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Introduction: The Leading Edge

January 3, 2014, 4:34 am

Just in time for the American Historical Association meeting (or #AHA2014 as the cool twitter kids have it) I’m starting a new feature on this blog. Modeled after John Scalzi’s “Big Idea” pieces, this series will give historians a chance to submit a piece about their current project – dissertation, book, etc. – and have that piece run in front of a wider audience. They can use the slot to talk about what they’re working on, why they think it’s important and interesting, and how it fits into the larger historiography.

The project doesn’t have to be complete/published/contracted but it should be reasonably far along and substantially well developed. The closer to it being in some tangible form, the more people are going to be able to do (buy, read, etc) with it. The Chronicle gets seen by a lot of people, and Edge by some fraction of that, so it’s a pretty sizable audience to parade your work. I’m calling it “The Leading Edge,” which hooks both the idea of new history and the EotAW’s name.

Why? Well, the academic job market is particularly bad, not least for historians, and it’s often hard to get one’s work noticed, in front of the right people, or under the glare of lights. Being a graduate student or adjunct or untenured is frequently an exercise in powerlessness. There’s not a massive amount I can do about either of those things in the larger sense, but I can give people a bit of a platform to put forth their work. I will also (I hope!) get to read some interesting history along the way, a substantial bonus. So that’s why.

This is obviously aimed primarily at graduate students and non-tenured folks, but I’m not limiting it to them, officially. With some limits, any historian with an interesting project is welcome to send it to me.

What are the limits? You have to have a Ph.D in history or a related discipline or be in a Ph.D program in history or a related discipline. The topic has to be a historical one (or pretty darn close). It has to be scholarly and engaging with the historiography in some way. It has to be a substantial project: dissertation, article, or book (other things are negotiable).

What’s the process? First, you must send me an email (silbey@silbey.net) describing your project in a paragraph and a brief professional autobiography. Put “THE LEADING EDGE” in the subject line so I spot the email quickly. I’ll tell you as soon as I can whether there’s a slot, and what the date will be. After that, a week in advance, you’ll send me the piece. I’ll edit it (minimally in most cases) with your participation, and then run it on the date, post the link to my twitter feed and Facebook, and generally shout about it in all the venues to which I have access (not snapchat, sorry).

What should the piece look like? The length should be 600-1000 words, sent as plain text. If you have photos/media, that would be great, but 1-2 is probably the maximum. Other things are open for discussion.

Legal stuff? I reserve the right to reject a piece for any reason; you retain copyright in your piece but are giving me a non-exclusive right to publish it electronically; no-one (not even me) is getting paid for this; your mileage may vary; objects in the mirror are much closer than they appear.

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