Looking back at the first five years of the new American Journal of Legal History (2016-2020)

December 14, 2020

The American Journal of Legal History (AJLH) was founded in 1957 and was the first English-language periodical in the field. When it was relaunched as an Oxford University Press (OUP) journal in early 2016, Stefan Vogenauer (Max Planck Institute for European Legal History, Frankfurt) was appointed as a co-editor. He shared the task with Al Brophy (University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill; later University of Alabama School of Law). As part of the relaunch, the Editorial Office was established at the Frankfurt Max Planck. In 2019, Al handed over to Felice Batlan (IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law in Chicago) in 2019.

The relaunch involved a major reorientation of the journal. While retaining its traditional focus on the legal history of the United States, it now aimed to reflect the recent enormous broadening of the intellectual horizon of the discipline and include a substantial number of contributions of a comparative, international or transnational nature.

Moreover, the design of the journal was overhauled, with a new cover and a revamped page layout. The editorial process was professionalised: an Editorial Board was established, a Managing Editor (Donal Coffey, since 2019: Victoria Barnes) and book review editors were appointed. New author guidelines had to be drafted, and a state of the art double-blind peer review process was introduced. The publishers created an attractive journal website, making all articles since 1957 available online and offering an advance access function.

The Frankfurt Editorial Office not only handled the peer review process, it also provided linguistic editing of articles written by non-native speakers and style guiding (‘blue booking’ and ‘OSCOLAing’) of all manuscripts. Many members of the Institute were involved in various roles: Ben Kamis, Anselm Küsters, Amber Maggio, Niels Pepels, Christina Pössel, Philipp Schmitt, James Thompson and Emily Whewell. The team took pride in seeing through 21 quarterly issues overall, without missing a single deadline for submission to the publishers, and in consistently beating the OUP journal average for the speed of the review and production processes.

After five years, the relaunch was considered to have been completed, so Felice and Stefan Vogenauer will hand over to a new team of editors who will be announced shortly. Beginning with issue 2 of 2021, the editorial process will be dealt with in-house by OUP.

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