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From the News column of the February 2012 issue of Perspectives on History

The AHR Announces a Prize Competition for the Best Digital Article

Philip J. Ethington and Robert A. Schneider, February 2012

The mission of the American Historical Review is to promote historical scholarship in all its dimensions, including methodological. In past years we have featured articles that took advantage of the interactive and multimedia resources made available through the use of computer technology. Our commitment to this approach to scholarship has not waned: the AHR continues to seek out digital scholarship that contributes both substantively and methodologically to our understanding of the past. The "Call for Submissions for the AHR Prize in Digital Historical Scholarship," affirms this commitment. More importantly, we hope that it will encourage digital scholarship in the "short form" conducive to a journal publication.

The digital revolution has already transformed the practice of historical research and analysis in myriad ways, and has led scholars in many fields to produce valuable online archives and resources. The capacity to develop original interpretations of historical evidence within interactive and multimedia environments has proven highly promising. As yet, however, the forms, formats, and venues for peer-reviewed digital publishing have not taken a regular or easily recognizable shape. The lack of recognizable genres, comparable to articles or books, inhibits scholars from routinely applying their energies to digital scholarship, and inhibits the AHR and other leading journals from regularly publishing such works. While many journals have begun to publish multimedia "companions" to their print articles, and a few specialized online-only journals in the humanities have published an eclectic selection of original scholarship that roughly resembles journal articles, the historical profession itself has not yet developed a coherent research product that is comparable to an original, empirically based, interpretive scholarly article, of the kind published by the AHR. We believe that the short-form scholarly argument is a vital feature of the historiographical landscape, and that the digital age, if it is to mature, needs to make this kind of scholarly effort possible for scholars who seek to take full advantage of these new media and methods to interpret the past.

We intend to take a leading role in shaping the form of digital publishing, by holding an annual competition for the best work in short-form scholarly argumentation in the digital, online-only format. Owing to the prestige of winning such a prize, and to the very high standards of the AHR in publishing only cutting-edge, original, and well-researched scholarship of the broadest interest to historians worldwide, such a competition presents the opportunity for us to set the terms for the way this kind of scholarship is presented, and to stimulate the production of a regular stream of article-scale works that take advantage of potentially tranformative opportunities offered by digital media.

Philip Ethington, professor of history at the University of Southern California, is a member of the editorial board of the American Historical Review.

Robert Schneider, professor of history at Indiana University, is the editor of the AHR.