Is There Room For Another Academic Journal For Civil War Studies?

The Society for Civil War Historians thinks so.  Last week a circular email was sent to all members indicating that the two year relationship with the journal, Civil War History (published by Kent State Press) is coming to an end.  During this time members were able to subscribe to the journal through their annual dues to the Society.  The organization has decided to accept an offer by the University of North Carolina Press to make their new publication, the Journal of the Civil War Era, the official journal of the Society starting in 2011.  I won’t bore you with the details as to why the decision was made, but it came down to the UNC Press agreeing to help with advertising and other managerial responsibilities.

Regarding the new journal:

The Journal of the Civil War Era will be edited by Bill Blair.  Anthony E. Kaye of Pennsylvania State University will serve as Associate Editor for Books and Reviews, while Aaron Sheehan-Dean of the University of North Florida will be Associate Editor for the Profession.  Bill has provided the following description of the journal:

The Journal of the Civil War Era is determined to publish the most creative new work on the full range of topics of interest to scholars of this period. We will continue to feature fresh perspectives on military, political, and legal history of the era. Moreover, articles, essays, and reviews will attend to slavery and antislavery, labor and capitalism, popular culture and intellectual history, expansionism and empire, and African American and women’s history. The editors mean The Journal of the Civil War Era to be a venue where scholars engaged in the full range of theoretical perspectives that animate historical practice can find a home. By bringing together scholars from areas that now intersect only sporadically, the publisher and editor hope to galvanize the larger field of nineteenth-century history intellectually and professionally.

In addition to peer-reviewed, cutting-edge scholarship, the journal will offer a variety of other elements designed to engage historians, sharpen debate, and hone practices in the profession, in the classroom, and in theory and method:

• Review essays that analyze emergent themes and map new directions in historiography.
• Book reviews by experienced, published scholars that offer critical perspectives on key works in the field and the discipline.
• Reviews of films, digital archive collections, websites, museum exhibitions, and interventions in other media.
• Columns on the profession that alert readers to recent issues in the job market, teaching, and technology and help historians of the Civil War Era find the leading edge of these trends.

Scholars who have agreed to serve on the new journal’s editorial board include Stephen Berry, David Blight, Peter Carmichael, Gary Gallagher, Stephanie McCurry, and Carol Reardon.

This is very exciting news and I assume most, if not all, members of the Society will transition to the new journal.  I know I will, but that leaves the question of what to do with my subscription to Civil War History.  I’ve had a subscription to the journal since 2002 and look forward to every issue.  It is the premiere journal in our area, but I am concerned as to whether the field can, in fact, handle two academic journals.  In addition to Civil War History, I subscribe to The Journal of Southern History and The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography.  I honestly don’t know if my budget can handle two Civil War journals.

The more important question, however, is who will take on the management of the journal given that Bill Blair is taking on editorial responsibilities and so many additional scholars are signing on in various capacities.  We shall see.

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13 comments… add one
  • Will Underwood Feb 19, 2010 @ 13:13

    As the publisher of Civil War History, we naturally regret the surprise decision of the Society of Civil War Historians to sever its ties with our journal in favor of another. However, the addition to the field of a second journal can only benefit study of the Civil War era.

    For more than 50 years Civil War History has served the field by bringing to scholars, institutions, and the interested public the best in provocative and groundbreaking Civil War era scholarship. It will continue to do so for as long as the study of America’s greatest national crisis endures.

    Will Underwood
    Director, The Kent State University Press

    • Kevin Levin Feb 19, 2010 @ 13:17

      Mr. Underwood,

      Thanks for offering your thoughts about the future of CWH. Please feel free to keep me updated on changes to the journal and I will gladly pass it on to my readers. Best of luck throughout this transition. I don’t think anyone will disagree that CWH has been indispensable in furthering our understanding of this crucial period in our nation’s history.

  • Timothy Orr Feb 18, 2010 @ 11:57

    I agree. CWH has an opportunity to change its focus, if it so desires, and depending on how it markets its scholarship, it might carve out a more distinctive niche for itself. Of course, we will have to wait and see how the editorial staff and board at CWH reconfigures its membership. As for the JCWE, yes, many on the editorial board share the same ideas or share a similar outlook, but I imagine that this is often the case with academic journals. Editorial boards form from professional and personal connections, and the academic world is small, terribly small. So, inevitably, the heads directing such efforts will share similar visions. I imagine I’ll try submitting various articles to both journals . . . But readers will have to make some hard choices. My choice is easy, I guess. Since JCWE now operates out of my office–the editorial assistant sits three feet from me–my decision is pretty much predetermined.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 18, 2010 @ 12:28

      Play it safe and stay loyal to your team. It might be interesting to see the University of Mississippi take on editorial control of the CWH given their new institute.

  • Timothy Orr Feb 17, 2010 @ 23:09

    In a general sense, the editorial staff from Civil War History has transferred to the Journal of the Civil War Era. So, in a way, the Journal of the Civil War Era is the old journal, and Civil War History will, for all purposes, become the new journal. How will these two publications will play together? What will each provide to the academic audience? I guess we must wait and see. I must point out that, for years, CWH annually received 60+ article submissions and more books than it had room to review. I expect there will be no shortage of innovative publications and new books to review for either journal. The way it was explained to me, the JCWE proposes to have high standards for submitted work, and the editorial staff expects that CWH will pick up those books and articles that do not make the cut. The important question relates to subscriptions. As you pointed out, Kevin, not everyone has the money to pay for two Civil War history journals, and people are going to have to make some hard choices in the future. I am curious to see how this plays out.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 17, 2010 @ 23:15

      Nice to hear from you. That's an interesting way of looking at it. You are right that there is plenty of top-notch scholarship to fill two journals, but the critical question is whether we can afford both.

      I didn't really want to get into this in the post, but if you look at the editorial staff and advisory board that will move to the new journal there is an opportunity to give CWH a slightly different historiographical focus. I don't know if I want to make too much of this, but there is a certain amount of consensus between these people on certain topics. That's not in any way a criticism, but it has been noted be a few people.

      What do you think?

  • woodrowfan Feb 17, 2010 @ 18:11

    Well, maybe it'll give Mr. Ijames a place to publish his findings…

    • Kevin Levin Feb 17, 2010 @ 18:15

      Sure, but it seems to me the ideal place for such an essay would be in the North Carolina Historical Review.

  • bobhuddleston Feb 17, 2010 @ 3:07

    I have subscribed to CWH for 10-12 years and have dug out all but 4-5 of the back issues. It is an excellent magazine. As Larry put it, I often wonder if there is room for even one CW scholarly magazine, let alone 2. Look at the decrease in “popular” magazines. It sounds a little to me like some academic infighting leading to secession — even sounds familiar in the context of our favorite subject!

    • Kevin Levin Feb 17, 2010 @ 10:35

      You may be right, but I can't speak to any infighting.

  • heidic Feb 17, 2010 @ 1:32

    There are many academic journals on many topics — many journals sharing one topic, to be vague. I understand the issue of one's budget to pay for all of these subscriptions, but if the two journals are basically sharing the same view point, one should stop publication or the two should merge; however, if two journals on the same topic have differing view points or the journals focus on different subjects of the Civil War, then this could prove to be a new plethora of resources. Yet if that isn't the case, then why should there be so many journals on one topic if they are all conformed to one mindset?

  • Larry Cebula Feb 17, 2010 @ 0:36

    Good grief, I don't know that there is room for another academic history journal on any topic. Academic publishing is dying. Michigan has gone to digital publishing only and the administration just closed the press on my campus entirely. I can't see how two academic journals on he same topic are going to make it.

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