Boydell & Brewer is a leading, scholarly publisher of award-winning books in the humanities field based in Woodbridge, Suffolk, England. Boydell & Brewer Ltd was established in 1978 with the subject of medieval studies forming its core list but it has rapidly expanded to embrace the humanities in all periods up to and including the twentieth century. This strong, independent publisher is led, in part, by CEO James Powell. With twenty-five years of academic publishing experience James has held many posts in academic publishing and now oversees the daily operations of Boydell & Brewer.

We recently spoke to James Powell and asked him about the history and future goals of Boydell & Brewer and what steps they are taking to create a positive impact in the world of academic publishing. Here is what he had to say:

What is the strategic goal of Boydell & Brewer?

We have been an employee-owned business since 2015. The founding shareholders wanted the business to thrive beyond their working lives. We share the responsibilities and rewards of ownership and seek to promote the highest standards of quality and professionalism in everything we do. Our goal is to further establish our position as a publisher of choice for a growing body of authors and to expand our publishing more broadly across history and further into the social sciences. 

Boydell & Brewer is historically known for publishing high-quality content in the field of Medieval Studies. Can you describe other subjects that Boydell & Brewer specializes in and any particular areas of focus?

The company has acquired several high-quality lists over the years. We took the decision to maintain their hard-won scholarly reputation by running them as distinct imprints. This includes James Currey, which is one of the most important African Studies lists. We are also home to Camden House, the pre-eminent German Studies imprint. We are proud to have re-launched Tamesis Press, our Hispanic Studies imprint, which is now building on its literary and cultural studies base with an expansion into history and social sciences.

Outside of these imprints we have a thriving Music list that is published as Boydell Press and within the University of Rochester Press’s Eastman Studies in Music series. The market for this is primarily scholarly but also appeals to practitioners.

Another string to our bow is that we partner with many societies and research bodies. Libraries should look out for the publication of the latest set in the History of Parliament series. The nine-volume House of Commons, 1640-1660 is an awe-inspiring piece of collective scholarly endeavor. This arrives in May and for the first time we will be distributing the volumes as eBooks as well as in print.

Boydell & Brewer has a partnership with the University of Rochester in New York State. How did that relationship begin and what are some popular titles that have resulted from this collaboration?

This started in 1989. The university was exploring options to set up its own university press. They contacted us after recommendations from medieval studies academics in the literature faculty. We established a partnership where the university takes full responsibility for the editorial direction and quality of the books via an editorial board and Boydell & Brewer provides the publishing services to produce and sell the titles around the world.

University of Rochester Press is strong in several disciplines including African Studies, Music and East European Studies.

The Rochester music list is represented by the Eastman Studies in Music series which is highly prestigious and heading towards its one hundredth volume. A recent example is Bernstein and Robbins: The Early Ballets which has won a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title for 2022.

Our series Rochester Studies in African History and its Diaspora has a high profile which has recently been enhanced by Toyin Falola’s Decolonizing African Studies: Knowledge Production, Agency, and Voice.

We are excited about a more recent series Rochester Studies in East and Central Europe - the editor is world-renowned expert Timothy Snyder. The Universe Behind Barbed Wire: Memoirs of a Ukrainian Dissident was a prescient publication for 2022.

Are there e-books from Boydell & Brewer that are being used in academic curriculums?

Yes, here are six popular titles with links to purchase them in EBSCOhost Collection Manager (ECM):

  1. Decolonising the Mind by Ngugi wa Thiong'o 
    ISBN 9781787443976
  2. Critical History of German Film, 2nd Edition by Stephen Brockmann
    ISBN 9781787448964
  3. History of William Marshal by Nigel Bryant
    ISBN 9781782049067
  4. Approaching African History by Michael Brett
    ISBN 9781752040644
  5. A Companion to Friedrich Nietzsche : Life and Works by Paul Bishop
    ISBN 9781571137739
  6. ​​​​​The African Diaspora : Slavery, Modernity, and Globalization by Toyin Falola 
    ISBN 9781580467988

What is Boydell & Brewer doing to support the elevation of diverse authors and equitable and inclusive content?

At Boydell & Brewer we’ve long recognized the importance of diversity of voice and content in the scholarly community and beyond. Our leading African Studies imprint – James Currey – has always published African scholars as well as those from the West and continues to co-publish books with African publishers to ensure that the books are available and affordable to African audiences.

At University of Rochester Press there are several relevant book series. The long running Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora – edited by Toyin Falola – focuses on economic, political, social, literary, and cultural history with an emphasis on gender, race and identity. The Eastman/Rochester Studies in Ethnomusicology series is devoted to publishing scholarship based on ethnographic fieldwork with a particular interest in work that focuses on music and gender and/or on African music and dance. Both these series especially welcome work by African scholars and regularly employ Africa-based outside readers for peer review.

Our Tamesis imprint provides a vital outlet for a diverse range of Luso-Hispanic Studies scholars, with an increasing focus on publishing more ethnic, indigenous, Afro-Latin authors, as well as expanding our publishing in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

Elsewhere in our predominantly Humanities focused publishing we acknowledge the key role we have in supporting the promotion of diversity and inclusion in academia. In our biggest subject area – Medieval Studies – we’ve recently partnered with New Medieval Literatures to sponsor the NML Scholars of Color Essay prize. The prize is designed to recognize work that contributes to a more inclusive discipline and is specifically intended to highlight the work of early career scholars of color working in the fields of premodern literature, history, art, and culture.

Can you list 5-10 inspirational authors that are helping audiences understand DEI issues in our society

  1. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o - we have recently published this blog about his immense contribution to African Studies.
  2. Adriaan van Klinken (author of Sacred Queer Stories) for his work on LGBTQ issues and his activity on Twitter. Example.
  3. Nat Rubner (author of the forthcoming 2 volume set of The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights) the first full-length study of how and why the 1981 ACHPR came about and, therefore, of how it should be understood.
  4. Toyin Falola, author of Decolonizing African Studies, is a multi-award-winning Nigerian Professor, former president of the African Studies Association and the main series editor of our Rochester Studies in African Studies and the Diaspora series.
  5. Not an author as such, but this book Disability in Africa raises these issues and argues for the recognition of African disability studies as an important and emerging interdisciplinary field.
  6. Brian Yothers, the Frances Spatz Leighton Endowed Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Texas-El Paso, author of the forthcoming Why Antislavery Poetry Matters Now, asking why we write poetry, why we read it, and how it interacts with history.
  7. Ceija Stojka (1933-2013), Austrian Roma Holocaust survivor, author, visual artist, and activist, whose three German-language memoirs have appeared in Camden House’s The Memoirs of Ceija Stojka, Child Survivor of the Romani Holocaust, edited by Lorely E. French.

What are you doing to meet current accessibility standards?

It is a work in progress. Nearly all our new eBook editions are supplied to EBSCO and others as both web PDFs and reflowable ePub to give better user choice. We have implemented an alt-text workflow which starts with our authors and focuses on the reader experience.

Why do you feel that EBSCO is a strong partner in helping Boydell & Brewer provide e-books to academic libraries worldwide?

EBSCO is an essential partner for Boydell & Brewer. We have a global market both in terms of readers and contributors. EBSCO with its international customer base gives us access to this marketplace with the quality of their platform and their discoverability tools that are a vital support to high-quality specialist content.

How can academic libraries add e-books from Boydell & Brewer to their existing collection of EBSCO eBooks?

Libraries can add e-books from Boydell & Brewer using EBSCOhost Collection Manager (ECM) or GOBI.

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