Publication Date

April 6, 2021

Perspectives Section

From the Editor

The AHA TownhouseThe Perspectives team didn’t step foot in the AHA townhouse for the entire 2020–21 publishing cycle. It may no longer be accurate to call my monthly column “Townhouse Notes.” Perhaps it should temporarily be called something like “Dispatches from the Slack Channel” or “Zooming in on Perspectives.” When I joined the AHA staff, my first priority was figuring out how to get “the September issue out while working at a social distance.” We did that, on time, and then did it eight more times.

I am immensely proud of the work that historians did this year under extraordinary circumstances. During a year when history was “Front and Center,” to borrow from James Grossman’s September 2020 column, Perspectives authors provided valuable context to current events, reflected on the role of the profession in public life, and offered thoughtful essays on the impact that this work can have on individuals and communities. They completed this work while juggling new teaching modes, navigating limited access to research materials, meeting child and elder care obligations, and managing the daily stress of life during a pandemic. That our authors met their deadlines, with good humor and enthusiasm, is a testament to their resilience.

My pride in the community of authors is surpassed only by my awe at the AHA’s publications staff: director of research and publications Sarah Jones Weicksel, managing editor Laura Ansley, editorial assistant Karen Lou, and the nine others from across the organization that make up the Perspectives editorial board. This magazine is the product of many people reading drafts, offering nuanced and thoughtful feedback, and catching errors or oversights. Our year of uninterrupted remote production was possible only because of their dedication and the contributions of all my colleagues on the AHA staff.

We have, all of us, earned a vacation. Maintaining productivity in a year characterized by national, professional, and personal loss has left many of us feeling depleted (at best). Although the print magazine goes on hiatus in June, July, and August each year, Perspectives won’t exactly put up a “gone fishin’” sign.

The team will spend this summer reviewing and analyzing our work. In October, we committed to ensuring that our content and author pool reflects the diversity of the AHA’s members. For the past year, we have collected voluntary demographic data after publication from authors. We have also reviewed the content covered in various articles. With the help of an undergraduate intern, we expect to spend part of the summer analyzing this data to determine how well we met that “simple but audacious goal.”

Finally, if you’re reading Perspectives only in print, you’re missing out. In just the last year, our online-only articles have covered everything from the tension between business and service at the core of the US Postal Service (something we were acutely aware of as we managed delays getting print issues into readers’ mailboxes), a plea for historians to stop calling things archives, and a dozen Remote Reflections on teaching and research during a pandemic.

Visit the Perspectives website throughout the summer to read new online-only posts. We have exciting plans, including our annual graduate student summer columnists, a short series by historians who have participated in the Fulbright program, and much more. These will complement our regular Perspectives Daily posts while affording us the flexibility to respond to any emerging stories.

So while we’re looking forward to a summer characterized by vaccinations and the slow return to “normal” life, we’re also excited to take a breath, celebrate our successes, reflect on what this year has enabled us to do, and look forward. Not quite a vacation, but restorative nonetheless.

Ashley E. Bowen is editor of Perspectives on History. She tweets @AEBowenPhD.

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