By Lorraine U. Martinelle
Next summer, Massachusetts history buffs will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Historical
Journal of Massachusetts (HJM), a publication of Westfield State University that is the only one of its kind in the Commonwealth.
In 1972, Professor Martin Kaufman, Ph.D., of Westfield State College’s History Department launched a College-supported periodical, the Historical Journal of Western Massachusetts. From its conception, Dr. Kaufman used it as a teaching and mentoring tool for students from various disciplines, and it featured scholarship from academics from the College and, eventually, from across the country.
Since then, approximately 200 pages of Commonwealth history are published every six months, in what is now the Historical Journal of Massachusetts. According to its current editor, Westfield State History Professor Mara Dodge, Ph.D., HJM is the only scholarly publication that exclusively focuses on Bay State history.
“Every single state’s historical society produces a state history journal,” she said. “In Massachusetts, however, we are unique in that the Massachusetts Historical Society, which is the oldest in the nation, for some reason has never produced a state history journal.
“It’s very odd, when you consider that our history goes back to the pilgrims and Mayflower, and we were central to the American Revolution,” added Dodge.
Each article is approximately 20 pages long and goes through several rounds of edits. Outside experts on a particular topic in history review the articles.
“Another great thing is that every article we’ve ever published is uploaded as a PDF version to our web archive,” said Dodge. “This is the history of our state and every issue is available for public access for free.”
Westfield State students serve as interns, and they are essential to HJM’s production.
“The HJM internship provides Westfield State students with a professional experience and training in valuable skills,” said Dodge. “They are a vital part of our team and get to learn many facets of production.”
Joseph Carvalho ’75 was one of those interns. As a student, he served on HJM’s editorial board and was Kaufman’s research assistant from 1973 to 1975. A former member of the Westfield State Board of Trustees, Carvalho has been prominent in the historical field, having worked as director of the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum and executive director of the Springfield Museums Association.
“The HJM experience played a major part in my acceptance into the highly regarded graduate history master’s program of the College of William & Mary,” said Carvalho, who is now co-editor of the Springfield Republican Book Division. “Out of the 17 history grad students accepted in 1976, I was one of only three who graduated with a master’s within the first year. This was a testament to the training I received working on the Journal.”
In addition to interns, 12–20 Westfield State faculty and staff volunteer per issue to proofread.
“For staff, it’s fun and interesting,” said Dodge. “They love history.”
Those history buffs can expect a busy summer 2022, as not only HJM’s 50th anniversary edition will be published but also a 250+-page book on Westfield’s history titled, A Peek into Westfield’s Past: 1669-2019. HJM will publish the book.
Meanwhile, the next issue comes out in August 2021. Titles include: The Modern Berkshires: Deindustrialization, Mass MoCA, and the Demise of North Adams Regional Hospital; Vikings on the Charles: Leif Eriksson and the Quest for Norumbega; The 1918-19 Influenza Epidemic in Boston, Lowell, and Fall River; and Federal New Deal Policy at Elite Massachusetts’ Women’s Colleges, 1933-1943.
In the past 49 years of HJM’s production, its attractiveness, professionalism, and length have changed the most, according to Dodge. (She noted that Westfield State has financially supported HJM since its origin, generously covering nearly all personnel and production costs.)
“The quality of HJM articles has always been high,” she said, “however, we now have a professional copy/layout editor, and each issue is fully illustrated and designed to appeal to the general reader.”
Dodge—who is passionate about the post-Civil War Reconstruction era and the Great Depression—doesn’t have a particular favorite issue.
“It’s so hard to pick,” she said. “Readers often write that each issue gets better and better. I’m always proud when we publish groundbreaking articles on topics that have never before been written about.”