Eras Journal – Editorial, Edition One


Eras is part of a new revolution in academic publishing. E-journals are becoming an increasingly common feature of academic research in the early twenty-first century. Some established journals, faced with very long lead times between acceptance of an article and publication, are moving towards web-based editions to complement the print edition, while other scholarly journals have only ever been available via the internet. Libraries, faced with difficult funding decisions and storage constraints, are subscribing to e-journals where possible and discontinuing subscriptions for duplicate print editions. In some ways this is a disquieting trend. It raises issues of archiving for electronic media with the threat that, in the instant world of the internet, focused so much on today and not yesterday, back copies of journals will fall victim to outdated technology and be lost. This rings particular alarm bells for historians and archaeologists, all of us dependent to some extent on the survival of earlier accounts of the research and teaching of our chosen area of study.

At the same time, e-journals are a marvellously flexible medium for both researchers and editors. Vital to an endeavour such as a new postgraduate journal, they require only the smallest of budgets and entail none of the headaches of distribution or the necessity to sell copies to recoup the heavy expenses of even the most modest print journal. Although we discovered that even e-distribution can sometimes go awry when the Eras call for papers, sent to multiple internet lists, was electronically misinterpreted as spam! E-journals also allow easy and detailed searching, and thus facilitate the interdisciplinary and international exchange of research. There are none of the space constraints of print media that limit the number of articles and images that can be published. E-journals therefore have the potential to allow the latest research to reach an academic audience before it becomes outdated. In practice, of course, they are not immune to the time constraints facing authors, editors and referees that inevitably limit the scope of any academic journal. E-journals also have the potential to open up new styles of academic writing and reading. The first edition of Eras does not deviate markedly from a print journal. The only hyper-text links that interrupt the linear progression of the text are the endnotes. It will be interesting to see if this pattern continues in subsequent editions. Perhaps the wider possibilities of the internet, in terms of image reproduction, streaming media and hyper-text links to alternative endings, will provide authors with exciting opportunities for presenting the past as the interweaving of multiple and often contradictory stories.

However, Eras is making use of the possiblities of on-line publishing in order to establish a discussion forum relating to the articles published in each edition. There is a link at the bottom of each paper which allows the reader to make considered comments about the article they have just read. These comments will be mediated by the Eras editorial committee. Provided the comment is constructive, the email will be published on our site and we hope that authors and other readers will participate in the ensuing debate. In this way, Eras provides postgraduate students with immediate academic feedback about their work and encourages dialogue in our varied fields of interest. We anticipate that this forum will stimulate lively debate about topical issues that are raised in this edition.

E-journals like Eras present an unparalleled opportunity for postgraduates to be involved in academic publishing. We feel that the insight gained from producing an academic journal and submitting research to the refereeing process is an important part of the postgraduate experience. However, the increasing emphasis on ever-shorter completion times for postgraduate theses makes both of these undertakings difficult. Having arrived at the launch of the first edition of Eras , we can recommend the experience. Writing a thesis can be a very isolating process. The time involved in producing this journal and the shared anxieties of publishing deadlines and inevitable technical hitches has been a creative way of sustaining a sense of community among the postgraduates on the committee. Eras has provided committee members with hands-on experience in all stages of academic publishing, as well as an opportunity for other postgraduates to receive feedback from academic experts in their field of research. It can be difficult for postgraduates to publish or even receive feedback from established journals. We see Eras as providing a new forum for postgraduate research that maintains high standards through the double-blind refereeing process, but is more easily accessible because of its exclusive postgraduate focus.

We also see Eras as a forum that will facilitate interdisciplinary dialogue among researchers. The journal has a wide scope that encompasses all areas of history, archaeology, religion and theology and Jewish civilisation. In future editions we hope to publish articles across this entire spectrum of disciplines. Changing university structures in recent times have brought disparate disciplines together in new schools. Cost-cutting seems to be the chief rationale behind these moves and we have viewed the ever-decreasing numbers of academic staff in our respective disciplines with alarm. However, the new schools have also led to interdisciplinary endeavours such as this postgraduate journal. In the process of producing Eras, and sharing details of our own research, we have found that the challenge of explaining an issue in terms that make sense outside of specific disciplinary paradigms is a valuable one. We have also discovered that different disciplinary perspectives can shed unexpected light on old problems, or suggest new areas of inquiry. We hope that Eras, by publishing articles from a range of disciplines, will encourage debate and exchange among researchers from diverse academic backgrounds.

The first edition of Eras includes articles and reviews in Australian, South-East Asian and European history, and Egyptian archaeology.

Stephen Powell offers a new perspective on Francis Ratcliffe, ecologist and founder of the Australian Conservation Foundation. Tracing his public career from alienated Britisher to celebrated Australian, Powell utilises newly available archival material to explore Ratcliffe’s surprisingly unflattering first impressions of the Australian landscape, his lack of sympathy for rural people and his efforts to expose the environmental mismanagement of the land.

Greg Burgess investigates the League of Nations’ response to the refugee crisis in Europe during the interwar years. He argues that the League’s narrow definition of refugees, and its failure to extend protection to many groups subject to persecution and dislocation after World War I, must be understood in terms of the political and diplomatic context in which the League’s Refugee Arrangements were formulated. To ignore this context is to risk misinterpreting the interwar Arrangements in the light of later United Nations provisions for refugees after World War II.

The implications of international legal definitions are also explored in Deborah Harris’ article ‘Defining Genocide, Defining History’. Harris examines the ways in which different definitions of genocide shape historical scholarship in the field of genocide studies. She presents two case studies – the Killing Fields of Cambodia and the Stolen Generation in Australia – in order to illustrate the trends and consequences of defining genocide.

Eras would not have made it this far without the generous help of many people. We want to thank Professor Marian Quartly who served as an editorial adviser. She was particularly helpful in the early days when there were many decisions to be made about the format of the journal and publication procedures. Angie Argent, Kathryn Brown, Sophie Couchman, Helen Doyle, Maureen Glazebrook, Justin Green, Tamara Griffiths, Sally Newman and Anna Stevens were all involved in the early stages of the Eras committee and were unable to continue due to work or study commitments. We also want to thank all the academics who recommended referees or acted as referees for this edition. Without their anonymous contribution none of this would have been possible. Great thanks go to Anthony Richardson from Arts Information Technology who provided critical technical help for those last minute deadlines. Finally, many thanks to the administrative staff in the School of Historical Studies, Rosemary Johnston, Liisa Williams and Melissa Swindle.

Jo Aitken, Caroline McGregor, Amanda Moore

(Eras co-editors)