Q&A with the editors of French Historical Studies

French Historical StudiesThe incoming editors of French Historical Studies (FHS), Kay Edwards and Carol Harrison, discuss the future of the journal under their joint editorship, including information about forthcoming special issues and what topics they would like to see submitted to the journal. See the most recent issue here, and subscribe to the journal here.

How would you like to shape French Historical Studies in the future?

CAROL: In the future I think we’d like to continue some trends that we see in the field and that FHS is starting to reflect, publishing a lot about France and French history beyond the borders of metropolitan France. There will be more colonial material, which is where the field is going. We have exciting material on South East Asia and North Africa in the pipeline now that is being submitted.

KAY: We’ve also said that we’ve wanted to expand the chronological framework. FHS is open to anyone working in France or in these related fields over pretty much any chronology. But our submissions currently do tend to be much more modern. We want to get people who are doing medieval work or late antique work to think of us as well, since we definitely are a highly ranked scholarly publishing venue.

How do you see the journal developing over the next few years?

KAY: I would like to see us broadening the journal not just chronologically and in terms of international content, but also in terms of broadening it to more of an international academic audience. We currently are getting more and more submissions from German and Scandinavian lands, we’ve always gotten a few French, but we’d like to broaden our European, East Asian, African, Latin American base.

CAROL: I think we have a couple of ideas or projects on board now that are also about reminding the rest of the historical profession of how important French history is and how important French historians are to the rest of the profession. So I would say Michael Breen’s forum for instance. We have a group of articles by young French social historians that we’re arranging to translate into English to publish in the journal. I think this is important because social history is a much more lively tradition in France right now than it is in the Anglophone world. These are scholars who unless you work in French history and read French and keep up with things in France, you probably don’t know about. I think scholars outside of French history should read this forum to find out what’s going on in French history, and particularly in French social history. Similarly, we’ve got a special issue coming up in 2017 that we’ve just started planning on archives so we’re recruiting scholars who will be writing about archives not just as neutral repositories where the facts are, but as institutions that shape the way history is written, so as active participants in the writing of history. I think that’s the kind of special issue that will remind the rest of the profession that French historians are really crucial to shaping history.

Speaking of special issues, are there any other forthcoming special issues that you would like to talk about? How do you select special issues?

KAY: There is a French food special issue coming out that is primarily a project of the past editors. It is about food very broadly defined in French history. There is an article on coffee, another about WWII and food allocations and foraging, a wide variety of what defines food–not just a recipe book–particularly because France is so strongly associated with food culture.

CAROL: There will be articles on wonderful food, the introduction of coffee, there will be articles on lack of food, hunger, there’s an article on late 19th-century shop girls and their relationship to food, you know where they ate lunch and if they ate lunch. So that’s going to be a very exciting issue. And then further down the pipeline–this is more speculative–but 2018 is the 50th anniversary the events of May 1968. This is another one that I think will be important for FHS and I hope for non-French historians. Nineteen sixty-eight having obviously had a global reach, but the events in France were central. So that’s another one where we’d like to put together articles on France, on the Francophone world outside of France, and think about this anniversary. We would like FHS to lead the way a bit in talking about the German ‘68 and Mexico City ‘68 and Berkeley ‘68 and pull it together.

What would you like researchers to know about the submission process?

KAY: Don’t be afraid to send all different types of articles. Just because we’re FHS doesn’t mean we only, as Carol said, do the metropol. There’s probably going to be a conception that we only do cultural stuff because that’s what France is. And the whole point is that we’re trying to get a wide variety of methodologies and subjects and approaches.

Who should be submitting to this journal that hasn’t been?

KAY: A lot of early modernists and pre-modernists don’t think they should submit to FHS, in part because the name implies a very national framework that sometimes work and sometimes doesn’t.

CAROL: They may be working on a territory that was not in fact called France. But if it’s Francophone, we’d like to see more early modern, medieval, and more French scholars! We do publish in French.

KAY: It does not have to be a translated work. In terms of material, I just want to see diversity. I really don’t want people to assume that because it’s French that it must be cultural or that it must have theoretical work. I have nothing against theoretical work, but I think there may potentially be stereotypes. I would like to see a reconstruction of environmental drainage, as long as this is something that hasn’t been done.

CAROL: One thing our predecessors started that I think we want to continue is publishing more editorial pieces. Instead of very closely researched monographs, single author traditional research articles, FHS has been publishing these editorial pieces that are often reflections on the profession. We’ve published a recent one by David Bell that’s thinking about global history and reflections on the profession generally, on French history, and its role in the globalizing historical profession. I think there is room for developing that kind of editorial piece. We invite people to submit not just the research articles, but editorial articles that reflect the state of the field and the kind of the research that’s being done.

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