In the current political climate, the Internet often serves as version of the Wild West where websites of all types abound. Unfettered by notions of truthfulness and accuracy, some sites make all kinds of claims regarding events in history. An area that is heavily corrupted by political rhetoric and claims of dubious facts to outright lies thanks to a proliferation of these sites is that of the American Revolution. Unfortunately, far too many people seek to establish their modern ideological credentials by trying to gain legitimacy through an association with that era. It seems that patriotism must be part of the lunatic fringe at times.
Fortunately, there are some high quality websites available for students of history as well as the general audience who seeks history written from factual evidence instead of history created to suit someone’s political and or religious beliefs. One of these websites has been created by Todd Andrlik, author of Reporting the American Revolution: Before it was History, it was News. Andrlik, who has collected one of the largest private archives of newspapers from the Revolutionary era, developed a website dedicated to the delivery of “impeccable, ideally groundbreaking historical research and well-written narrative” concerning that era. Conceived on a napkin at first, Andrlik brainstormed with Hugh T. Harrington and developed the idea that resulted in the creation of The Journal of the American Revolution.
Anyone that has looked for magazines dealing solely with this era will quickly discover two things. One is that there are none and the second is that in the last several years every attempt to create one has failed. The costs of creating a physical publication are too high for reaching the required number of readers it takes to sustain such an endeavor. However, as an astute observer might realize by looking at various websites, the cost of producing an online publication are a fraction of that expense. The real key is producing content to sustain viewers. Andrlik has managed to accomplish that feat by allowing the readers to be the content creators, which has been a masterful stroke of genius.
As anyone knows who deals in academia, the mantra of the profession is publish or perish. With a limited audience for physical books dealing with this era, the numbers of titles that can be published each year remain small. Often, academic presses are the major source for publication and they tend to prefer those who are teaching in the colleges for their monographs. This has left historians who do not write monographs, but do write articles with little room for their work few opportunities to share their knowledge. That has also resulted in a decided lack of accurate and highly researched information reaching the public. Instead, the shoddy and often erroneous material whipped together to support ideologies and beliefs has been what reached the public.
With the introduction of The Journal of the American Revolution in January of 2013, an outlet for magazine length articles of high quality research existed. Andrlik’s plan bore fruition as historians began to submit articles for publication. Today, a growing stable of historians with a wide range of publishing experience are submitting articles to the Journal on a regular basis. The website is a valuable outlet for public historians as well as grad students, academic historians, park rangers, and others who submit their work and receive nothing more than a byline for remittance. Yet, those same authors are adding to our knowledge of this period and gaining recognition for their work which they never would have received had this Journal not been created.
Today the Journal reaches over 165,000 unique views each month. Over one million unique views have occurred since the Journal began over its first two years. Articles have been picked up for distribution in major media outlets, featured on television, and lauded on National Public Radio. Many of the contributors have seen their work cited by professional historians. Television and movie producers seek these authors out for guidance concerning their programming. Teachers have used the information in their classes and constructed interactive learning lessons with them.
During that process, Andrlik has increased the number of editors to seven in order to keep up with the flow of submissions and maintain high standards of accuracy and research. In addition to the online Journal, Andrlik and his team have also taken the submissions and published them in annual hardcover volumes. The second volume is slated for publication in May of 2015. These articles range from general topics to specific concerns, book reviews, critiques on television shows and movies, and other issues dealing with the American Revolution. Every possible theme from the Revolution is being explored somewhere in the Journal. Recipes mingle with battles while spies lurk, women support their men, heroes and villains strive to sway public opinion and win a war in the articles on this website.
The result is one of the best websites on the Internet that covers this era. Students of history will not be disappointed with the articles nor will anyone with an interest in the period. For those who seek to know what really happened in that period, The Journal of the American Revolution is a must visit site. The best part is that the information is completely free. Actually, that is the second best part. The best is yet to come as more articles are published and added to the archives. As we enter the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution, The Journal of the American Revolution is poised to be one of the leading Internet sources of information on this period. Not too shabby for a concept sketched out on a napkin!