Drew Wagenhoffer recently posted on the increase in the number of magazine articles written by historians who have recently released book-length studies. The articles are essentially a watered-down version of the book. I’m still not quite sure what is bothering Drew, but he makes his main point here:
I realize this complaint is a little bit unfair, because large numbers
of subscribers don’t read legions of books. I certainly don’t mind
finding these articles every once in awhile (there are many monographs
I have no desire to read in book form but would gladly see summarized
at article length–to keep up with the current literature if nothing
else), but it’s the frequency that bothers me. In the main, I pay for
subscriptions to read original material articles about subjects that do
not lend themselves to book-length study.
I guess I am not sure what the frequency problem involves here given that the book isn’t being read anyway. My guess is that Drew is thinking of North and South magazine which has featured these kinds of essays going all the way back to the beginning of its publication in 1997. I actually think that this is what singles out N&S from all the other magazines, especially given that this magazine offers the widest selection of articles. The last few issues have included articles based on recently released studies by Gabor Boritt, Amy M. Taylor, and Peter Carmichael. And Drew is absolutely right to point out that unless read in this magazine most readers will never come across some of these important and insightful arguments. In short, readers of these articles are able to stay on top of Civil War historiography in a way that straddles both strict military and social/cultural history.
Over the past few years I’ve relied heavily on this magazine in my Civil War class. The readings are predominantly from N&S magazine and many of them are specifically articles that summarize a recently released book. This gives students a sense of what is current and the kinds of questions that are being asked. Last week we read Carmichael’s piece on the "Last Generation," which is based on his recent study, The Last Generation: Young Virginians in Peace, War, and Reunion. I recently published an article on how I use the magazine in class in the OAH’s Magazine of History (May, 2005). You can read it here (pdf file) if interested.