I cross-posted yesterday’s entry over at Revise and Dissent and received an interesting comment from Jonathan Dresner, which included a question of whether I could come up with a short list of titles that the JAH should have on their review list. That’s easy enough to do so here it goes. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and no one expects any history journal to review them all:
Michael Ballard, Vicksburg: The Campaign That Opened The Mississippi (UNC Press, 2004).
Eric Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi, Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg (Savas/Beattie, 2006).
Buck Foster, Sherman’s Mississippi Campaign (University of Alabama Press, 2006).
Edward Cunningham, Shiloh and the Western Campaigns of 1862 (Savas/Beattie, 2007).
Scott Patchan, Shenandoah Summer: The 1864 Valley Campaign (University of Nebraska Press, 2007).
It’s hard to know whether the more recent titles from 2006-07 are in fact slated for review given the amount of time it takes to commission and publish a journal review. The apparent bias at the JAH seems to be very narrow. For instance, John Cimprich’s study of Fort Pillow was reviewed, but I suspect it is because he gives a nod to issues of memory and public history. Steve Woodworth’s book on the Army of the Tennessee was also reviewed. I suspect that the latest installment in Gary Gallagher’s Military Campaigns of the Civil War Series will also be reviewed given the analytical range of the essays.
I think one would be hard-pressed to argue that the bias at the JAH is directed at military history. Without getting into a debate about semantics it is clear to me that the editors are targeting what they perceive to be a traditional battle study. The problem is that it is becoming more and more difficult to draw that distinction. Most campaign studies – regardless of whether they are written by professional/academic types and/or published by a university press – provide a broader context that gives meaning and significance to the events being described on the ground. I am sympathetic if the editors wish to leave as much space as possible for titles that provide rich analysis of their topics, but the problem is that in the end you end up generalizing and ignoring very creative and analytically rich studies. No doubt some of these authors do this well and other do not, but it is the job of a journal’s book review section to sift throught the good, the bad, and the ugly.