Improving the AHR

Michael Grossberg, September 1998

I realize that dissatisfaction with the American Historical Review is one source of discontent among historians that has spawned groups like the Historical Society. Indeed, I share the concern that the journal does not cover contemporary historical scholarship as fully as it should. I have been struggling with this problem since I became editor three years ago. However, I have defined the problem differently than some of the journal's critics. I think that the challenge facing the AHR is not simply publishing and reviewing more work in particular fields such as economic and diplomatic history. It is also to present the full temporal and geographic dimensions of contemporary history in a way that accomplishes the AHR's distinctive mission as a non-specialist journal to speak across the discipline to the common concerns of historians. And I have taken a number of steps to meet that challenge: revising article and book review guidelines to more clearly articulate AHR standards and goals, commissioning articles, review essays, and forums on under-represented subjects, and enlarging contacts with publishers to increase the range of books evaluated for review. Some of these actions have already had an impact on the journal, others will in the future. At the same time, I have tried to maintain the journal's high editorial and production standards and to ensure that those standards are applied in a uniform and fair manner. As I have tackled these issues, I have learned part of my task is to convince some historians that the pages of the AHR are open to articles and books on all topics of historical inquiry. And thus I must emphasize that at the AHR there are no privileged subjects, methods, or fields; no quotas for articles or books in particular fields or on particular subjects. I urge historians critical of the journal to submit manuscripts or send letters or messages suggesting how they think that the journal can improve the way it pursues its fundamental mission. AHR guidelines and other editorial information can be found on our web page; and letters and messages can be sent to our editorial offices at either 914 East Atwater Ave., Bloomington, IN, 47401 or

—Michael Grossberg is the editor of the American Historical Review.