As a constitutional law teacher for more than 20 years, David Schwartz increasingly found that history was crucial to understanding the deep structure and essential nature of the Constitution. That’s why, in Fall 2022, he established the Journal of American Constitutional History (JACH), a peer-reviewed, web-based journal publishing high-quality scholarship.
“Over the years, it became clear to me that constitutional history scholarship is systematically undervalued by student law review editors,” said Schwartz, Frederick W. & Vi Miller professor of law at University of Wisconsin Law School. “Important new work in U.S. constitutional history would rarely appear in top law reviews unless it was originalist.”
According to Schwartz, student editors have a “limited appetite” for constitutional history, generally satisfied by publishing one or two articles in a given year.
“Students are particularly uninterested in historical research that doesn’t have an obvious present-day ‘payoff’ for resolving a current Supreme Court case,” he added. “While some originalist scholarship is quite good, a lot of it is what we call ‘law office history’—hastily combing through the historical record to find support for a predetermined conclusion about a current controversy.”
This led Schwartz to conclude that there was a “serious need” for a peer-reviewed and edited journal that would publish first-rate scholarship in constitutional history that tries to understand the past rather than bending it to suit a present-day legal argument. The Journal of American Constitutional History fills that gap.
Because the Journal is new and online, Schwartz said it “superficially appeared to lack the gravitas of an established print journal.” Therefore, the most important aspect to getting it off the ground was to recruit a distinguished board of editors to lend it credibility and attract strong article submissions.
“We first recruited a 12-member steering committee, which then recruited an editorial board of 55 outstanding constitutional history scholars from universities around the country, including law professors, historians and political scientists,” he explained. “Our editorial board is diverse in several
respects, including gender, ethnicity, academic discipline, methodology and political outlook.”
In addition to filling a gap in law review publishing, the Journal will provide a counterpoint to the law office history that today permeates so much of U.S. constitutional discourse, said Schwartz.
It’s also currently the only peer-reviewed journal entirely produced by the Law School.
“The Journal of American Constitutional History fills so many voids in law review publishing.”
“UW Law professors have played major roles in peer-reviewed journals outside the Law School, but JACH is currently the only peer-reviewed journal entirely produced by the Law School,” said Schwartz.
It’s also unique in that, at present, it’s the only peer-reviewed journal devoted entirely to U.S. constitutional history.
“The Journal of American Constitutional History fills so many voids in law review publishing,” said Schwartz. “We give prompt peer feedback to authors, whether their article submission is accepted or not. We offer much faster decisions than most peer-reviewed journals and much faster time-to-publication than student-edited law reviews. It’s a big accomplishment to get this project up and running, and I’m excited to see the scholarship it shares.”
Visit the Journal of American Constitutional History website to learn more.