the first to be published with the imprimatur of the University of Chicago Press. We expect that we will gain much from this relationship, in terms both of marketing and increasing subscriptions and in taking advantage of the latest advances in digital technology. The transition from the History Cooperative to UCP has gone smoothly.

The year’s five issues contained one presidential address, 15 articles, 4 review essays, one AHR Forum, one AHR Exchange, and the AHR Conversation. The articles have a geographical reach that is truly global, with pieces on North America, Africa, Australia, Ireland and India, Russia and Japan, Britain and Europe, as well as several on the Atlantic World, a subject that we have devoted considerable space to in recent years. Indeed, the forum in the June issue was on “Entangled Empires in the Atlantic World.” In December 2007, this was followed by an AHR Exchange between two of the contributors to that forum. This year we received 304 submissions (some of these were resubmissions). Though this is an impressive number, it still is the case that because of our rigorous review process and high scholarly standards, we often find ourselves just barely filling the issues. We certainly want to encourage submissions in neglected fields, especially African and Middle Eastern history. In our extensive book review section, which typically takes up at least half an issue, we reviewed 909 books out of the 2733 received. Starting with the June issue, we reintroduced the section entitled “Featured Reviews” devoted to books that we thought were worthy of special and more extensive treatment than those we normally review. In the last three issues of the year, we reviewed 15 books in this fashion.

In 2007, the topic of the AHR Conversation (an innovation launched in December 2006) was “Religious Identities and Violence.” The very spirited, long, and sometimes contentious discussion took place online over the summer months and into the fall. The participants were Philip Benedict (Institut de l’Histoire de la Réformation, Geneva), Nora Berend (St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge University), Stephen Ellis (University of Leyden, The Netherlands), Jeffrey Kaplan (University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh), Ussama Makdisi (Rice University), and Jack Miles (University of California, Irvine). The Conversation for 2008 will be on a topic related to Environmental History.

The AHR is a publication that requires the commitment, expertise and labor of a number of people, from the 13 members of the staff in Bloomington, Indiana, to those in the Washington, D.C. office of the AHR, to the historians on the board of editors, to the scores of reviewers of submissions without whose thoughtful and prompt reports the journal simply could not function. We also rely on our readership and the interest and support of historians at large. We are increasingly aware that many of our readers are not subscribers, but access our pages through their university libraries or other portals where individual membership in the AHA is not a requirement. It is indeed wonderful that so many people, both inside academia and non-professionals, can profit from the extraordinary scholarship we assemble. But this has had a cost. More and more academic historians, who see the AHA largely in terms of the AHR, are failing to become members of this venerable and important association, which has represented the interests of historians of all sorts for more than 120 years. Despite the growth in readership, this journal needs the support of the AHA, just as academic historians throughout North America need this professional association to promote their interests. It is thus incumbent on all historians to maintain their support for the American Historical Association by becoming members.

Robert A. Schneider (Indiana University) is the editor of the American Historical Review.