Roger Horton – Chief Executive, Academic Publishing
Stephen Carter – Group Chief Executive
Derek Mapp – Non-Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors
Richard Menzies-Gow – Director of Investor Relations, Corporate Communications & Brand
Informa Group PLC
5 Howick Place
November 29, 2015
Dear Messrs. Horton, Carter, Mapp, and Menzies-Gow,
I write as a scholar who has had a number of extremely positive and valuable professional relationships with Ashgate as author, co-editor, reviewer, and reader. Because of the great importance of Ashgate volumes to my field (Renaissance--or, as some prefer, early modern--Europe), I have signed the petition urging that Ashgate be maintained as a distinct publishing entity. I now write to you to respectfully provide more detailed information in support of that request.
As a preliminary to more in-depth considerations, I note the over 6,000 signatures on the petition, accompanied by uniformly glowing comments. The petition was circulated widely not only by individuals but by learned societies and numerous professional listservs. Those signing are scholars, librarians, and students who read, purchase, and cite Ashgate volumes, demonstrating Ashgate’s importance to the publishing enterprise as well as to the intellectual enterprise in which it is engaged. Many signatories have recommended that Ashgate be continued precisely because the respect that it enjoys ensures strong and continued sales. It is a wiser financial decision to continue it than to close it.
There are many reasons for the passionate outpouring on Ashgate’s behalf. Under the expert guidance of Erika Gaffney, Ashgate has developed one of the premier lists in early modern studies, one that is distinguished by a hard-to-find union of quality of scholarship, cutting-edge originality and interdisciplinarity, and quality of physical product (illustrations, copy-editing, etc.). In addition, authors and editors have universally had an extremely edifying professional relationship with Erika Gaffney, who unfailingly conducts her duties at the highest professional level and with courtesy and kindness to all, as do the other editors and staff members of the Vermont office. As a co-editor of Sexualities, Textualities, Art and Music in Early Modern Italy. Playing with Boundaries (2014) and as author of Commerce, Peace and the Arts in Renaissance Venice. Ruzante and the Empire at Center Stage (in press), as well as a reader and reviewer of numerous Ashgate volumes, I developed great respect for Erika Gaffney’s ability to discern scholarship that is at the same time original, innovative, and well-researched. This is a refreshing and valuable change from the bifurcation often seen between the trendy or appealing on the one side and the hide-bound on the other.
In particular, Ashgate has provided an important venue for younger scholars and for those engaged in emerging or consolidating fields, especially so as university press series have been curtailed or closed. It has made vital contributions to art history and musicology, it has been a leader in the creation of now important and respected fields such as women’s studies, it has been a beacon in smaller fields such as Byzantine studies, it has been a perceptively courageous publisher of essay collections. Finally, on a human level I note that the monograph is the standard for tenure in many fields of the humanities and Ashgate a highly respected venue. The closing of Ashgate will be harmful in this aspect of their professional lives to young and innovative scholars, precisely the ones who will be developing the future of many research fields.
Given the closing of the Burlington office despite the July statement by Informa that Ashgate’s “experienced team and strong brands will be highly complementary to our other major HSS [humanities and social sciences] brand, Routledge, the world's largest English language publisher of academic content in HSS disciplines,” we are left to wonder what future truly awaits Ashgate under the present arrangement. One hears that the United Kingdom office could also soon be closed. What commitment has Informa made to the future of Ashgate and to its fundamental and vital role in scholarship and the academic community?
In conclusion, I join thousands of colleagues and readers in warmly encouraging you to reverse the decision to close Ashgate’s Vermont office and to maintain Ashgate as a publisher, primarily for the intellectual reasons that matter most to us but also for its business wisdom. To put it in old-fashioned agricultural terms, closing Ashgate is eating one’s seed corn, leaving none to provide a future crop either for researchers or for publishers.
Linda L. Carroll
cc. Prof. Rabia Gregory