RHS Literary Director Andrew Spicer explains the process of proposing a volume to our Camden Series of edited primary sources.
The Royal Historical Society publishes two volumes in the Camden Series each year, more than 325 have appeared to date. But the Society is always on the look-out for new proposals! The aim of the series is to make available to historians, researchers and students, editions of historical sources or unpublished manuscript material on an aspect of British history. Each volume is peer-reviewed and is accompanied by a scholarly introduction to the subject and the material.
The Camden Series predates the RHS: some 160 volumes were published by the Camden Society, established in 1838 ‘for the publication of early historical and literary remains’. The societies amalgamated in the late nineteenth century with the first two jointly published volumes – the papers of Sir Edmund Nicholas, and on the Archpriest Controversy – appearing in 1897. The chronological range of the series has broadened out from the initial focus on the medieval and early modern periods to embrace the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and since the 1980s, the twentieth century as well, up to the observations of the archbishop of Canterbury’s envoy to the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. As part of the RHS’ 150th anniversary last year, we worked with Cambridge University Press to make a collection of volumes from the series freely available.
The term ‘British’ history is rather broadly defined. It encompasses not only sources relating to individuals and institutions within the islands of Britain and Ireland but has also come to include British interests – whether diplomatic, legal, military, political, religious, etc. – outside the archipelago as well as the affairs and activities of Britons and Irish people overseas. The series is also becoming more inclusive – although there is always plenty of scope for improvement – with volumes, for example, on the diaries and writings of early modern women. In 2011, the society published the minutes and papers relating to the building of the East London mosque in the early twentieth century reflecting on the aspirations of the Muslim community in London to have a mosque that befitted the capital city of a world empire. The most recent volume is Jo Ann Moran Cruz’s An Account of an Elizabethan Family: the Willoughbys of Wollaton by Cassandra Willoughby, 1670–1735. An indication of the range of subjects covered by the recent volumes can found on the RHS and Cambridge University Press websites.
What is it like to work on a Camden volume? My fellow RHS Literary Director Richard Toye recently co-edited the diaries of the Liberal politician Cecil Bisshopp Harmsworth (1869–1948), the younger brother of the influential newspaper proprietors Lords Northcliffe and Rothermere. Besides the insights it provides on Westminster politics, the volume also details the constituency life and electioneering of an MP in the early twentieth century. In the RHS Newsletter, Toye describes what it is like to turn a manuscript into a Camden volume, reflecting on both the challenging and satisfying aspects of the process. The volume has increased awareness of Harmsworth’s career, such that he is now to be included in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Typically, volumes for the Camden Series are between 80,000 and 120,000 words in length, including the introduction and all the normal scholarly apparatus. Shorter texts will be considered but those under 60,000 words are more appropriate for a Camden Miscellany. Each volume requires an introduction providing details about the edited source, including where appropriate how and why it was generated, as well as contextualising and assessing the significance of the material. The volumes are published by Cambridge University Press both in hard copy and are available electronically through their Cambridge Core platform.
The RHS considers proposals throughout the year, although the main forum for discussion are the Publications Committee meetings in late February and September. Proposal forms can be found on the RHS website; these need to be submitted with a sample of the edited source material for peer review. Responsibility for the Camden Series is divided between the literary directors with me (Andrew Spicer) overseeing the medieval and early modern volumes, and Richard Toye those relating to the period after 1750. If you have an idea for a volume, please get in touch (literary.directors[AT]royalhistsoc.org); we are happy to discuss potential Camden publications in advance of a formal proposal.
Prof. Andrew Spicer
RHS Literary Director
Oxford Brookes University