By Philip Carter

For Open Access Week 2018 (21-28 October), here are five ways in which the Institute of Historical Research is engaging with OA publishing. But first …


What is Open Access?

Open access refers to the free access to and generally free reuse (usually with some restrictions) of published research. It represents a shift in attitudes about the dissemination and utility of research and the cost of access to readers and scholars.

Open access publication gives individuals and libraries throughout the world access to content free of charge. This subverts the often prohibitive cost of individual purchases and subscriptions, potentially allowing far greater global access to research—particularly for researchers in related fields or with limited resources; content is likewise available to researchers without an affiliation to a university or academic library. Open access also offers greater flexibility of format and length, allowing publishers to explore shorter, longer form or non-standard publications.

Many funding bodies, now require that research findings published as articles must be fully open access. Books do not yet fall under this requirement but a recent consultation on the Research Excellence Framework in the UK has indicated an intention ‘to move towards an open-access requirement for monographs in the exercise that follows the next REF (expected in the mid-2020s)’ (Consultation on the second Research Excellence Framework p. 36, December 2016).


1. The ‘Humanities Digital Library’ (

In 2017 the IHR was one of the co-creators of a new Open Access book publishing platform: the Humanities Digital Library — home now to online titles from the School of Advanced Study Publications and its institutes.

Homepage of the Humanities Digital Library, OA platform for the School of Advanced Study.

The Library currently offers OA versions of 12 recently published IHR volumes. These include the Institute’s well-established ‘Conference series’ of edited collections derived from key academic gatherings at the IHR.

IHR titles available as Open Access via the Humanities Digital Library.

In 2018 it was decided that all new IHR conference titles will be published as Open Access from the outset, alongside eBook and print versions which are also available via the Humanities Digital Library. New titles published as OA in 2018 include People, Texts and Artefacts: cultural transmission in the medieval Norman worlds and (in December) Gender: places, spaces and thresholds, edited by Victoria Blud, Diane Heath and Einat Klafter.


2. ‘IHR Shorts’

IHR Shorts is a new publishing venture launched in September 2018. As the name suggests, the series is an outlet for texts of between 15,000 and 50,000 words — a length of historical writing not typically covered by the standard 10,000-word journal article or 80,000-word monograph.

We hope the series will attract a range of formats including annual named lectures given at the IHR, long-form essays shading into short monographs; and very concise essay collections drawn from conferences and roundtables.

The series launched with two such conference titles, Magna Carta: history, context and influence and Dethroning historical reputations: universities, museums and the commemoration of benefactors. Both are available as Open Access, as will all future works in the series. We’re now commissioning further titles.

Especially welcome are proposals for research-based long-form essays of 20-30,000 words that may previously have lacked options for publication. If you have a proposal please do get in touch.


3. JSTOR Open Access books

Since August 2018 all IHR Conference and Shorts titles have also been available via JSTOR’s Open Access book platform. Inclusion on JSTOR makes for much greater visibility for IHR books via open web searching or via JSTOR’s search facilities.

In JSTOR, Institute publications are accessible not just as complete books but also at the chapter level. This means the IHR’s current 167 chapters of scholarly content may be downloaded or and linked to chapter-by-chapter. This enables a much greater level of precision for (among other things) referencing in student reading lists: as here, for example, with Paul Readman’s chapter on the National Trust and English landscape from a 2016 volume on Octavia Hill and late nineteenth-century social activism.


4. ‘New Historical Perspectives’ and the Royal Historical Society

New Historical Perspectives is a new book series for early career researchers, commissioned and edited by the Royal Historical Society, and published by the IHR and School of Advanced Study. The series will include monographs and edited collections, with all titles published as Open Access via the Humanities Digital Library. Unlike many Open Access publication routes, there are no fees for early career researchers publishing in the NHP series.

The series (supported by the Past & Present and the Economic History societies) is overseen by a specialist editorial board whose members bring a high degree of academic engagement to the preparation of final manuscripts. This includes an editorial ‘workshop’ in which the near-completed book is discussed in detail by the author and selected experts in the field.

Draft cover design of one of first ‘New Historical Perspective’ titles, scheduled for publication in 2019.


The NHP series is not restricted to a particular time period of geographical region: titles in progress include studies of the interwar monarchy and the media; eighteenth-century masculinity and the grand tour; the British Atlantic sugar trade; medieval scholasticism; the Interregnum church, and anarchism and the Spanish civil war. Twelve titles have now been accepted for publication, of which the first four will be published — as Open Access, eBook and in hardback and paperback print — in 2019.


5. ‘Publishing for Historians’ training days

Also with the Royal Historical Society, the IHR runs a programme of workshops on ‘Publishing for Historians’. These training days are particularly aimed at current PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, and seek to demystify the publishing processes for journal articles and monographs.

Penny Summerfield chairs an ‘NHP’ author workshop, with Sarah Goldsmith, Mark Rothery and Nicola Phillips, June 2018.

Speakers at recent workshops have included Professor Margot Finn, president of the RHS and a former editor of the Journal of British Studies; Richard Fisher, historian and former managing director of Cambridge University Press; and Professor Penny Summerfield, convenor of the IHR/RHS New Historical Perspectives series. Each workshop dedicates a session to Open Access for historians: definitions of OA, the challenges and opportunities it poses, and possible futures for Open Access and monograph publishing in the late 2010s and ’20s.

Publishing for Historians workshops have been held to date in Glasgow, Leeds and twice at the IHR in London, most recently in July 2018. If you’re interested in hosting such an event at your home institution, again, please let us know.

Philip Carter

Philip Carter is Head of Digital at the Institute of Historical Research