For more than a century, the papers read at the Royal Historical Society’s London meetings have been published in the Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. RHS Literary Director, Professor Andrew Spicer, introduces a new approach and new submission process to celebrate the journal’s 150th anniversary.
Until now, the content of Transactions of the Royal Historical Society has come from lectures delivered during RHS visits around the country, those given by speakers at sponsored conferences, and articles from RHS prize winners. Recent efforts have broadened the range of subjects covered and ensured a more representative programme, but the Society’s adaptations to the restrictions associated with COVID-19 have also confirmed the high level of interest in the Society’s lectures. While RHS visits and symposia had to be cancelled or postponed, the live Zoom lectures, and the subsequent online recordings, have been watched by hundreds of viewers. This virtual format has also opened up the programme to papers – and audiences – from RHS Fellows based outside the UK.
Adapting in a Changing Environment
As Transactions approaches its 150th anniversary in 2022, it is a good time to reassess the journal and its role. Does TRHS truly reflect the breadth and diversity of historical research and the profession in the twenty-first century? Is it representative of the Fellowship and Membership of the society?
There are significant ongoing challenges for academic journals, including Open Access and Plan S mandates, and publishing models are also changing. How sustainable is Transactions in this environment? With a circulation of 4,000 in hard copy and more than 175,000 article downloads per year, Transactions is perhaps better placed than other publications to adapt and meet these new publishing pressures.
As the official journal of the Royal Historical Society, Transactions enjoys a certain cachet and has a reputation for publishing articles by leading and highly respected scholars. Nonetheless, being an invitation-only publication limits the scope of the journal and sits uneasily with the society’s commitment to ‘work towards greater equality, inclusion and representation in historical practice, research and teaching’.
Inviting new contributors to Transactions
From 2021 publication in the journal will become much more accessible to RHS Fellows and Members in the UK and further afield. RHS lectures including the Prothero and Presidential lectures will continue to be an important part of Transactions, but we will also welcome the submission of articles that have not previously been read at a Society event. The high standards of Transactions will be maintained through rigorous peer review supported by an online submission process. A representative editorial board will be appointed to oversee the implementation of these changes and the journal’s future development.
Opening up Transactions will allow the journal to reflect more fully the diverse approaches and innovative research being undertaken across the discipline. Alongside research articles, pieces that engage with pedagogy and key issues facing the profession would be welcomed. It will also provide a platform for pieces related to the RHS policy initiatives, which have in the past appeared in other history journals.
Moving to continuous online publication will enable Transactions to address such issues more swiftly than in its current form, although there will still be an annual volume. These are significant but necessary developments to ensure the journal’s future.
If you are a Fellow or Member of the Royal Historical Society (including Early Career Members) and would like to know more about contributing to Transactions, please email Prof. Andrew Spicer at firstname.lastname@example.org.