The Agricultural History Journal at Rollins

June 07, 2012

Associate Professor of History Claire Strom
Associate Professor of History Claire Strom is the editor of Agricultural History. (Photo by Judy Watson Tracy)


Ancient Chinese beekeeping, Antebellum silk production, 19th-century Australian wheat growing, and John Steinbeck’s Oklahoma … just a few of the topics explored in the upcoming issue of Agricultural History, the Rollins-hosted, quarterly journal celebrating its 85th anniversary this year. 

The journal has been produced at Rollins since 2008 when Claire Strom, associate professor of history and the journal’s editor, brought it to campus. Since then, the publication has not only served to underscore Rollins on an international academic landscape but it has given undergraduates the opportunity to be a part of its editorial process.

For the Summer 2012 issue, Brianne Quist ’12 worked as an editorial assistant and helped to edit and source-check the article on 19th-century Australian wheat growing. She is one of four students in Strom’s history capstone class and had 25 percent of her final grade based on her participation in the journal. Students were each assigned one article and given the responsibility of checking all the footnotes, correcting the style, and formatting the entire piece. 

“The idea is to give students the experience of being a ‘real’ historian; understanding what work goes into the production of history, beyond the research and writing,” Strom said. It also gives the students the chance to be cited as editorial assistants in an internationally renowned scholarly journal.

A New Appreciation

Quist’s 32-page article sourced several dozen publications, all of which needed to be ordered through the library and manually checked for accuracy. “It’s an incredibly tedious process,” said Quist, who loaned sources from as far away as the Australian National Archives. “But it was great to get the research practice.”

After four years pursuing her Rollins degree, Quist is no stranger to using academic journals in the researching and writing of her papers. Reading and sourcing journals is an aspect of college life that everyone experiences yet so few appreciate. But after spending an entire semester working on Agricultural History, Quist is now one of the exceptions.

“I never realized how much work went into academic publishing and I am now very grateful for all the people who do this work,” Quist said. “I really appreciate and understand how this process works.”

Quist, an international relations major, was joined in the class by Marcille Dalton ’12, Tara Napolitano ’12, and Sebastian Novak ’12, who worked with a 40-page paper on Antebellum silk production. “As an undergraduate to work on a scholarly journal is a big deal,” Novak said.

Director of Olin Library Jonathan Miller concurred: “It is enormously valuable that students get to experience scholarly communication from this perspective and not just as consumers of scholarly article and books,” said Miller, who pointed out that in addition to Agricultural History, Rollins students have the opportunity to edit and publish the Brushing Art & Literary Journal and the Rollins Undergraduate Research Journal, as well as specs, a national journal of contemporary art and literature that is produced at Rollins College.

International Distinction

Hosting the A-ranked journal has been a source of pride for Rollins, who joins Rice University, host of the Journal of Southern History, and Indiana University, host of the Journal of American History, in this prestige. “These are big important journals and are hosted at big important schools,” said Strom. “It’s a big deal that Rollins hosts Agricultural History. It places Rollins on the academic map and gives us an ongoing academic presence all over the globe.”

That the journal has enjoyed such a long publishing life is equally noteworthy. “Many journals come and go quite quickly as the interests of scholars and the needs of academic disciplines change,” said Miller. “So the fact that the journal has been published for 85 years is impressive.”

Pamela Riney-Kehrberg, professor of history at Iowa State University and president-elect of the Agricultural History Society heralds Agricultural History’s importance in the realm of rural and agricultural history scholarship. “A number of years back, a senior scholar in environmental history asked me if the journal Agricultural History still existed.  While it might have been a serious question ten or fifteen years ago, I don’t think anyone could seriously ask that question today. There is no question today that Agricultural History is a thriving and vital journal,” she said.

Melissa Walker, professor of history at Converse College and former Agricultural History Society president, agreed. “Agricultural History is the major international journal for those who study the history of agriculture, rural society, and the environment. Under Claire Strom's leadership, the journal has become increasingly selective and increasingly respected among scholars from around the world who study rural history.”

Back on campus, Quist has finally seen the light at the end of a long tunnel and can now start to reflect on just how proud she is of the work she’s done on such an esteemed publication. “Before I started, I thought it would be cool to get the recognition; but now I can look back and see all the hard work that we put in and feel that I really deserve the credit,” Quist said. “The experience taught me how to be thorough and to produce consistently good work.  It’s a good process.”

By Kristen Manieri

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