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Book review information

About a third of the journal comprises historiographical reviews and review articles. The former provide broad overviews of a field – books, articles, exhibitions, databases, and other contributions – with an emphasis on recent developments. Review articles, by contrast, discuss a particular body of books, listed at the start. Most historiographical reviews and review articles are commissioned by the Reviews Editor, but proposals for such contributions are welcome. Suggestions should be made via hj@hist.cam.ac.uk well in advance. All historiographical reviews and review articles are refereed. 

Dr Andrew Arsan 

Historical Journal
Faculty of History
West Road
Cambridge
CB3 9EF

Historical Journal Reviews Descriptors

General guidance

The Historical Journal does not commission or accept reviews of single works. It publishes only longer Historiographical Reviews of no more than 8,000 words, which examine the development of a particular field or debate, and shorter Review Articles of no more than 5,000 words, which assess a number of books. Some of the Journal’s most cited articles are review pieces of this kind.

It is also important to note, for UK-based researchers, that under the terms of the REF 2014, review pieces of the kind which appear in the Historical Journal are considered ‘research outputs’, which can be submitted for consideration in the REF. Paragraph 107 of the REF 2014 Guidance on Submissions makes it clear that ‘reviews […] may be included if they embody research as defined by Annex C’; under Annex C, research is defined as ‘a process of investigation leading to new insights, effectively shared’. [1] (21, 48).  There is no reason to expect that this will change in future rounds.

As with other pieces submitted to the Journal, submissions are made through the online portal: http://mc.manuscriptcentral/hj. Further guidance on style, referencing and formatting can be found in the Journal’s ‘Instructions for Contributors'. Like research articles, all review articles are sent out for peer review to 2-3 expert readers. We ask peer reviewers to return their reports within 4-6 weeks.  

Historiographical reviews

The historiographical review provides a critical survey of a particular field, historiographical debate, or methodological approach. It may concentrate on recent developments within a given field, or provide an account of its development over a longer period of time. Whichever the case, it is not simply a sequential assessment of a series of works, but should situate individual contributions within their broader scholarly context. Historiographical reviews can reflect on questions of sources, methodology, interpretation, and context.

The author of a historiographical review might profitably consider the following questions: what is the current state of a particular field or debate, and how has it evolved? In what ways have recent developments changed our understanding of particular questions and topics? Why have historians adopted certain approaches, and moved away from others? Which questions are now providing new insights, and which diminishing returns? In what direction is a given field currently heading? Which aspects of a particular period or topic have received extensive coverage, which have been neglected, and why? And which questions might gain in importance in coming years?

In other words, the Historiographical Review offers a forum for sustained reflection on one’s own field. It is of great utility not just to students and scholars searching for an introduction to a particular field or question, but also to authors seeking to define their own stance on particular questions. Historiographical Reviews should be no more than 8,000 words.

Recent examples include:

  • Alexis Litvine, ‘The Industrious Revolution, the Industrial Revolution and the Development of Modern Economies’

  • Abigail Green, ‘Humanitarianism in Nineteenth-century Context: Religious, Gendered, National’

Review Articles

The Review Article provides a collective assessment of a number of recent publications. These can be linked together by subject, theme, or author. The author of a Review Article should endeavour to discuss the distinctive contribution of each work in some detail, while also placing individual publications in their broader context. The intellectual rationale for the selection of particular titles should be made clear to the reader. A Review Article might focus, for example, on a number of recent titles on a particular event or process, or works that adopt similar methodological approaches, but it might also take one work of particular significance as a starting point, situating it within a broader debate or scholarly context.

Review articles should be no more than 5,000 words. It is expected that each title should be accorded c. 700-1,000 words.  

Recent examples include:

  • Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, ‘Who is Wagging Whom? Power and the New History of American Populism’

  • Christopher Bayly, ‘Michael Mann and Modern World History’