Monday Open Thread

Originally posted by Ahistoricality on 07/23/07

I’ve mentioned the Historical Society’s Historically Speaking before: Pretty high-powered folks often participate in the forums and contribute articles, and I’ve come to take it seriously as part of my “continuing ed” efforts to keep up with my field.

But the latest issue contains a somewhat troubling juxtaposition which raises questions about its editorial independence and quality. I’ve reproduced two pages (click on the image for detailed view), because they’re not on the HS website.

There is an article there by Robert Self, author of a new biography of Neville Chamberlain, a very interesting restatement of the conventional and revisionist narratives of his career (he’s mostly a revisionist, as I read it, though he casts himself as being something new and different). An article by the author of a new book is nothing new or unusual: HNN does it all the time, HS has done it before, many journals will publish article-length versions of monographs. There’s also a half-page advertisment from Ashgate for their new biography … of Neville Chamberlain… by Robert Self. Now advertising is not a new thing for academic journals, particularly advertising by publishers, but I’ve never seen the advertising attached to a review or to an extract like this one.

To make it more interesting, it’s not just a matter of placing the ad and the article together: there’s a 20% discount code for HS readers in the ad which is repeated in Self’s biographical blurb at the end of the article. So the ad placement was done as part of the editorial process, raising the question of editorial independence. With any advertising there’s a question of influence, but academic publications — even more so than news organizations — are supposed to maintain a strong separation between content and economic decision-making.

I guess the question would have to be which came first: the decision to publish the article, or the advertising?

What’s on your mind?

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