Editors’ Note for March 2021 JCWE

Editors’ Note for March 2021 JCWE

It is fitting that James Brooks will introduce this special issue and its contents, since this and the parallel volume in the Western Historical Quarterly represent his hands-on editing and his wide-ranging view of intertwined histories. We thank him, WHQ editor Anne Hyde, former JCWE editor Judith Giesberg, and former JCWE associate editor Stacey Smith for bringing the two journals—and more importantly the two fields—together.

It is also fitting that we mark an important anniversary for this publication. Ten years ago, in March 2011, the Journal of the Civil War Era appeared for the first time. In the introductory note, founding editor William A. Blair noted the propitious timing for the journal’s launch as the 150th anniversary commemorations of the Civil War coincided with a resurgence in creative scholarship on the era. “It is a delight to consider how much we have to discover,” Blair wrote. “It is a good time to be a newborn.”

Ten years later, the Journal of the Civil War Era is no longer a newborn but is now a valued and respected and (we hope) eagerly awaited part of our scholarly landscape, with roughly 120 research articles, dozens of review essays, and many hundreds of book reviews behind it. In its decade of existence, the journal has fulfilled much of its original mandate to offer a “fresh perspective to the sectional crisis, war, Reconstruction, and memory of the conflict, while tying the struggles that defined the period to the broader course of American history and to a wider world” and to provide a place where scholars from many nineteenth-century subfields “can engage with each other.”

The journal’s survival through its infancy and its growth through its early years is attributable to a group of dedicated historians and staff. First, of course, Blair as founding editor provided guidance, direction, inspiration, and counsel for the journal’s first five years, aided by associate editors Judith Giesberg, Anthony Kaye, and Aaron Sheehan-Dean and later ourselves.

Starting in March 2016, Judith Giesberg succeeded Blair as the journal’s editor, and she expanded the journal’s reach with special issues on the West, Reconstruction, the continental history of the era, abolition, and veterans, while continuing to publish pathbreaking research articles, broad-ranging review essays, and fair-minded and thoughtful book reviews. During her tenure, Giesberg, along with her graduate students, launched the journal’s blog, Muster. She then recruited Kristen Epps to be the digital  editor, joining new review essays editors Stacey Smith and Luke Harlow, and book review editor Rachel Shelden.

Beginning with the September 2019 issue, Shelden, Smith, and Harlow shepherded the journal through a shared interim editorship while continuing in their respective associate editor positions and—in Smith’s case—playing a crucial role in bringing this special issue to fruition. With the September 2020 issue, we succeeded them as coeditors, and we have been delighted to welcome Hilary Green as the new digital editor and Kathryn Shively as the new book review editor.

Throughout the last decade, the journal has benefitted from institutional support from the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center at Penn State, now directed by Rachel Shelden, and from its affiliation with the Society of Civil War Historians. The journal has also depended on extraordinary work by professional staff, especially the indispensable managing editor Matthew Isham and a series of fine assistants: William Bryan, William Cossen, Tyler Sperrazza, Cecily Zander, and Megan Hildebrand. At the University of North Carolina Press, David Perry, editor, supported the journal from the beginning, and since his retirement, Mark Simpson-Vos has been a crucial sounding board and advocate. Among the many dedicated press employees who have ensured that the journal sees the light of day is Suzi Waters, the press’s journals manager, who retired last fall.

Since becoming editors, we’ve come to see with new clarity the tremendous work peer reviewers perform. Whatever may be said on social media about “Reviewer #2,” we observe in our reviewers an extraordinary commitment to their fields, to professionalism, and to the value of balancing support and encouragement with thoughtful critique as they evaluate articles. Individual peer reviewers are ephemeral parts of this enterprise, but as a collective, they make the journal possible, and we owe them—and many of them are also you, our readers—our deep gratitude.

We congratulate the Journal of the Civil War Era—and all who have helped to make it—on a successful first decade and feel fortunate that we are here to help launch it into its teen years. We believe the journal has a crucial role to play in a moment of deep public engagement with the nation’s history of slavery and emancipation and Civil War. We’re delighted by how much we have yet to discover, and we look forward to continuing its work in this productive and vital field.

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