- Fifty Years Flourishing
Our vision, fifty years ago, was to create a journal of history that explicitly would emphasize new and innovative methods of uncovering the past. We were ecumenical and catholic about approaches social scientific, scientific, and humane so long as they offered novel, preferably breakthrough, insights and added measurably to existing knowledge. We welcomed articles and research notes introducing specific techniques or technologies of likely value to historians. We were purposely unbounded geographically and temporally, the better to explore innovative analyses, unusual or unexpected subjects, and to invite collaboration across disciplines and topics. We eschewed intellectual history and purely narrative recounting; existing journals served those pursuits well.
Looking back, as the several especially commissioned fifty-year articles that have appeared in this half-century volume of the JIH reveal, we appear to have fulfilled our self-described mandate. Through articles, research notes, review essays, extensive reviews of major books, and—not least—special issues, many of which derived from conferences created by the JIH, we have brought interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, and multidisciplinary practice to the writing and practice of history. Whether in the employment of quantitative or demographical methods for historical purposes, or in the consideration of astronomical, dendrological, or glaciochemical insights when exploring the impact of climate on history, the JIH has both brought varied expertise and heuristic experiences to bear on common unsolved problems and stimulated significant new lines of critical research.
From very early attention to the American Revolution, family history, the census, and psychobiography to special issues on "the new history," social capital, geospatial analytics, environmental history, industrialization, and "the origins of war," the JIH has largely been ahead of its time, focusing attention across disciplines on mutual problems that had elsewhere been previously explored only tentatively, The JIH, in line with its original vision, stimulated whole bodies of new inquiry and directed historians and social scientists to a range of topics in need of examination and explanation. The special articles in this issue of the JIH and in other issues published in volume 50 examine what the JIH has accomplished (and failed to accomplish) [End Page 491] across a range of pertinent topics. They also set out an agenda for the second fifty years of the JIH.
As the surviving original founding co-editor (my esteemed colleague Theodore K. Rabb died in early 2019: See our celebration of him in volume XLIX, number 4), I will forebear attempting to edit the JIH beyond this final issue of volume 50. Fortunately, for the JIH, for history and historicism, and for our interdisciplinary legacy, Professor Anne E. C. McCants of MIT, sometime editor of Social Science History, President of the International Economic History Association, and the acclaimed author of Civic Charity in a Golden Age: Orphan Care in Early Modern Amsterdam (1997), has agreed to edit this journal beginning with the very next issue. (Professor Reed Ueda, of Tufts University, retires with me. But the existing Board of Editors remains.) McCants will be ably assisted by Managing Editor Ed Freedman, who joined us in 1993 and has been significantly responsible for the stylistic and punctilious grace, and the punctuality of decisions and publication, that has long characterized the JIH—in accord, again, with its original vision.
I leave the editing of the JIH in excellent hands. I leave it knowing that the now half-century-old desire to help enlarge and modernize the pursuit of history is still a magnificent work in progress and that my successors will advance and extend the original mandate as fifty years becomes sixty and seventy years and beyond.
The MIT Press has been the JIH's publisher from the very beginning. I approached the then director of the Press in 1969 and, before too many months had ensued, we became the MIT Press' second journal, after Linguistic Inquiry. (Now the MIT Press publishes forty-one journals.) We are one of the rarities, today, a letterpress print journal, available in other formats but without—so far—the desire to pre-empt ourselves by publishing online before going into print. Nor are we presently tempted to abandon print.
What we have been doing so well and so long, and what we...