Journal of American History

Selection Criteria

Scholarly articles, books, and dissertations are listed in rso if they are concerned with the American past—whether they explore an individual, group, place, artifact, event, movement, process, or memory of the past—or if they offer historical perspectives germane to the study of the American past. The JAH defines the American past to include comparative topics and international influences, however transformed, which begin, develop, or end in the United States or which have intersected with or affected United States history. The author may use a variety of approaches, methods, or ideologies, but the work should be historical: It should attempt to place subject matter in historical context or to examine change over time. We include very recent developments, but an article that is simply a commentary on an issue with no historical contextualization will not be listed. While rso primarily lists research articles about the past, it also includes scholarly pieces on topics useful to historians—from teaching United States history to the world of museums to theoretical concerns that may affect the discipline.

Since our goal is to provide a comprehensive resource for professional historians, works listed in rso vary widely, from monographic articles to explorations of theory, methodology, and pedagogy, and they may qualify for inclusion for various reasons. Taking the needs of history instructors into account, works that will be helpful to teachers need not necessarily fulfill the same standards applied to other listed scholarship.

When selecting works such as articles, books, and dissertations for inclusion in rso, the JAH staff aims to blend comprehensiveness with selectivity. We strive to be comprehensive by examining the contents of over 1,200 journals, in addition to seeking out new journals for inclusion, keeping abreast of recent book publications, culling dissertation titles from every issue of Dissertation Abstracts International, and actively soliciting (and refereeing) contributions from international contributing editors. But our efforts at comprehensiveness are secondary to our desire to maintain a list that is useful to researchers. Including every article, book, and dissertation that meets one or two of our criteria would not be doing a service to researchers who use our database to focus their queries. When deciding which articles to include, we attempt to apply our criteria in a meaningful, helpful way. rso is not designed to be a comprehensive database that lists every written work that touches upon a person, place, event, or idea from the American past. As the journal of record for the scholarly discipline of U.S. history, the JAH is committed to listing those works that reflect conventions, broadly defined, accepted and practiced by people in that discipline. During the selection process, we consider the following criteria:

While we strive to be as efficient as possible, a 6–12 month delay from when a work is published till its appearance in rs is not atypical. We are grateful to readers and users who draw our attention to sources that we may have missed. If in using rso, you find that a particular journal article citation seems to be missing, please try to check in the database to see if that journal is one we actively check. If it is not, please contact us to suggest we look at the journal, or even contact the journal itself and encourage its staff to send us a copy.

The work to be listed is scholarly.

Does the piece reflect internationally accepted standards of scholarship? Does the article present a clear and effective argument? Do the topic and interpretation significantly contribute to historical knowledge? Is the research sound, original, and persuasive? Is the work well documented, including footnotes or a bibliography that has informed the article? Especially in historical glossy magazines we look for an argument or a point of view, rather than a simple or description of a person or event. We also look for academic rigor, a serious tone, and a thorough treatment of the topic at hand. Articles must have footnotes that reference more than personal communications or Web sites.

The scholarship is useful in teaching.

Does the piece provide useful information for teaching United States history at a secondary or postsecondary level? Is a piece suited for use in the classroom? Because we consider teaching as well as research interests when compiling rso, we sometimes include shorter pieces dealing with teaching topics that might not be as rigorous in tone and scholarship as the other works we include. We try to balance the somewhat different criteria for works useful for research and those useful for teaching. We also have a special category, “Teaching, Surveys, and Textbooks” for this scholarship.

The content of the scholarship is American.

Is the piece concerned in a substantial way with the history of the United States or the American past? We include articles on topics related to the colonial period in places within the contemporary boundaries of the United States; we define “colonial period” as the interval from first European contact with an area to the time when it became part of the United States. Additionally, we look beyond our geographic borders as we strive to bring to our readers the work of scholars who write comparative history that includes the American experience. If a piece does not directly address an aspect of U.S. history, does it add an international or comparative element that enlightens our understanding of the history of the United States? We hope to list historical scholarship that examines how the United States has been influenced by trends, people, or ideas that originate abroad. Topics might include comparisons between founding myths in Italy and the United States or between slavery in Brazil and the United States. And while we would include an article about American support of the contras in 1980s Nicaragua, we would not include an article dealing with internal Nicaraguan policy that dealt only collaterally with American interaction. And while articles on Spanish colonial California would be included, an article on precontact Hohokam marriage rituals would not.

The subject of the scholarship, at its core, is historical.

Does the piece examine the social, cultural, and political contexts of human artifacts and events and, most particularly, change over time? If the piece does not focus on history or was written by someone outside the historical profession, does the author nonetheless provide historical context or show change? In rs gathering, editorial assistants scrutinize a variety of journals from many disciplines—history, gender studies, literature, political science, anthropology, economics, sociology, and art history, to name a few. We are interested in including scholarship that makes broad and historically rooted claims: For example, in literary analysis, we look for claims about broader American culture; and in political science, we look for a broad historical context. Thus, while an article on how Mark Twain fit into Gilded Age America would be included, an analysis focusing solely on imagery in Huckleberry Finn would not. In legal scholarship, we look for works that make significant claims about U.S. history—such as applications of Marbury v. Madison or a discussion of Brown v. Board in relation to the civil rights movement—but we would not include works that are studies of single cases or rulings, devoid of much historical context.

As a whole, the scholarship is useful to professional historians.

Is the article influenced primarily by the historical discipline? Even if the piece is not historical or does not discuss U.S. history, does it present topics, perspectives, theories, methods, debates, or sources that would be of interest to historians? We do not include articles that have a minor amount of historical material but that include significant amounts of discipline-specific language and concepts that would be of limited usefulness to the average JAH reader. We do not include articles that are primarily anthropological, geographical, theological, sociological, or archaeological in focus.

Finally, the scholarship is substantial and accessible.

Is the piece at least 10 pages long and accessible to readers in a print or online version?

Recent Scholarship Online