Journal to Study the County’s Future by Reviewing Its Past

Times Staff Writer

Three history professors who want people to ponder how the past shapes the present and future are launching a publication to explore Orange County’s institutions and issues.

The Journal of Orange County Studies will chronicle the region’s history and current “problems and promise,” said Spencer Olin of UC Irvine, one of the three professors editing the new, semiannual publication.

The editors said they do not want it to be a stuffy publication relegated to the bookshelves of teachers and libraries, but relevant to Orange County residents.

“We’re reaching for an intersection between the traditional scholarly journal and the public affairs magazine,” said Arthur Hansen, a history professor at Cal State Fullerton. Featuring articles on social, cultural and economic developments, the journal aims to “give a historical perspective on public policy issues,” Hansen said.


“We want to elevate the discourse on issues, on housing or cultural affairs, health care, transportation, anything of that sort,” he said.

Distribution of the journal began this weekend. A reception is planned today to present it to sponsors who helped underwrite the 40-page first issue, and the three professors discussed it with history buffs Saturday at the Conference on Orange County History at Chapman College.

The first issue is devoted to growth in the county and features a debate between Ray Watson, vice chairman of the Irvine Co., and Larry Agran, mayor of Irvine, as well as a photo history of the Laguna Canyon project and an article on the urbanization of Brea. The next issue will have no particular theme, but the editors are planning to focus the third issue on cultural diversity and changes in Orange County.

The journal was the brainchild of Lawrence de Graaf, a Cal State Fullerton history professor. De Graaf said that he originally proposed the idea to the Orange County Historical Society several years ago when he sat on the group’s board, “but they felt the time and money involved was more than they could do by themselves.”


(The historical society remains interested and holds a seat on the editorial board, de Graaf said.)

Olin learned of de Graaf’s idea and offered his help, and then Hansen--at that time just ending his term as editor of the Oral History Review, the leading journal in the country on oral history--joined in.

The marriage of Cal State Fullerton and UCI in producing the journal “gives us enormous strength,” de Graaf said. UCI has a publishing plant, and Cal State Fullerton houses a huge archive of oral history, encompassing 2,000 interviews, most of them involving Orange County history, he said.

“It also helps to guarantee that there will be coverage of the county that is not overloaded to the northern or southern sections,” Hansen said.

Although the editors hope the journal will encourage serious research into the county’s history and current issues, they also hope to receive articles written from a diversity of authors. “The more, the better,” de Graaf said. “I can see them coming from certified faculty and graduate students and high school teachers, but also from government and planning, from business people, you name it.”

The diversity of authors in the first issue--a politician, a business executive, a professional photographer, the county archivist and a UCI professor--should “give a lot of people heart that this journal is open to them,” de Graaf said.

The editors’ enthusiasm is high, but it does not pay the bills. The first issue, which has a color cover and black-and-white photos inside, cost about $11,000. The nonprofit journal’s sponsors include corporations, Orange County Centennial Inc., the Historical and Cultural Foundation of Orange County and the history departments of the two universities. The three editors also put some of their own money into the publication, Hansen said. Olin said they hope to get limited advertising for future issues and to offset costs with subscriptions.

“We’re hoping for broad readership,” Olin said, “not only members of historical societies and scholars, but all Orange County residents concerned about the development of this region.”