Where should historians send policy-relevant scholarship?

Clio! Who will she talk to?
Clio! Who will she talk to?

Here’s a fairly mundane post but on a subject that I could use some advice about.  And I imagine it touches on a question that others face.

It’s the holiday season and I am in limbo, with time to think about publication strategies and next steps in my academic life.  My book Arming Mother Nature is still in Oxford’s hands and my next project, Nuclear Outposts, is still “congealing.”  That’s the best euphemism I can think of, though recently I’ve been telling folks that “I haven’t yet developed the full frame of my analysis.”  Wink wink, nudge nudge: I’m not sure what to do with it. My working premise/thesis changes on a regular basis (I can admit this now, ha ha, tenure!). Basically it’s a nuclear book that deals with the developing world.  I initially thought that I would focus mainly on the oddities of the “peaceful atom,” namely agricultural techniques, but now the project is full-blown nuclear, no pun intended.  It will raise all kinds of puzzling questions that still resonate today, like the role of the IAEA, the unintended consequences of nonproliferation treaties, and the responsibilities of scientists and political leaders in international organizations.

In the short term, I’m revising an article that I’m calling “The Nuclearization of Iran.”  It has been a fascinating and, really, ideal, subject for me as I work through the issues.  The article centers upon the West’s role in encouraging Iran’s turn toward nuclear technology in the 1970s.  Like most of my work, it will attempt to get somewhat beyond the US-focused story (acknowledging other actors! imagine!) and also broaden it to include more than the conventional non-proliferation narrative.  It’s drawn largely from Iran-centered documents in the UK National Archives, and I have benefited enormously from the US State Department’s Office of the Historian, which publishes the FRUS series.

My question is, who do I submit this article to?  Apropos of my earlier post about crossing boundaries, I’m unsure what is the right venue.  I’ve already published in both Diplomatic History and Technology and Culture, which seem natural venues.  But maybe I should target a different publication.  The article will be about 9k words.  I know that John Krige, also writing about nuclear technologies, has experimented with finding new audiences for his scholarship, such as his forthcoming article in a nonproliferation policy journal.  But I’m not convinced that this is the right move for me.  First of all, the article is longer than a policy article (about twice as long).  But more importantly, rather than reach a new audience, I wonder where I can send it where it will be read at all?

Maybe I should give up on relevance and just be satisfied with solid historical scholarship.  That’s not a flippant or fatalistic statement.  I’m one of those naïve souls who actually believes in historical scholarship for its own sake.  Still…

In the long term, a book will come out of this. But I.. well… I guess I “haven’t developed the full frame of my analysis” yet.  Anyone have strong feelings about the issue?

6 responses to “Where should historians send policy-relevant scholarship?”

  1. Sounds Foreign Policy-ish to me, or maybe Wilson Quarterly. If those seem too scary, Minerva positions itself as being sort of about policy, though it’s unclear if anyone in the policy world reads it.


  2. You could try Journal of Policy History, but this sounds to me like JAH or RAH material. Policymakers may not read it there, but a wide range of historians (who should) sure will. And I’m going to start using the phrase “still congealing” to refer to my current project, too!


    • You and others mentioned Journal of Policy History, and clearly I need to look into it. But is it policy history, or context for policy? I haven’t figured it out. It may be that I am just labeling as “policy relevant” something that I just wish more people would read…


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