AHR Special Issue: “The Mistakes I Have Made”

Call for Proposals

Due December 15, 2023 

Historians are trained to work carefully to avoid mistakes. With the threat of losing professional credibility, historians rarely admit to their errors, while at the same time, they are trained to expose the errors of others. As a consequence, historians rarely reflect publicly on their slipups unless forced to. But what is lost when mistakes are seen as something to be hidden or glossed over? Is it possible to instead dwell in error as a mode of inquiry? 

In this special issue, we invite historians to reflect on their missteps and how those missteps reveal insights into historical practice. Do mistakes expose assumptions unconsciously embedded in research and/or narrative mode? When a historian asks a culturally insensitive question or stumbles into a social situation where they inadvertently offend or misconstrue, do those blunders bring the historian closer to a more nuanced understanding of the past? Or do mistakes get lodged in a research agenda so that other facts and insights filter around them, like a boulder in a river, distorting, redirecting, misaligning the process of recording and narrating history?

If historical research begins with a thought, question, or assumption, what is the trajectory of historical inquiry when evidence to the contrary presents itself? How far off the trail does one go? What is the road like along the route of misapprehension? At what point does the investigation turn toward the historian and their zeitgeist, rather than that which occurred in the past?

And what about mistakes, deliberate or accidental, others have made in the past; the misplaced, the miscollected, or the material thrown away erroneously as unimportant to posterity? Historians in recent decades have written a great deal about silences. What about the archival white noise that blurs the picture? Are there errors associated with excess when a historian has to work through tens of thousands of pages in just one lifetime? What was skipped over?

We welcome stories that explore mistakes you have made, where they have taken you, and what you have made of them.

Because this special issue of the AHR will be in digital form only, we invite individuals or teams of scholars to propose interventions in a wide variety of textual, digital, and visual forms.

They can include, but are not limited to:

  • AHR History Unclassified essays from 2,000–5,000 words.
  • Image- or video-driven essays
  • Community-engaged research and pedagogical projects
  • Digital history/humanities projects
  • Public history projects and virtual exhibitions
  • Featured reviews of key readings and/or sources
  • Short collections of annotated primary sources

We envision this special issue as offering a space in which historians whose work spans all time periods and geographical spaces can begin to explore culturally specific practices of error and misapprehension.

AHR History Unclassified Consulting Editors Kate Brown and Emily Callaci will edit this special issue. Please email ahr@historians.org with any questions.

Deadline for submission is December 15, 2023. Proposals should be no more than 500 words and can be submitted here: https://forms.gle/xyffQfmXoJZkcfbi8

Meet the AHR Staff & Editors

Learn about the members of the AHR’s staff, the Board of Editors, and Associate Review Editors. 

AHR Staff & Editors