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The Journal of American History


Book Reviews

The Journal of American History aims to be a journal of record that enables readers to keep abreast of what is produced in the field of American history. By making readers aware of new books and helping them identify and assess those useful to them, the editorial board and staff of the JAH hope to assure its role as a journal of record and to sustain historical scholarship. The Journal does not accept unsolicited book reviews. To be considered a reviewer for the JAH, please complete a reviewer datasheet.

Deciding What to Review

Our criteria in selecting books for review—American content, historical perspective, broad significance, originality, and scholarship—are evolving and flexible. The Journal's book review editor may assign different weights to different criteria or follow a hunch that a book outside our usual purview deserves review. When a work falls at the edge of our field of interest, the book review editor asks: How many of the criteria does it meet? How well does it meet them? Such a book is more likely to be reviewed if it meets several criteria or fulfills one of them to spectacular effect.

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Criteria

AMERICAN CONTENT

The JAH concentrates on reviewing books about the United States or areas that became part of it. Because we recognize the international dimensions of history, our definition of American history covers works addressing events or processes that begin, unfold, or end in the United States. It also includes comparative topics and the study of geographic and social borderlands where people, ideas, and institutions from the United States interact with those from elsewhere.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

The JAH defines history as concerned with the past or with issues of change and continuity over time. Historical writing therefore includes works that deal with recent events and a range of human activities (for example, law, sports, religion, and art) so long as they are approached in relation to their time or their development over time.

BROAD SIGNIFICANCE

The JAH seeks to review books that show the significance of moments, persons, movements, or institutions by placing them in a historical context, connecting them with development over time, or relating them to ongoing discussions among historians. No topic is per se narrow. The amount and level of self-conscious contextualization and of reference to methods of analyzing the past may confer either narrowness or breadth.

ORIGINALITY

The JAH concentrates on reviewing works of original scholarship. Most of the books we review are scholarly monographs, the main vehicle for the dissemination of original research and reflection in the field of American history.

SCHOLARSHIP

The JAH concentrates on reviewing books that conform to core traditions of historical scholarship—research in primary sources, reference to historiography, engagement with cutting-edge issues. We value the scholarly apparatus of notes and bibliography as a sign of faithfulness to disciplinary traditions. But on occasion we review less heavily documented syntheses and extended essays by major historical thinkers.

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Applying the Criteria

The JAH reviews approximately 600 books each year. Most of them, as works of original scholarship on U.S. history, unambiguously fulfill our criteria. Our aim here is to be inclusive. Books of other sorts, including those considered below, we review selectively.

BOOKS IN OTHER DISCIPLINES

The JAH reviews some books in such related fields as sociology, anthropology, law, literature, and cultural studies if they meet some of our criteria (especially if they offer a historical perspective) or if they are likely to be of use to historians of the United States. The reviewer is usually a historian—sometimes one with a foot in another discipline—who can highlight the connection between the book and the concerns of historians.

BOOKS ON HISTORY THAT OCCURRED OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES

The JAH reviews some books on non-U.S. history when their topics or approaches resonate with issues in American history. We expect reviewers to connect such books with the interests of our readers as historians of the United States.

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Review Formats

It is JAH policy to review many books briefly rather than fewer books more extensively. JAH reviews generally vary in length from 500 to 1000 words. For reviews of monographs, the standard length is 500 words; for those of edited collections of essays, it is 600. To help readers see how fields are developing, we sometimes run joint reviews, which are at least 900 words long. To highlight works of particular significance, we publish feature reviews of at least 1000 words.

The JAH can best fulfill its goals if historians and other readers let us know of their needs and wishes. We welcome feedback on our book review policies.