Publishing Policy

RHS announces new approach to Transactions journal submissions

The Royal Historical Society has announced that from 2021, all Society Fellows and Members will be eligible to submit articles to be considered for publication in the Society’s journal, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society.

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.

RHS Literary Director, Professor Andrew Spicer says:

“As the journal approaches its 150th anniversary in 2022, it is a good time to reassess the journal and its role… Opening up Transactions will allow the journal to reflect more fully the diverse approaches and innovative research being undertaken across the discipline.”

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.

Find out more about the new submission process for Transactions on the RHS blog.


New Historical Perspectives: First Volume Out Now!

The RHS is delighted to announce that today marks the release of the first volume in New Historical Perspectives, an Open Access books series for early career scholars commissioned by the Royal Historical Society and published as an imprint of the Institute of Historical Research by University of London Press.

The first book in the series is Ed Owens’ The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public, 1932-53.

The Family Firm presents the first major historical analysis of the transformation of the royal household’s public relations strategy in the period 1932-1953. Beginning with King George V’s first Christmas broadcast, Buckingham Palace worked with the Church of England and the media to initiate a new phase in the House of Windsor’s approach to publicity. The book also focuses on audience reception by exploring how British readers, listeners, and viewers made sense of royalty’s new media image. It argues that the monarchy’s deliberate elevation of a more informal and vulnerable family-centred image strengthened the emotional connections that members of the public forged with the royals, and that the tightening of these bonds had a unifying effect on national life in the unstable years during and either side of the Second World War. Crucially, The Family Firm also contends that the royal household’s media strategy after 1936 helped to restore public confidence in a Crown that was severely shaken by the abdication of King Edward VIII.

Download and buy copies of The Family Firm here.

All titles in New Historical Perspectives are published in print (hard- and paperback) and as Open Access (OA) from first publication, with no fees charged to the author or the author’s institution. Monograph authors receive a workshop with invited specialists to discuss their work before its final submission, and guidance from members of the NHP’s academic editorial board who also oversee a careful peer-review process.

Find out more about the New Historical Perspectives book series, including how to make a proposal, here.


Interim Working Paper – History Journals and Plan S

On 29 July the RHS released an Interim Working Paper offering a preliminary mapping of current preparedness for Plan S open access implementation among UK and international ‘hybrid’ History journals.

Aimed primarily at scholarly editors and editorial boards, History learned societies, publishers of Humanities journals, and funding bodies, this working paper is based on a preliminary analysis of survey responses provided by 50 UK and international History journals.

Since then, we have continued to elicit further evidence, feedback and corrections. With more than a hundred responses to our survey now in, we intend to publish a more comprehensive analysis in early October.

A key aim of the report will be to inform contributions to the forthcoming UKRI Open Access Review.

If you are an editor of a History journal, based anywhere in the world, and have not yet completed the survey, please download the RHS Survey of Journal Editors (July 2019) and return it to by 10 September 2019.

Please download the Interim Working Paper, and send any feedback or corrections to


RHS Responds to Updated Guidance on Plan S

In response to updated guidance from cOAlition S on Plan S, the Royal Historical Society has provided History researchers, editors and learned societies with some essential information on the revised criteria. Read our analysis on the RHS blog here:

Find out more about our policy work in relation to the future of academic publishing and open access in general here.


Plan S Consultation

The Society has submitted a response to the consultation on the Plan S open-access initiative. Our outline response is available here, and our more detailed full report is available here. These build on our interim report and call for evidence and feedback, issued in January and available here.


Book Processing Charges

Most publishers currently charge fees (“Book Processing Charges”; BPCs) to authors and their institutions for Open Access publication. The Society has issued a document surveying current BPCs from publishers working with UK-based historians: you can find it here.

The Society is engaged in the ongoing debates on Open Access and the future of book publishing. We have recently issued briefings for historians on the UK Scholarly Communications Licence, and the possible implications of Open Access requirements in future REF exercises, and we have also launched our own fee-free Open Access monograph series, New Historical Perspectives.


UK Scholarly Communications Licence

The Royal Historical Society has issued a discussion document on the UK Scholarly Communications Licence, exploring the policy’s possible implications for arts and humanities subjects in the UK. You can view the document here.


ECH Publishing: Submitting to a Journal

What makes a good journal article? First, it must stand on its own. It may be a version of a chapter of a PhD dissertation, but it has to be self-contained. Second, it ought to have a strong and distinctive argument. The standard way to demonstrate this is by reference to the historiography – but it’s not enough (or even, really, at all persuasive) to say that your subject has been ‘neglected’ by the historiography. Some subjects are neglected for a good reason – they’re not interesting or important. You need to show how the historiography will look different by including your paper – what arguments are called into question, what new light is cast on bigger subjects, what new subjects are being developed that command attention. Sometimes people publish articles that give the overarching argument of a PhD thesis; sometimes they pick the richest or most provocative argument (perhaps from a single chapter). Third, you ought to be able to provide convincing evidence in support of your arguments. This isn’t easy within the scope of an article – which ought probably to be 8-10,000 words; it’s a real skill to learn how to select evidence that will fit within these limits and still carry conviction. How do you decide which journal to submit to? (You must only submit the same paper to one at a time.) The best course is to ask yourself which journals have published papers in your field that you have admired, or papers with which you have disagreed and would like to engage. Go for the highest-quality journal that fits this description – the one that publishes the work you consider to be the best in your field. If your work is accepted by that journal, people like you will also recognise it as standing with the best in your field. If you don’t succeed with the first submission, try the next journal down the pecking-order. This is likely to be a more specialised journal. Before you submit your paper, check your chosen journal’s website for their advice to contributors – how to format a submission, how to send it in. It’s polite to format the paper to suit the journal’s house-style; if they have an unusual style, very different from other journals, you can format it in a generic style so that you don’t have to keep re-formatting every time you submit to a new journal. For more details on what happens after your paper has been accepted, see publishing in a journal.



John Sabapathy

John Sabapathy writes about his Whitfield prize-winning book ‘Officers and Accountability in Medieval England’

John Sabapathy is a Lecturer in Medieval History at UCL who works on the comparative history of Europe/Christendom in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. His monograph Officers and Accountability in Medieval England, 1170-1300, a study of English officers in an European context, has been awarded the Royal Historical Society’s Whitfield Prize for 2015. Here he reflects on his reasons for writing the book, its contemporary context and what further agendas it might help open out for historians.


Exchequer of Pleas

Historians often feel a proper professional nausea at the first person singular, but some contextualization may at least justify itself by describing how the medieval concerns of my book Officers and Accountability in Medieval England resonate today, as well as suggesting some historiographical ways forward. The book’s main argument is that the late twelfth to thirteen centuries was a period in which a number of extremely creative, practical ways were developed to control the insolence of the growing number of officers within a range of English institutions. Auditing and accounting at the Exchequer, eyres outside it; inquisitions by and into prelates; elaborate writs of account for investigating the doings and conduct of seignorial bailiffs; scrutinies of wardens and fellows within colleges: all these practices were greatly elaborated, though not necessarily invented, during this period. As that implies, however, those officers were not only ‘state’ ones. Historians have thought about the development of administrative control with too great a fixation on The State and the book argues for the importance of experimentation by towns, churches, universities and on lords’ estates too. Much of it focuses on these practices, but it is also interested in medieval reflection on them and so throughout I tried to explore the tension between the prescriptiveness of formal ways of holding to account and the wider licence of giving someone responsibilities.

In documenting and exploring this there were perhaps three large things that the book tried to do: show that accountability can be sensibly thought about for pre-modern Europe; that even if sensible such ‘accountability’ was not at all straightforward; and finally that administrative or institutional history could be a lot more interesting than its ostensible reputation has sometimes implied.

Officers and AccountabilityMy thinking about what medieval accountability could secure and what it could not and how had its own history. Although – I hope – the book is not a prisoner of its present, its agendas were undeniably informed by a pre-academic professional life in the late nineties and early noughties when I worked on corporate accountability inside various think tanks with companies, NGOs, governmental departments, and large philanthropic funders. Before the financial crisis of 2007-9 an interesting moment passed in which those groups tried to work out whether it was possible to make companies more accountable and sustainable (environmentally speaking) while, perhaps, making them stronger as companies by so doing. (The conclusion today seems more pessimistic.) It was a broad church. On one side Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s former head of strategy at Downing Street, was then the far less well-known founder of a small consultancy called Good Business. Elsewhere groups like the New Economics Foundation (where I worked for several years) tried to redefine what growth, progress and economics should mean.

There were various interesting tensions in such work on (modern, corporate) accountability. The tension between impulses to call for legislation to make companies more ‘accountable’ versus the desire for groups to assume voluntarily some degree of ‘responsibility’; the desire for these mechanisms to produce some sort of virtuous circle of social and economic reward for companies versus a suspicion that it could not be so; the desire to ‘marketize’ these responsible, environmental aspects of corporate performance versus evidence against the existence of viable markets within existing regulatory frameworks. And so on.

Throughout all these tensions however a deep lack of clarity seemed to run through most thinking about what on earth ‘accountability’ actually was. The clearest view came from the most critical anti-corporate groups, but they were also the crudest. Few seemed to have very good ways of recognizing how calls for (more) accountability worked, who they served, who it was they actually served and whether they had much to do with ‘accountability’ per se at all. ‘Who, whom?’, in the question attributed to Lenin, could have been more frequently asked. The complexity of what was going on was tremendous. Small, sometimes beleaguered, groups within companies tried to use arguments in favour of sustainability to strengthen themselves. Non-corporate groups used the credibility of working with such companies to leverage their wider standing with other funders and in the media. Yet any sociology of what was actually going on was pretty thin, and so the political activities more or less frustrated or frustrating. The result was that accountability was over-hyped, undernourished, and ultimately undernourishing. It was this dissatisfaction with a modern conversation about ‘accountability’ that ultimately led to my exploration of this modern mentality in relation to medieval officers.

Jinty Nelson

Jinty Nelson

Here I wanted to try and see whether one could inject a political and intellectual sensibility into administrative historiography and add in a way to the work of better historians who seemed to do that at the highest levels – Michael Clanchy, J. E. A. Jolliffe, J. C. Holt and most recently Tom Bisson, to name a few. The book itself was a very ‘London’ one. There I might invidiously single out three historians who shaped the book’s purposes fundamentally: Jinty Nelson (who had taught me), Michael Clanchy, and Susan Reynolds who I got to know at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR). I had found Michael’s work on the power of administration and legal practice enormously inspiring and provocative. I had been very struck similarly by Susan’s concentration on what a colleague calls common politics, and while I thought intellectuals had an important role in this particular history they were not its sole actors. I had also been very influenced by Jinty’s idea of ‘political thinking’, and took this to be a way of thinking about issues addressed in the Cambridge Histories of Political Thought but using sources that largely did not figure in them – in this case mostly administrative. By example they also all encouraged me to avoid an insular approach to this English material. To speak in terms of London institutions, one might say the book was written with a Warburg Institute sensibility using sources of a type generally held by the IHR.

This says something about what the book sought to do and why the topic seemed important. That importance does not seem to have diminished on two counts that suggest further ways forward.

Bartolo-di-Fredi A-Papal-Saint-Saint-Gregory-the-Great-1380

Gregory the Great

First, unsurprisingly, the problematic nature of ‘accountability’ has not gone away. Most public debate talks about it in the most diffuse and unhelpful of ways. Accountability is treated as a species of, or synonym for, justice, when it is a much more limited and complicated political good. Yet, as Gregory the Great knew even Satan has his court holding demons to account for how much wrong they have helped with. What sort of a ‘good’ is Satan’s accountability? We continue, then, to need more, better readings of accountability in all sorts of different places and periods to help us understand the particular nature, potential limits, and fantasies within those forms that we have created, invoked, and presumed upon.

Second, such fuzziness about this concept and its often lazy invocation is a symptom of our wider limitations in explaining institutionalization historically and generally. In the Middle Ages an enormous range of organizations and practices structured life at all sorts of levels, from churches, to parliaments to rituals of homage. Contemporary life is arguably even more institutionally structured, although, being committed individualists, we do not like to think so. Put simply, we need better institutional histories of ourselves. There is some reason for optimism here. The book suggests that, at least in medieval historiography, a new administrative history is taking shape   – one that has learnt its interdisciplinary lessons from later twentieth century historiography and is able to think about the interplay of individuals, organizational forms and institutional practices more convincingly than before. It would be good to think that this is a way of thinking historiographically that specialists of different periods can learn from each other about. Certainly there are striking recent ‘big’ examples of early medieval, early modern and modern institutional histories. If historians can show more clearly how this interplay has both constrained and enabled humans historically then we will understand our past and ourselves better, which is all anyone can ask of historians in any case.

Go to Whitfield Prize

Go to RHS News