A Fork in the Road: Saving the International Journal of Naval History

By Dave Winkler

With the decommissioning of the Naval Historical Foundation, the online journal International Journal of Naval History (IJNH) (www.ijnhonline.org) continues to exist as an unaffiliated website that last published in early 2023. It is in a transitional period as the current Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Charles Chadbourn with the Naval War College, is planning to step down.

In publication since 2002, IJNH has provided a forum for lengthy academic, peer-reviewed articles to examine various naval issues and histories. This journal has attempted to fill what would have been a gap in maritime/naval academic journals following the departure of the leading journal in the field, and if the journal remains in a state of limbo, will stymie opportunities for the publication of scholarly articles that may offer insights on how to address contemporary maritime challenges. Navalists and academics must explore options for sustaining the future of this journal and in doing so, to generate interest to recruit and shape the composition for a new, potentially multi-institutional management team. 


The last issue in 2002 of American Neptune after 62 years of publication by the Peabody Essex Museum created a void for an academic, peer-reviewed journal that would provide scholars opportunities to publish well-researched articles that could advance the understanding of maritime/naval history. In addition, such a journal also provided an important venue for another academic endeavor – book reviews. Recognizing this void, Dr. Gary Weir, then head of the Contemporary History Branch of the then USN Naval Historical Center (NHC), took on the initiative to create an online journal: the International Journal of Naval History (IJNH). In doing so, he gained the support of well-known overseas naval historians who would be hosted by the Naval History Center (now Naval History and Heritage Command) on the day prior to the commencement of the U.S. Naval Academy’s McMullen Naval History symposium held every two years.

The mission statement drafted by Dr. Weir, included below, emphasizes the research-based, independent ethos of the journal:

“The objective of the International Journal of Naval History is to provide a pre-eminent forum for works of naval history researched and written to demonstrable academic standards. Our hope is to stimulate and promote research into naval history and foster communication among naval historians at an international level.

IJNH will welcome any scholarly historical analysis, focused on any period or geographic region, that explores naval power in its national or cultural context. The journal will remain completely independent of any institution and will operate under the direction of an Editorial Board that represents various regions of the globe as well as various genres of naval history.”

As for the administrative structure, the IJNH webpage called for an all-volunteer effort led by a troika of editors who would work with a board of eighteen scholars “of international reputation.” The objective was to publish the journal in April, August, and December of each year beginning in 2002.  

In reality the “all-volunteer” effort did not occur in practice. The first editor-in-chief, Dr. Weir, obtained permission to work on the journal “on company time.” In addition, the Naval Historical Foundation not only agreed to cover the nominal costs of the establishing and hosting the website, it authorized its content developer to post updated volumes on the IJNHonline.org website. Under this “volunteering on company time” arrangement the IJNH came out on a regular schedule of three times a year for its first eight years. And then it ceased production for three years.

What happened? Dr. Weir, as the Chief Historian, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, could not perform editor-in-chief duties on company time. Hence, Dr. Chadbourn took on the Editor-in-Chief duties. Like Dr. Weir previously, he was allowed to work on the journal during his workday hours.

Unfortunately, the challenges of the academic year wreaked havoc on his production schedule and IJNH averaged one edition a year. An additional setback for the journal was that the impressive editorial board Dr. Weir assembled would be underutilized. Finally, the decommissioning of the Naval Historical Foundation deprived the IJNH of its host and content posting support. On a positive note, as an online journal the content is “evergreen” in that articles published two decades ago are being viewed and cited in current maritime publications. 

The posting of the journal on the web sans subscription in essence means IJNH is an open-access publication. As a consequence, the journal does not generate revenue – it is a totally altruistic endeavor. The question at hand is whether IJNH can be sustained utilizing its current business model. To answer that question, it would be worth taking a brief look at similar journals in the military-maritime milieu.

Other Journals Featuring Naval History Scholarship

For openers, publications such as the National Maritime Historical Society’s Sea History and the U.S. Naval Institute’s Naval History offer scholars an opportunity to publish short-to modest-sized articles that have broad appeal. The U.S. Naval Institute is to be especially commended for hosting the Chief of Naval Operations annual naval history essay contest that inspires submissions from well-established historians, up-and-coming historians, and midshipmen and cadets. However, word-count restrictions eliminate consideration of these publications as academic journals of the type that offer book-chapter length articles of 8,000 to 12,000 words in length. With this distinction established, current academic peer review publication opportunities include multiple journals of note.

The Mariner’s Mirror – the international journal of the Society for Nautical Research (SNR). Recognized as a world-leading journal of both naval and maritime history, the journal has been in publication since 1911. Per the SNR website:

The content reflects the aim of the society and publishes ‘research into matters relating to seafaring and shipbuilding in all ages among all nations, into the language and customs of the sea, and into other subjects of nautical interest’. Subject matter ranges from archaeology and ethnography to naval tactics and administration, merchant seafaring, shipbuilding and virtually anything that relates to humankind’s relationship with the sea.

A review of the journal’s editorial board reflects its British origins and the content reflects the regional interests of its subscribers as The Mariner’s Mirror is a subscription journal, a benefit of membership to the society. SNR maintains a partnership with the academic journal publisher Taylor & Francis which makes the journal available to academic institutions. It is published quarterly in print and online through Taylor & Francis. The Mariner’s Mirror staff is compensated.

The International Journal of Maritime History (IJMH) is the journal of the International Maritime History Association established in 1989. Per that organization’s website:

“The IJMH is a fully-refereed, quarterly publication which addresses the maritime dimensions of economic, social, cultural, and environmental history. Truly international in scope, the IJMH publishes studies of a multidisciplinary nature on a broad range of maritime historical themes, including shipping, shipbuilding, seafaring, ports, resorts and other coastal communities, sea-borne trade, fishing, environment and the culture of the sea.”

A review of the editorial board has the Editor-in-Chief and Book Review editor based at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. As with Mariner’s Mirror, IJMH is a subscription journal. In the case of IJMH, since 2014 there has been a partnership with Sage Journals which bundles IJMH with other journals for sale and distribution to university libraries. The production staff is compensated.

The Journal of Military History (JMH) is the quarterly journal of the Society for Military History. JMH has published scholarly articles on the military history of all eras and geographical areas since 1937. Fully refereed, the JMH publishes articles and book reviews, as well as a list of recent articles dealing with military history published by other journals, an annual list of doctoral dissertations in military history, and an annual index. Though much of the content is land-warfare focused, there have been some notable naval articles featured in this journal. The Society of Military History and JMH are hosted by the Virginia Military Institute. JMH is a subscription journal and an arrangement is in place with Proquest to offer digital content to libraries and other archival institutions. The production staff is compensated.

The Northern Mariner / Le marin du nord is published in Canada by the Canadian Nautical Research Society (CNRS) with the support of the North American Society of Oceanic History (NASOH). Per the CNRS website, The Northern Mariner is

“devoted to the study of maritime affairs and the inland waterways of the nations that touch the seas of the northern hemisphere. The journal’s content spans the fields of naval, political, diplomatic, social, cultural, gender, Indigenous, economic, and environmental history. Specific topics of interest include – but are not limited to – ships, shipbuilding, technology, merchant shipping, trade, labour, seafaring, maritime life, coastal communities, ports and harbours, naval warfare, maritime aviation, fishing, whaling, sealing, underwater archaeology, disasters and emergencies, and maritime biography.”

Though the journal is a subscription benefit of membership in CNRS and NASOH, digital copies are available on the CNRS website making it an open-access publication. The journal does not appear to have an academic institutional affiliation. 

There are other publications as well. The four journals mentioned above are not the only outlets for the publication of scholarly naval history work. For example, The Naval War College Review and the Journal of Advanced Military Studies published by Marine Corps University also offer outlets for publication. The Naval War College Press also publishes selected papers from the McMullen Naval History Symposium. In Germany, the Kiel Seapower Series, produced by the Institute for Security Policy, Kiel University, has produced a number of compilations of scholarly papers presented at various conferences. Depending on the content, opportunities exist in other academic journals, and naval historians should be encouraged to publish to different audiences to foster a broader understanding of the role sea power plays in a variety of fields. This author recently reviewed an article on the naval confrontation with wildlife for Animal History. 

Continuing IJNH

The good news is that outlets exist for the publication of naval history scholarship. However, none of the journals cited above focus solely on naval history. Mariner’s Mirror may be the closest but it is Eurocentric in its coverage. Meanwhile, growing attendance at McMullen Naval History Symposiums in recent years has demonstrated that more scholarship is being generated that is begging for publication in academic journals. A revitalized IJNH can fill that need and serve to facilitate the growth of a community. A study of other maritime/military history journals offers the following options for ways forward.

Publishing – Academic/Non-Profit Partnership: An arrangement with an academic journal publishing house could generate revenue to sustain management expenses. Of course, that would change the nature of the journal away from open access. Unfortunately for a potential journal publishing house, any arrangement could not grant rights for previously published work as authors never transferred those rights to IJNH at the time of publication. Before setting up such an arrangement, IJNH should look to reestablish a partnership with an academic institution or non-profit organization or consider establishing itself as a non-profit. Once IJNH finds an academic/non-profit home, an immediate effort should focus on the recruitment of an Editorial Board. 

Academic/Non-Profit Partnership: An arrangement with just an academic institution and non-profit organization can enable the journal to continue on as an open-access publication. The institution/organization taking IJNH on would need to fundraise to sustain management expenses and/or dedicate staff “company time” to keep the issues coming out on time. Once IJNH finds an academic/non-profit home (or homes – consider a consortium of universities with maritime programs collaborating), an immediate effort should focus on the recruitment of an Editorial Board.

Stay Completely Independent:  Independence is a viable option but would require a dedicated volunteer effort. As part of that volunteer effort, non-profit status for the journal should be sought to facilitate contributions to cover management expenses. As with previous options, recruitment of a new editorial board should be an immediate priority.


The quote “when you come to the fork in the road you should take it” attributed to Yogi Berra is appropriate in that a direction needs to be taken if IJNH is to remain a viable entity for the publication of new naval history scholarship. To facilitate a direction, it is recommended this point paper be shared to gather comments and additional ideas on the three options  that have been presented.

As for the selection of the editorial board, the new management team should aim to recruit individuals who have entered the profession in recent years to encourage submissions from younger scholars. Given the “International” scope of the journal, the board needs to aim for overseas recruitment as well. For the younger board members, serving on the board will assist in furthering personal career objectives and create networking opportunities and lifelong friendships. Additional consideration should be given to establish a smaller advisory panel where diversity and breadth and depth of experience would enhance the quality of the journal and provide mentorship.


The retention and re-invigoration of IJNH serves the interests of the naval historian community as a tool for professional development for both contributors and those associated with the journal. The content published in past editions is finding its way into the footnotes of recent scholarship, and new content can inform the thinking of contemporary leaders engaged in naval/maritime affairs. Comments and constructive ideas will be welcome and considered. Contact the author at the address below.

David F. Winkler is a retired Navy commander having received his commission through Penn State NROTC. Having earned his Ph.D. at American University, he served as staff historian at the Naval Historical Foundation for 25 years, has taught at the U.S. Naval Academy and Naval War College, and held the Charles Lindbergh Chair of Aerospace History at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. He has published five books with the Naval Institute Press and writes a monthly historical perspective column for Sea Power Magazine. Contact Dr. David F. Winkler at david.winkler@usnwc.edu.

Featured Image: U.S. Navy carrier USS Franklin (CV-13) afire and listing after she was hit by a Japanese air attack while operating off the coast of Japan, 19 March 1945. (Photo via U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

7 thoughts on “A Fork in the Road: Saving the International Journal of Naval History”

  1. Dr. Winkler, thank you for bringing to our attention the problem of losing IJNH, an important source of scholarly research in naval history. Out of your several recommendations, may I suggest that free-accessibility not stand in the way of either restoring this institution or or finding a suitable alternative. A modest, tax-deductible subscription fee would help keep a relaunched IJNH afloat while not discouraging serious historians from researching its archives.

    1. Thanks Colin,
      That’s an excellent journal that I’ve published in that offers some history but is more along the lines of USNI Proceedings. CNR should definitely be on CIMSEC readers radar.

  2. I would recommend pursuing your second option. There are so many naval-centric organizations (Naval Submarine League, Naval League, and USSVI come to mind), that may be able to support the mission of IJNH and allow for agency of the publication. They may be able to replace that “company time” portion for the editor’s salary at a part-time rate.

    I hope IJNH find that best path moving forward as I look forward to submitting in the future and potentially supporting.

    Ryan C Walker,
    MA, BA, Qualified in Submarines (Enlisted)

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