Jewish Historical Studies: Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England is now jointly published with UCL Press. Why is this such excellent news and of historical significance in itself?
In 2013 the Jewish Historical Society of England (JHSE) celebrated its 120th anniversary. It is one of the longest-running historical associations in the world and its journal, commonly referred to as Transactions, began in 1893-94. While its publication has been somewhat irregular (a few world wars happened to intervene), it is famous for featuring some of the most outstanding scholarship in Jewish history – well before Jewish Studies became institutionalised as an academic field. The JHSE is a hybrid: its membership includes full-time academics, part-time scholars and teachers, and those whose livelihoods lie totally outside of education. The JHSE comprises students and retirees, doctors, lawyers, accountants, journalists, musicians, artists, Jews and non-Jews. A rather large share of members are historians whose work engages Jews in the English-speaking world. As an organisation the JHSE has always aspired to promote the best and most current research in Anglo-Jewish history while its remit ranges broadly in Jewish Studies.
Until its most recent issue, Volume 47, Transactions was published privately by the Society. Starting with volume 44, my first as editor, a standardised peer-review process was introduced along with an editorial board. Whereas in the past (almost) all submissions to the journal appeared in print, this is no longer the case. We maintain the central purpose of Transactions – publishing papers that were presented to meetings of the Society – and also provide a venue for the types of scholarship and issues pertaining to research of concern to the Society generally.
In the grand scheme of things, the journal is thriving. Since the presidencies of Ada Rapoport-Albert (UCL) and Piet Van Boxel (Oxford), who initiated a shift to University College London for the Society’s functions, attendance at meetings and conferences has surged. Some fabulous younger scholars, such as David Dee of Leicester’s De Montfort University, Julie Mell of North Carolina State University, and Philip Nothaft of All Souls, Oxford, have published in, and become vital forces in the evolving shape of Transactions. Historians who are at the cutting edge of their respective fields, such as Alex Knapp in ethnomusicology, David Ruderman in intellectual history, Sharman Kadish in material culture, and Susan Tananbaum and David Feldman in social history, have published their latest scholarship in the journal.
Under UCL Press it will appear in print and on-line as an open-access publication, following a path that will make the journal even more attractive for aspiring contributors. (Submissions are piling up in my inbox.)
The next issue, volume 48, which will appear in December 2016, will have a substantial section guest-edited by Theodore Dunkelgrunn of Cambridge, concerning the formidable career of Solomon Schechter. The volume also will comprise ‘regular’ articles, book reviews, and at least one review essay.
What is it, though, that makes Transactions different? One aspect is apparent in the current issue, which is dedicated to the late Professor David Cesarani of Royal Holloway (1956-2015) (to which we would add the Hebraized acronym z”l, ‘of blessed memory’). While many academic journals refrain from obituaries or any form of institutional recognition of deceased members, we regard this as part of our mission. Is there a historian anywhere who does not find such material helpful, or of interest? We also include information about the life of the JHSE: its current central group and branches, and those who appear at its meetings. Along with reviews of books, now expertly handled by Lars Fischer, there are ‘research reports’, often containing primary source material, which is not the standard fare of academic journals. We are, in the end, a scholarly and academic publication, but proudly more than that.
As editor of Transactions and on behalf of the JHSE, I wish to thank Lara Speicher, Alison Major and their colleagues for making possible the relationship between the UCL Press and the journal. The well-being of the JHSE and an increasingly robust Transactions are mutually beneficial. To quote that great sage, Rick of Casablana: ‘I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.’
About the author
Michael Berkowitz is General Editor of Jewish Historical Studies and Professor of Modern Jewish History, UCL.
This post was originally posted in UCL Press news in February 2016.