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Uncommon Sense

By oieahc · June 30, 2017

Transitions at the OI: Au Revoir, Brett

WMQ 7 min read

Today is the end of our fiscal year, as anyone who has been getting and reading our encouragement to make a gift to the OI Associates knows. For non-profits, that end of the fiscal year is an important moment to take stock of our resources and to make firmer commitments for the coming year. We are immensely grateful to the OI community for your support, which provides essential funding for all of our programs including publishing, fellowships, and events.

The end of the spring, the end of the fiscal year, and the end of summer are often moments of staffing transitions. We recently welcomed Liz Covart to the OI as Digital Projects Editor, and Ben Franklin’s World as a new OI program. Holly White will be taking over from Laurel Daen as Communications Coordinator for the Lapidus Initiative. In late August we will bring on board a new crop of editorial apprentices—our largest group yet—from the William & Mary History and American Studies graduate students.

A major transition has been in process for a while; today Brett Rushforth steps down after five years as the Book Review Editor for the William and Mary Quarterly. As a scholar of native American and French colonial history, Brett has made signal contributions to the OI. As a colleague, his influence is felt in the William & Mary history department and the OI—so much of our programming over the last years has benefitted from his contributions. As a friend, we will miss him tremendously. Brett headed to the University of Oregon last year, but he stayed on the WMQ and the OI for one more year.

Book reviewing is an essential (and intellectually rewarding) aspect of the scholarly conversation. The WMQ’s Book Review Editor manages a flow of many hundreds of early American histories into his office, and must assess how and which reviews will best contribute to vital exchanges in this vast field. It is a labor and time intensive process, and we think it benefits enormously from having a scholar responsible for review assignments and editing. And for the seven decades since the OI’s founding, we’ve believed that having the reviews editor on site has been an essential feature of our intellectual culture. As Book Review Editor Brett participated, as do all the editors of our books program and the journal, in roundtables for OI fellows’ book and article manuscripts, meetings of our colloquia series, and planning for the intellectual agenda of our conferences and events calendar.

This aspect of the intellectual labor is why we have resisted moving the Book Review Editor to an offsite situation. We may revisit that in time, but for now remain persuaded that the on site benefits are crucial. We’re delighted, then, to welcome the next WMQ Book Review Editor, Nick Popper. Nick is a historian of early modern England, science, and the history of the book, and an Associate Professor at the William & Mary whose first book, Walter Ralegh’s History of the World and the Historical Culture of the Late Renaissance, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2012. He is an NEH fellow at the Folger Library for 2017-18, while he assumes his duties for the WMQ and where he will be working on “The Specter of the Archive: Paper and Political Practice in Early Modern Britain.” Although Nick’s work is in the vaster geographical realms of early American history, he works with graduate students working in early American topics, has served on the OI’s Council for the last several years, and has a strong sense of our programs and ambitions to serve the community and the field. In addition to his commitment to an expansive view of early America, Nick has been working with Brett and with Carol Arnette, the WMQ’s Assistant Editor in charge of manuscript editing for the review section, to master the tracking system for reviews, our editorial style and production processes, and the current flow of reviews. We’re delighted to have him aboard and look forward to continuing to benefit from his intellectual collegiality and now from his work on the journal.

So, endings and beginnings. We know you won’t be a stranger, Brett! Pretty sure Nick has a review assignment with your name on it; he’s learned from the best. We’re glad to know we’ll keep seeing you on the streets, in our pages, in the conference halls and on the social media hustings of #vastearlyamerica.

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