History students bring back undergrad journal

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Monday, February 25, 2008

From 1974 to 1991, Brown’s history journal covered everything from Venetian historiography to riots in Harlem in 1943. Then, for unclear reasons, the student-run publication, called CLIO after the Greek muse of history, ceased publication.

Not many history concentrators on campus knew about that publication until last year, when a group of 10 students from the history Department Undergraduate Group decided to start a history journal at Brown, thinking it hadn’t been done before. Led by Samantha Seeley ’07 and David Beckoff ’08, the students realized they were following in others’ footsteps when Professor of History Gordon Wood mentioned to them that he remembered another journal and suggested they look for it, Beckoff said.

“It wasn’t really a question of a revival, actually,” Seeley wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. “When we first started talking about doing an undergraduate history journal, we had no idea that the project had a predecessor at Brown.”

Seeley, Beckoff and the other undergraduate editors worked quickly to put the first edition of the journal together in three-and-a-half months in spring 2007. In that time, they designed a Web site, collected 85 submissions, selected eight of those and raised money. The fundraising process was “remarkably easy,” since “most departments were incredibly willing to give something to help a new undergraduate endeavor,” Seeley wrote.

The Brown Journal of History seeks to be “interdisciplinary,” said Co-Editor-in-Chief Jill Luxenberg ’08. Submissions are not limited to students in the history department, a policy which “enables (the journal) to have broad approach across campus,” added Beckoff, the journal’s other co-editor-in-chief. The editors also maintain contact with the Brown Classical Journal, which publishes earlier in the semester, in order to eliminate any overlap.

The students behind the Brown Journal of History are proud of its “emphasis on the relationship between graduate students and undergraduate students,” said Paige Meltzer GS, the journal’s graduate adviser. While only articles from undergraduate students are published in the journal, a group of graduate students mentor and help the undergraduates who run the journal.

The graduate students are paired with undergrads based on their regional specialty. Both students read each submission, and the graduate students offer additional feedback. “They can tell us if we’re being too hard or too soft on someone,” Luxenberg said. This “collaborative process … helps strengthen the department overall,” Meltzer added.

The students also received help from the libraries, professors and University officials.

“We’re really fortunate to have faculty that are supportive and an adviser that’s really interested in what we do,” Beckoff said, referring to Ethan Pollock, assistant professor of history and a faculty adviser for the journal’s staff.

Each submission receives a response stating whether the paper was accepted and detailing the paper’s strengths and weaknesses. “There’s really a sense that this has an educational purpose,” Beckoff said.

The staff said they want to expand the journal this year, including a few more articles than were in last year’s edition, but added that their first priority is to ensure the journal’s longevity. “Because undergraduate publications are so closely tied to the motivation of individuals who are at Brown for such a short time, they tend to have short life spans,” Seeley wrote. “Our goal was to figure out a way to make the journal about process rather than product, and to institutionalize it through that process.”

Beckoff said he hopes to establish the journal’s reputation around campus and keep the number of submissions rising from year to year. He added that he would eventually like to see the publication expand beyond Brown.

The deadline for submissions to this year’s Brown Journal of History is today.

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