Historians don’t just write textbooks and monographs or edit readers. Most historical writing appears as articles in scholarly journals. It’s helpful to look through the journals to get an idea of what new approaches historians are taking and which topics are attracting their attention. Many articles deal with extremely narrow subjects. What a text covers in a line or two might be explored in thirty pages in a journal. Articles that assess the work done on a particular theme or period — slavery or the Progressive Era, for example, or a field of study such as diplomatic history — are often more useful to the AP student.
In addition to articles, journals contain reviews of new books published by historians, which are models of review writing. They also help students understand that just because a book appears in print, it isn’t necessarily without flaws. Historian reviewers are quick to point out shortcomings in research and organization. Occasionally, an author disagrees with the reviewer to the point where a spirited exchange of letters is published. Reviews give students a quick overview of the current research in U.S. history.
You should be aware of two publications that deal exclusively with book reviews: History: Reviews of New Books and Reviews in American History. The latter has extended essays, sometimes called review articles, about several books on the same topic. Both are useful in seeing what historians have to say about the latest works in their field.
Beyond articles and reviews, the leading scholarly journals have other features worth noting. They may include bibliographies of recently published articles. It’s also interesting to browse the back pages where publishers advertise their latest textbook editions and monographs. You may see your own textbook advertised here and get a sense of why it’s being used in your class.
Journals are almost always published by professional organizations and usually appear quarterly. They may focus on U.S. history generally, the history of a region or state, or a particular field of study. The latter will have articles on world as well as U.S. history. The following list barely scratches the surface.
Scholarly Journals in United States History
American Historical Review. Published five times a year by the American Historical Association, its articles deal with the entire scope of history, but many are on American history. The articles are heavily footnoted and may run up to thirty pages.
Historian. A quarterly published by Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society, it includes articles on world and American history.
Journal of American History. Published quarterly by the Organization of American Historians, this is the leading journal for historians who do research in American history. Topics ran chronologically from the colonial period to the recent past and cover cultural, diplomatic, economic, intellectual, political, and social history. Until 1964. it was called the Mississippi Valley Historical Review.
Journal of Southern History. Published quarterly by the Southern Historical Association, it covers the history of the South.
Pacific Historical Review. This quarterly is published by the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association and deals primarily with American history in the Pacific Coast states; it also features articles about Asia-Pacific developments.
Western Historical Quarterly. Published since 1970 by the Western History Association, it deals in broad definition with the westward movement, the frontier, and the West.
Other Regional History Journals
California History Journal of Arizona History New Mexico Historical Review Pacific Northwest Historical Quarterly Southwest Historical Quarterly
Field of Study Journals
Civil War History
Journal of American Ethnic History
Journal of Economic History
Journal of the History of Ideas (intellectual history)
Journal of Negro History
Journal of Social History Journal of Sport History Journal of Urban History Journal of Women's History Labor History The Public Historian Technology and Culture
AP students can find these and other journals in most college libraries. The larger the college or university, the more journals it will carry. You can see recent issues of the American Historical Review and the Journal of American History on line at http://www.historycooperative.org.
In addition to scholarly journals, there are magazines aimed at the general reading public interested in history. The most noted of the popular history journals is American Heritage. First published in 1954 as a bimonthly, the magazine now appears eight times a year. The articles in American Heritage see history as a story worth telling. They are lavishly illustrated, often in color, and cover a wide range of topics. Right behind American Heritage is American History (formerly American History Illustrated), published on a more modest scale but with similar attention to history as a story. Taken together, these two magazines provide interesting information in a style that puts you at ease. The main drawback is that they seldom deal with themes over which historians disagree. Instead, they take a mainstream approach, possibly noting disagreement but not addressing it as a topic for examination. Selected articles from American Heritage and American History can be reviewed on line at http://www.americanheritage.com and http://thehistorynet.com, respectively.