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Guidelines for Authors

Please click on the below links to read specific guidelines for the Journal's manuscript categories:

Book Reviews
Exhibition Reviews
Movie Reviews
Web site Reviews
Textbooks and Teaching


Where to Send Your Manuscript

Two paper copies of the manuscript should be sent to the Editor, Journal of American History, 1215 E. Atwater Ave., Bloomington, Indiana 47401. An electronic version should be submitted on a cd or dvd, along with the paper copies, or as an e-mail attachment sent to

All articles submitted to the Journal of American History must include an abstract. This abstract must be on a separate page from the body of the article and may not be longer than 500 words.


All text, including quotations and footnotes, should be prepared in double-spaced typescript according to The Chicago Manual of Style (University of Chicago Press). See the Journal’s style sheet for further details.

The electronic version should be in Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, or Rich Text format (RTF).

Because submissions are evaluated anonymously, the author’s name should appear only on the title page. Please provide your full address, including e-mail, in all correspondence.


Manuscripts, including footnotes, must not exceed 14,000 words.


Once a manuscript is accepted for publication, the JAH strongly encourages the author to enhance the article with illustrations. The author will be responsible for providing the illustrations in a form that is suitable for publication, for obtaining permissions, and for paying any permission, use, or processing fees involved with the illustrations. Each illustration must be submitted electronically as a .tiff, .eps, or .jpg.

Images in the .jpg format must be of high quality and resolution. The lowest acceptable resolution for an image (example: a glossy photograph or an image from a book or magazine) is 600 dots per inch (dpi). The lowest acceptable resolution for line art is 1000 dpi. All images must be at least 6 x 8 inches. Images (glossy photograph or image of a page from a book or magazine) must be at least 600 dpi with a width of 3600 pixels and height of 4800 pixels. Illustrations (line art, wood craving, or ink drawing) must be at least 1000 dpi with a width of 6000 pixels and a height of 8000 pixels.


A manuscript that has been published or that is currently under consideration for publication elsewhere in either article or book form should not be submitted. The Journal will not consider submissions that duplicate other published works in either wording or substance.


Articles that are accepted become the property of the Organization of American Historians. The OAH allows authors the free use of their materials as long as a decent interval elapses between publication in the Journal and subsequent publication.


The Journal of American History aims to be a journal of record that enables readers to keep abreast of what is produced in the field of American history. By making readers aware of new books and helping them identify and assess those useful to them, the editorial board and staff of the JAH hope to assure its role as a journal of record and to sustain historical scholarship. The Journal does not accept unsolicited book reviews. To be considered a reviewer for the JAH, please complete a reviewer datasheet.

Deciding What to Review

Our criteria in selecting books for review—American content, historical perspective, broad significance, originality, and scholarship—are evolving and flexible. The Journal’s book review editor may assign different weights to different criteria or follow a hunch that a book outside our usual purview deserves review. When a work falls at the edge of our field of interest, the book review editor asks: How many of the criteria does it meet? How well does it meet them? Such a book is more likely to be reviewed if it meets several criteria or fulfills one of them to spectacular effect.



The JAH concentrates on reviewing books about the United States or areas that became part of it. Because we recognize the international dimensions of history, our definition of American history covers works addressing events or processes that begin, unfold, or end in the United States. It also includes comparative topics and the study of geographic and social borderlands where people, ideas, and institutions from the United States interact with those from elsewhere.


The JAH defines history as concerned with the past or with issues of change and continuity over time. Historical writing therefore includes works that deal with recent events and a range of human activities (for example, law, sports, religion, and art) so long as they are approached in relation to their time or their development over time.


The JAH seeks to review books that show the significance of moments, persons, movements, or institutions by placing them in a historical context, connecting them with development over time, or relating them to ongoing discussions among historians. No topic is per se narrow. The amount and level of self-conscious contextualization and of reference to methods of analyzing the past may confer either narrowness or breadth.


The JAH concentrates on reviewing works of original scholarship. Most of the books we review are scholarly monographs, the main vehicle for the dissemination of original research and reflection in the field of American history.


The JAH concentrates on reviewing books that conform to core traditions of historical scholarship—research in primary sources, reference to historiography, engagement with cutting-edge issues. We value the scholarly apparatus of notes and bibliography as a sign of faithfulness to disciplinary traditions. But on occasion we review less heavily documented syntheses and extended essays by major historical thinkers.

Applying the Criteria

The JAH reviews approximately 600 books each year. Most of them, as works of original scholarship on U.S. history, unambiguously fulfill our criteria. Our aim here is to be inclusive. Books of other sorts, including those considered below, we review selectively.


The JAH reviews some books in such related fields as sociology, anthropology, law, literature, and cultural studies if they meet some of our criteria (especially if they offer a historical perspective) or if they are likely to be of use to historians of the United States. The reviewer is usually a historian—sometimes one with a foot in another discipline—who can highlight the connection between the book and the concerns of historians.


The JAH reviews some books on non-U.S. history when their topics or approaches resonate with issues in American history. We expect reviewers to connect such books with the interests of our readers as historians of the United States.

Review Formats

It is JAH policy to review many books briefly rather than fewer books more extensively. JAH reviews generally vary in length from 500 to 1000 words. For reviews of monographs, the standard length is 500 words; for those of edited collections of essays, it is 600. To help readers see how fields are developing, we sometimes run joint reviews, which are at least 900 words long. To highlight works of particular significance, we publish feature reviews of at least 1000 words.

The JAH can best fulfill its goals if historians and other readers let us know of their needs and wishes. We welcome feedback on our book review policies.


Exhibition reviews, which first appeared in the Journal in 1989, run in the June and December issues of the JAH and number seven to eight. In addition to assessments of museum exhibitions, other representations of history in the public sphere—living history projects, historical pageants and reenactments, memorials, historic preservation projects, educational programming, and virtual museums, as well as multidisciplinary projects—are encouraged. Comparative reviews and critical essays on the theory and practice of history exhibitions are also welcomed.

Benjamin Filene, associate professor and director of public history in the History Department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Brian Horrigan, exhibit developer at the Minnesota Historical Society, are the contributing editors for the “Exhibition Reviews” section of the Journal of American History. In making selections for inclusion in any given issue, the editors will be looking for balance in types and sizes of exhibitions and originating institutions, as well as geographical and topical range. They are interested in providing Journal readers with a sense of the visitor experience of exhibitions, seeing them as interpretative products for diverse public audiences.

The editors welcome suggestions; they may be reached at and


Premiering in December 1986 and running in the June and December issues of the Journal of American History, the “Movie Reviews” section features an eclectic program of a dozen or so motion pictures self-consciously driven by history. The format may be film, video, or digital; the forum exhibited, broadcast, or streamed; the genre the popular Hollywood blockbuster, the television miniseries, or the documentary feature. Recognizing the central role played by motion pictures in preserving, transmitting, and shaping American history, the section seeks to highlight films with special scholarly interest or pedagogical usefulness. The criticism accords with the purview of the journal: historical in cast but not blind to the ways cinematic style informs thematic meaning. In an age in which the photo-realistic image no longer requires a real-world referent, the power of the motion picture to bring the past before our eyes, always a fertile field for historical inquiry, warrants a level of scrutiny in line with its influence.

Thomas Doherty, professor of American studies at Brandeis University, is the editor of the “Movie Reviews” section of the Journal of American History. He can be reached at doherty@brandeis.eduand welcomes suggestions of films to review, names of screeners, and swag.


“Web Site Reviews” first appeared in the June 2001 issue of the Journal of American History. This section is a collaborative venture with the Web site History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web This section appears quarterly and normally runs five reviews.

Kelly Schrum, the director of educational projects in the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, is the contributing editor for the “Web Site Reviews” section of the Journal.

The editor welcomes suggestions and may be reached at


Although these scholarly reviews of Web sites follow the long tradition of reviewing books in the JAH—as well as the more recent practice of reviewing museum exhibitions, films, and textbooks—Web Site reviews have some particular features. The guidelines below provide specific suggestions for dealing with this medium. Please feel free to write to me with any questions you might have, as well as suggested revisions and clarifications in the guidelines.

History Web sites share a common medium (the World Wide Web), but they are quite diverse in their character. Reviewers need to keep that diversity in mind and to evaluate them on their own terms. Generally, most history Web sites fall into one of the following categories, although many sites combine different genres:

Archive: a site that provides a body of primary documents.

Electronic Essay/Exhibit: something created/written specifically for the Web—that is, a secondary source that interprets the past in some fashion. This would include “hypertexts” that offer a historical narrative or argument.

Teaching Resource:a site that provides online assignments, syllabi, and other resources specifically geared toward using the Web for teaching.

Gateway: a site that provides access to other Web-based materials.

Journal/Webzine:an online publication.

Organization: a site devoted to providing information on a particular organization.

Virtual Community: a site on which a historical community—popular or academic—interacts.

Most sites to be reviewed will probably fall into one of the first three categories. The reviewing criteria will vary depending on the category into which the site falls. Thus, for example, an archival site should be evaluated based on the quality of the materials presented; the care with which they have been prepared and perhaps edited and introduced; the ease of navigation; and its usefulness to teachers, students, and scholars. How comprehensive is the archive? Are there biases in what has been included or excluded? Does the archive, in effect, offer a point of view or interpretation? As with other types of reviews, you are providing guidance to readers on the usefulness of the site in their teaching or scholarship. At the same time, you are participating in a community of critical discourse and you are trying to improve the level of work in the field. As you would do in a scholarly book review, then, you are speaking both to potential readers and to producers of similar work.

Even within a single category, the purposes of the Web sites can vary significantly. An online exhibition or an “electronic essay” can be directed at a largely scholarly audience or a more broadly public audience. It would be unfair to fault a popularly oriented Web site for failing to trace the latest nuances in scholarship, but it would certainly be fair to note that the creators had not taken current scholarship into account. In general, then, online exhibitions and essays should be judged by the quality of their interpretation: What version of the past is presented? Is it grounded in historical scholarship? Is it original in its interpretation or mode of presentation? Again, the goal of the review is to provide guidance to potential readers (who might be reading in their roles as teachers, scholars, or citizens) and to raise the level of Web-based historical work.

Classroom-oriented sites would be judged by the quality of the scholarship underlying them, but naturally you would also want to evaluate the originality and usefulness of the pedagogical approach. Will this site be useful to teachers and students? At what level?

Reviews of Web sites must necessarily address questions of navigation and presentation. To some extent, this is the same as a book reviewer commenting on whether a book is well written or clearly organized. To be sure, the conventions of book publication are well enough established that book reviewers rarely comment on matters of navigation or design—although they do occasionally note a poorly prepared index or a work with excessive typographical errors. But on the Web, which is an emerging medium that is visual (and sometimes multimedia), issues of design and “interface” are necessarily more important. In this sense, Web reviews share a great deal with film and exhibit reviews. In general, reviewers should consider what, if anything, the electronic medium adds to the historical work being presented. Does the digital format allow the creators of the site to do something different or better than what has been done in pre-digital formats (for example, books, films, museum exhibitions)? Have the creators of the site made effective use of the medium? How easy is it to find specific materials and to find your way around the site?

In summary, most reviews will address the following four areas:

Content: Is the scholarship sound and current? What is the interpretation or point of view?

Form: Is it clear? Easy to navigate? Does it function effectively? Does it have a clear, effective, and original design? Does it have a coherent structure?

Audience/Use: Is it directed at a clear audience? Will it serve the needs of that audience?

New Media: Does it make effective use of new media and new technology? Does it do something that could not be done in other media—print, exhibition, film?

Because some history Web sites (largely archives) are vast, it is not possible to read every document or visit every link. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936–1940, at the Library of Congress’s American Memory site,, includes 2,900 documents that range from 2,000 to 15,000 words in length. The reviewer could hardly be expected to read what probably amounts to the equivalent of 300 books. In such circumstances, some systematic sampling of the contents can substitute for a review of every single Web page. At the same time, the reviewer of a Web site should devote the same kind of close attention to the work as does a reviewer of a book, exhibition, or film. Because there is no easy way to indicate the size of a Web site (as you can note the number of pages in a book or the number of minutes in a film), you should try (ideally early in your review) to give readers some sense of the kinds of material found and the quantity of each.

One final way that Web sites differ from books, exhibits, and films is that they are often works in progress. Thus, we ask that the headnote for the review indicate when you visited the site (this could be a range of dates) just as you would indicate in reviewing a performance of a play. Where the site plans some significant further changes, you should say that in the review. If you think that it would make more sense to wait for further changes before reviewing the site, then please let us know and we will put the review off to a later date. If you feel that you need additional information about a site in order to complete a review, we would be happy to contact the author or Web master on your behalf.

Because of our scholarly and pedagogical focus, our first priority in selecting reviewers is to find people whose scholarship and teaching parallels the subject areas of the Web site. We do not favor people who have some “technical” skill any more than we would expect book reviewers to know how books are typeset and printed. But we do have a preference—where possible—for reviewers who are familiar with what has been done on the Web, since that will give them a comparative context for their evaluation. Still, we recognize that such familiarity is only gradually emerging among professional historians, and some reviewers will be relatively new to such work.


Name of site/title. Address/URL. Who set it up? Who maintains it (if different)? When reviewer consulted it.


Panoramic Maps, 1847–1929, Created and maintained by the Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Reviewed Dec. 25, 2000–Jan. 2, 2001.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: March 25, 1911, Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives at Cornell University in cooperation with unite! (Union of Needle Trades, Industrial, and Textile Employees); edited by Hope Nisly and Patricia Sione. Last site update April 21, 2000. Reviewed Dec. 20, 2000–Jan. 5, 2001.

Kelly Schrum
Editor, Web Reviews, Journal of American History
Director of Educational Projects, Center for History and New Media
George Mason University,
Phone: 703-993-4521


Since 1992, the annual “Textbooks and Teaching” section has sought to bring questions of teaching into the pages of the JAH. Originally designed to review the treatment of different historical fields and topics in American history textbooks, the section has in recent years focused more often on teaching practices, methods, and resources. In the words of former contributing editors Peter Filene and Peter Wood, the “Textbooks and Teaching” section aims “to provide a site where teachers exchange exciting ideas about how they convey history to their audiences inside classrooms as well as beyond.”

Recent “Textbooks and Teaching” sections have explored the pedagogy and content of the U.S. history survey, the uses of digital technology in teaching U.S. history, the role of the “scholarship of teaching and learning” for studying our own teaching practices, and the historical skills and preconceptions of entering college students.

The “Textbooks and Teaching” section appears in the March issue of the JAH. The focus of the section is determined roughly one year prior to publication. For 2009, the topic is “rethinking the history curriculum” (see below for description). Essays generally run 10-20 pages in length (double-spaced) and follow the same guidelines of format and citation as JAH articles. The section is also made freely available online, along with additional resources and syallbi.

Scott Casper, professor of history at the University of Nevada, Reno, is the contributing editor for the “Textbooks and Teaching” section of the Journal of American History. He welcomes suggestions for annual themes, manuscripts related to the teaching of U.S. history, and proposals for submissions. Unsolicited manuscripts are reviewed with an eye toward whether they might fit within upcoming sections or help shape potential future themes. Professor Casper may be reached at

Textbooks and Teaching 2009: Rethinking the History Curriculum

The theme of the March 2009 section is “rethinking the History curriculum”: not just one course or another (e.g., the survey), but attempts to re-imagine what a collegiate history education ought to provide for students.

Toward this end, we seek to gather several “reports from the field” from departments that have thought collectively about the History curriculum and its objectives, and have revised or replaced the traditional model that starts with surveys and moves to period or regional histories, then to specialized courses and perhaps a senior project.

Each piece should describe a department’s attempt to rethink the history curriculum, ideally after departmental consideration of various issues: objectives for students’ learning, especially methodological; the relationship between breadth and depth at different levels of curriculum; the relationship between a history curriculum and other institutional imperatives (e.g., attracting students to core-requirement or group-requirement courses, pressures to teach large courses, depending on the nature of the institution). The pieces could also describe the results of curricular change: has the revision accomplished the goals that the department imagined? What remains to be accomplished?

If your department has done this kind of collective thinking (even if the rethinking and curricular revision are still in progress) and wishes to share its process with readers of the Journal of American History, we welcome proposals and submissions. Please send email to, ideally by June 30, to indicate your interest in participating. (Full drafts will be due in early September.)

Potential Future Themes

The following list is not definitive or exhaustive. Suggestions are welcome.

  • Teaching U.S. History outside the United States
  • Developing the Next Generation of History Teachers
  • Public History in the Undergraduate Experience