The Appendix – “a historian’s version of wanderlust”

The other day, while searching for a new online history journal I’m a big fan of, I couldn’t remember their exact URL, so I hoped Google would lead the way.

I typed ‘the appendix’ into the search box and was completely baffled – almost recoiling in horror as if hardcore porn had come up in the search – wondering why half the screen was suddenly full of flesh-coloured illustrations of internal organs.

Idiot.

So anyway. The Appendix. A cool new online history journal, which professes to “shed light on forgotten worlds.” I posted an excerpt from a recent interview with the folks behind The Appendix the other day, and you can get more of a flavour of their intentions via the journal’s submission guidelines and their about page.

More directly though, you can just go ahead and start reading articles from the first issue. The theme is “The End?” and features some cracking stuff already – from a personal journey sifting through the archives of another very different journey (Field Notes, Amazonia 1952: FOUND) to the history of a ghost town in Arizona (Local History: The Vulture Mine and Vulture City–Wickenburg, Arizona).

One thing I love most about The Appendix so far is their allowance of the word “I” in history writing. I love reading about someone’s quest to uncover a mystery.

From Felipe Fernandes Cruz’s Field Notes, Amazonia:

I was anxious to visit collections all across Brazil—imagining it as a frenetic adventure, as if Jack Kerouac had been an archive rat in On The Road. I was feeling a historian’s version of wanderlust.

It’s one thing to read about the events themselves, but quite another to relive it through the writer’s words and actions. I think there’s room for both styles of history writing.

“…a historian’s version of wanderlust.” I think that should be the unofficial tagline for The Appendix.

According to the team behind it, the articles in The Appendix “take advantage of the flexibility of hypertext and modern web presentation techniques to experiment with and explore the process and method of writing history.” This means that stories are presented with extra material like footnotes and images front and center, rather than being stashed away in the, uh, appendix.

The online publication aims to release one full journal each quarter, and does this by drip-feeding each article one at a time over the length of that issue’s run. Subscribers can access the full issue up front, and they also get digital copies of the journal compatible with whatever e-reader/device they happen to use.

Anecdotally, the team behind The Appendix seem to be very much on the ball: I had a question about the Kindle format for subscribers, and I had a reply – and not just a brief one, but a warm, detailed one – to my email just three minutes after I sent it.

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