Historical research isn’t solely the domain of PhD-wielding professors with stacks of published books to their names. In fact, each semester, undergraduate NYU history students conduct original research and bring fresh perspectives to countless topics. For over 60 years, the Historian has spotlighted unique and noteworthy narratives to come from that sea of research.
Challenging Conventional Narratives
Published annually, the Historian is the Department of History’s student-run research journal. It publishes only essays from undergraduates, with a focus on challenging conventional narratives and uplifting marginalized perspectives.
“There is so much value in the work of historians, even amateur ones,” says Jill Valdes, a 2021 History major from New Jersey and this year’s editor in chief. “I’m always impressed by the caliber of writing that our authors submit. I end up learning so much reading all their fantastic work.”
The journal issues an open call for submissions each January. The staff reviews every paper, and their final selections go through two rounds of revision before publication.
The Value of Undergraduate Publication
The Historian offers a unique opportunity for NYU history students and other majors to experience publishing academic writing. For those on staff, Jill says, “Getting to work through that process of editing, talking out the pieces as a team, and communicating with authors is invaluable for those even somewhat interested in historical writing or publication.”
The journal also provides value to those simply reading the work. “The authors have complex, well-constructed arguments about really important themes,” Jill says. “Our contributors continually challenge assumptions, tropes, and traditions with their work.”
Past articles have covered everything from the religiosity of enslaved peoples to the 1984 Nicaraguan elections. An essay by Nico Mendoza examines the often-over-idealized relationship between US and British soldiers during World War II.
“I think it epitomizes how NYU undergraduates engage with history in a sometimes disruptive, innovative way,” says Jill. “It’s historians who really tease these narratives out, proving that there is more to these simple stories we hear growing up.”
History Is Personal, Local, and Global
Students cover subjects both global and close to home. Era Gjonbalaj, a 2021 History major, contributed a piece related to her hometown in upstate New York. She wrote about the Canandaigua Treaty, a land treaty between the Iroquois people and the US government. “I was interested in what circumstances it was written under, and whether it has actually been respected in the years since,” Era says.
Era describes the submission process as quick and easy. “I recommend anyone at NYU who writes anything even remotely historical to submit to it, because they’re very open.”
Maria Farman, a 2020 History major, published a piece about the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike, organized by women and immigrants in Massachusetts textile mills. For her, this early example of female agency in US labor still resonates today. “The balance between work and domestic roles is still an issue for many modern women, and the Lawrence women’s courage and creativity in navigating the balance will continue to inspire me in my own life,” Maria says.
Studying History Protects the Future
For the upcoming 2021 issue, Jill says she’s looking forward to maintaining the journal’s reputation for diversity of thought and subject matter. She also sees the Historian as especially important in today’s climate because “history, as a discipline, is on a frightening decline.”
“No one thinks as historians do,” Jill says. “No one reckons with the same kind of human complexities that historians must take into account. Studying history equips you to think and convey significance like no other.”