As a discipline or profession matures, it takes more interest in its own history, in the record of its evolution and growth. Because of its essential nature, history has from its beginnings been concerned with its own history. Recent technological advances in communications, among other reasons, have focused attention in history and in many other disciplines on the structure and institutionalization of their communication systems. This study attempts to elucidate the role in history's communication system of the scholarly historical periodical, its structure, its institutionalization, and its interaction with the profession.
An effective network of communication adapted to its peculiar needs is crucial in every professional field. Students of professionalization usually identify a theoretical knowledge base as the fundamental characteristic of every profession. Other professional attributes are in varying degrees related to it and consequently to the communication system. Responsibility for expansion of that knowledge base requires publication of the results of research, which by its very nature generates further research. Autonomy of the profession within its field and recognition by society of its right to that autonomy find expression in peer evaluation of the knowledge base and of its application to the problems of society. Many of the topics investigated m history, the ways in which the results of research are presented, and the need for a continuing mechanism for peer evaluation make the scholarly historical periodical indispensable in its communication system.
The first publications to use the periodical format were neither scholarly nor historical. Newsletters, printed in centers of political activity like London and Paris, were published for the information of residents of the provinces. In 1667 the earliest scholarly periodical, the Journal des Sçavans, began publication, closely followed by the Proceedings of the Royal Society. Both were founded to disseminate the results of scientific experiments, by members of the French Académie in the journal and of the Royal Society in the Proceedings. Historical journals began to appear in the eighteenth century, not as pub