How have the evaluative norms and habits of academic communities changed historically? My research explores this issue by examining the history of book reviewing in the humanities and sciences. Through analyzing a sample of 1,224 book reviews published in the journals The American Historical Review, Contemporary Psychology and Physics Today between 1950 and 2000, I found that the evaluation of books’ contents often overlapped with the evaluation of books’ authors. Historians, physicists, and psychologists routinely named the personal qualities of authors in their book reviews. For example, they would praise some authors for exhibiting “carefulness,” “honesty,” or “judiciousness,” while criticizing others for lacking these particular qualities. In my talk, I show that these acedemic norms for personal evaluation were strikingly similar across the academic spectrum, even if some personal qualities (such as objectivity) were deemed more important in some disciplines than in others.
Sjang ten Hagen (Institute for History, Leiden University)