By Vanessa Rockel & Philip Carter

If you could recommend one recent History book to others, what would it be – and why? We’re looking to start something new at the IHR: inviting you to submit short pieces on a book or article that’s really impressed you — and which others should know about.

This post is an invitation to get involved. In part, we’re prompted by the current situation and how it’s affecting scholarly publishing. But we’re also interested in new ways for historical community to discuss and share the best History publishing.

HISTORY BOOKS: we’re spending lots of time sitting in front of them, looking at them over people’s shoulders, and maybe even hastily rearranging them.
NOW: how about recommending one of those titles as a favourite publication to fellow historians?*

As you’ll know, the IHR runs a popular reviews service — Reviews in History — which provides in-depth reviews, and author responses, on selected new books. It currently works like this: our specialist advisers recommend what we might review; together we identify a reviewer; and the publisher sends our reviewer a copy of the book.

But now, in this lockdown period, we’re finding that many publishers aren’t able to distribute books to our reviewers.

We’ve a number of reviews in the locker, but the new challenge of sending books prompts us think about alternative ways to keep the conversation going.

In response, we’re now opening up Reviews and inviting you to send us a short review on a recent History book (or journal article or chapter) that’s really impressed you. The existing weekly Reviews format will continue. What we’re doing here is creating a new, additional way to share recommendations and insights.

Here’s what to do if you’d like to take part …

Choose and write about a recent History publication that came out in the last 5 years.

Your choice can be a monograph, a journal article, book chapter or an edited collection.

Once you’ve made your choice:

  • write and send us a short review of up to 400 words (no more), introducing the book, setting it in context and letting us know why it impressed you and why others should read it. We’re keeping things concise as we know time for writing and reading is always limited.
  • keep your review conversational and engaging: we’re looking to inspire wider reading.
  • let us know if the book / article exists in a free format (e.g. Open Access via a journal website or an OA platform), and we’ll include a link so others can read on
  • remember: choose something that’s really impressed you and which you’d like to recommend to others – we’re looking for positive stories and endorsements here!

Or send us a list of your top 5 titles …

Also, if you haven’t time to write us a short review, then send us a list of 5 key recent publications in your research area. These could be starting points for someone beginning research in your field; or a five-step guide to reading up in a particular area of History.

Here, we especially welcome suggestions from new areas of research or global histories that aren’t always as well covered as they should be. And if you can add a sentence or two on each recommended reading, and why it’s important, then all the better.

Once you’ve written a review, or created your list, then send them to the IHR’s Reviews in History email: (marked ‘Short Reviews‘). We’ll then publish as many reviews as we can, here, on the IHR blog, ‘On History’, and provide regular updates of new reviews on our social media and email bulletins.

We’ll see how this develops.

If it takes off we’ll look to continue it once the current situation passes. We might also develop this new departure by requesting recommendations for ‘forgotten classics’; by adding an audio element — allowing us to talk to nominated authors; or by bringing together reviewers and authors to discuss their work in greater detail.

Via email, we also welcome your ideas for how else we might best generate a conversation about good research and writing across the discipline.

We hope this proves a welcome addition to the IHR’s established Reviews in History, which will continue in its present form. And thank you for taking part in this new initiative.

Some of the recent reviews via Reviews in History, published weekly:
2400 reviews are now freely available


Vanessa Rockel is Editor of Reviews in History and Fellowships Officer at the IHR.

Philip Carter is the Institute’s Head of Digital and Publishing.

*Thanks to Book Credibility @BCredibility