During the last century and a quarter, scholarly historical periodicals have become an integral part of the institutional framework of the profession. They have helped shape its direction, and in turn their own character has been formed by the needs and values of historians. Without these journals, the world of professional historical scholarship would be vastly different from what it is today.
Although each scholarly historical periodical is unique, the elements studied in this book--the circumstances of founding, the nature of articles and contributors, the character of book reviews and other material, and the management practices--often exhibit common patterns. These depend to some degree on time and place, but they also show similarities and consistency that are not dependent upon circumstances. The profession's nature has imposed some likenesses, and scholarly historical periodicals have developed characteristic procedures and traditions.
Until recently, the founding of a new periodical followed a fairly set course. A group of scholars specializing in the same field would become convinced they needed a better place to publish their articles than those already available. Sometimes their arguments would stress quantity: existing journals did not give enough space to their interests. Sometimes they would stress quality: they could not write as they wished or they sought a medium they could be sure their colleagues would read.
Usually one individual, who often went on to become the first editor, would take the lead in organizing. Like all first editors, this person could then count on many opportunities for hard work and self-sacrifice. The survival of many scholarly historical periodicals through their first uncertain years is a tribute to one dedicated individual.
In recent years, more periodicals have been begun on a trial basis;