Top 20 Journals in History

January 13, 2011

Top 20 Journals in History
Data provided by Thomson Reuters from its Essential Science Indicators, January 2000-April 2010
 Journal Total cites in 2009 Impact factor 5-year impact factor
1American Historical Review1,4842.1142.188
2Environmental History80.7501.085
3Journal of American History9050.6841.047
4Social Science History60.3750.796
5Journal of Modern History4730.5760.670
6Journal of African History 5290.5140.644
7Journal of British Studies3140.5210.636
8Comparative Studies in Society and History8210.5620.515
9History Workshop Journal 2410.4290.500
10Journal of Contemporary History4470.4920.478
11Journal of Social History4250.1320.472
12Past & Present7830.2260.464
13Journal of the History of Sexuality 1620.1250.412
14International Review of Social History1150.1400.374
15Ethnohistory 2680.2550.341
16English Historical Review4440.2810.308
17Journal of Interdisciplinary History 1370.2080.1
18European Historical Quarterly850.1580.261
19Journal of Family History2110.2390.259
20War in History560.1840.236

Impact factors are short-term measures of the average influence of journal publications. They were devised to help librarians understand, for a specific field, which publications exhibited the greatest influence, as measured by citations per paper. These statistics were intended to aid decisions about which serials to acquire.

Unfortunately, impact factors are frequently employed to gauge the influence of particular papers or people, using various schemes of weighting publications by impact factors. This was never intended and constitutes, in the view of Thomson Reuters, bad practice in research evaluation. But the original purpose of impact factors – to assess publication influence in a field of research – still stands. And from these measures, one may gain some ideas about subject priorities in a realm of research as well as a notion of trends in scholarly interest.

The table above lists the top 20 journals in history, ranked by their five-year impact factors, as presented in Thomson Reuters’ Journal Citation Reports for the social sciences for 2009. The five-year impact factor differs from the regular, or traditional, impact factor in that it provides a longer-term perspective on average influence for a journal. The traditional impact factor is calculated as the number of citations in year 3 to all papers in a specific journal in years 1 and 2, divided by the number of citable articles in that journal in years 1 and 2 (where citable items are defined as regular articles and reviews). Thus, articles have a relatively short period to accumulate citations. This measure is often appropriate for fast-moving fields and generally for the sciences.

In the social sciences, however, citations often take years to accrue to articles, because of both the slower pace and the nature of the research, which is often more fractionated than in the sciences. For many fields in the social sciences (and some in the sciences), a longer-term measure of influence is more appropriate. Here we deploy the five-year impact factor to identify a ranking of the 20 journals in history with the most influence, according to a citations-per-paper measure. The five-year impact factor is calculated as the number of citations in year 6 to all papers in a specific journal in years 1 through 5, divided by the number of citable articles in the journal in years 1 through 5.

The appearance in the table above of American Historical Review and English Historical Review, both founded in the 19th century, elicit no surprise. They remain, after more than a century, important and influential journals in historical research.

But much of the rest of the list features journals that deal wholly or in part with social history, which blossomed after the Second World War. The journal Past & Present, founded in 1952, may be cited as a leading force in advancing this area of research, one that especially gained ground in the 1970s and thereafter. The titles Environmental History (founded in 1989), focusing on human interaction with the natural world, and the Journal of the History of Sexuality (founded in 1990) exemplify some current trends in historians’ interests.

For more information on Thomson Reuters Journal Citation Reports, see:

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