American Historical Review 2010

Prepared by Robert A. Schneider, Editor (on-leave 2010–11)

I am pleased to report that all is well at 914 E. Atwater in Bloomington, Indiana, home of the editorial offices of the American Historical Review. Thanks to the hard work of the editors and staff, as well as the efficiency of the University of Chicago Press, the journal has been publishing on schedule—indeed a bit ahead of schedule for recent issues. We are fully staffed and under budget. And as I am on academic leave for the year 2010–11, the direction of the journal has been in the capable hands of Konstantin Dierks and Sarah Knott, both members of the faculty of the Department of History of Indiana University, and both former associate editors. During their tenure as acting editors they have introduced several reforms to the editorial process that have contributed markedly to improving the work flow and efficiency of the office. In future issues we will see the fruits of their editorial initiatives in a series of forums and articles they have commissioned.  

A couple of statistics capture the unique nature of the AHR. We receive nearly 3,000 books a year for review; we publish about 1,000 reviews, that is approximately 200 an issue. We receive on the order of 300 article submission annually; we have space to publish about 25, which is to say about nine percent of the submissions ultimately make it through the review process and into our pages. These two sets of statistics are, I think, telling. They speak to two features of this publication. The book review section is probably the most comprehensive among journals of history in its coverage of recently published scholarship. Our mission is to review all scholarly books that aim to make a contribution to historical knowledge. Many books we receive, while interesting and worthy, are not suitable for review for one reason or another: they may be textbooks, books written for a general readership, synthetic in nature, previously published material, edited volumes, or books exceeding narrow in focus. But despite limitations of space, we are constantly on the look-out for books to review. We are especially interested in reviewing scholarship from periods and regions that have traditionally been neglected or overlooked, especially the fields of African and Middle Eastern history.

The statistics concerning article submissions and publication may seem daunting: why would anyone want to play those odds—nine percent! The fact is, however, that many submissions are rejected simply because they are too long, too short, excessively narrow, or clearly inappropriate for a scholarly journal. And many, while interesting and certainly well-researched, do not meet the particular remit of the AHR to try to address the concerns and interests of our wide readership. In addition, scholars should know that every submission receives a report from an editor; and those that make it into the review process receive several reports. Thus,  even scholars whose manuscripts are ultimately rejected can benefit from invaluable comments from a range of experts. I should note here that, contrary to what is sometimes assumed, young historians and those early in their careers often have their work accepted for publication. The AHR is definitely not a journal reserved for senior scholars. Indeed, a recent issue included a piece by a graduate student. 

Since 2007, the AHR has been published by the University of Chicago Press. Our five-year contract with the press will expire in 2012. Accordingly, we have issued Requests for Proposals from a range of scholarly presses with significant journal divisions, including Chicago, so that we might make the best and most well-informed decision regarding which press will be entrusted with the crucial task of publishing the AHR.