Five Minutes for the Humanities
A view from Victoria Peters, Editorial Director Humanities at Palgrave Macmillan
... about Seven Years of Palgrave Macmillan’s Campaign for the Humanities.
The relationship of the humanities to science has a long and complex history, nowhere more so than in the different imprints that make up SpringerNature (which include Nature, Palgrave Macmillan, Springer, J.B. Metzler to name a few). For many years, Nature magazine carried a quote from William Wordsworth on its front cover: “To the solid ground of nature trusts the Mind that builds for aye”. Long gone are the days when scientific study asserted its importance by reference to poetry. The world order has changed and science dominates the wider world’s need to hear from “experts” - never more so than now, understandably enough.
But we need a range of subjects and approaches to make discoveries, interpret the world around us, make sound decisions and communicate effectively. The acronym STEAM is useful here – if you add in the arts to STEM, you get a powerful combination that can go much further! For decades now humanities subjects have had to become ever more assertive to explain their own worth within society and within the academy, fighting against closures of university departments and making the case for funding.
Palgrave Macmillan, and the Macmillan imprint in earlier days, have a long and sustained commitment to publishing the humanities, and this commitment was reflected in the establishment of the Campaign for the Humanities, started in 2014, which sought to give humanists a forum to lobby and assert the value of their enterprise. It also had a significant value to us as a company in drawing attention to the central place Palgrave Macmillan had held in humanities publishing for generations. The Campaign comprised a co-ordinated suite of book publications, blog posts, web presence, live and virtual events and made a real and lasting impression within academia.
On a personal note, I was working for another publishing house when the Campaign for the Humanities was launched and heard a lot about it from academics when I was on campus or at conferences “Palgrave really care about us and are helping us in lobbying for the importance of the humanities”, they would say as if throwing down the gauntlet. They paid particular reference to the “Five Minutes for the Humanities” and “Spotlight on..” blog posts from our staff and our authors, which are all well worth a read and gave both sides of the community a chance to express why this all mattered so much to them. I was a little jealous, and also wondered what a feat of co-ordination it must have been to draw together editorial and marketing voices within a company to pull off a campaign like this, which was general in nature and for the greater good. Now I have worked for Palgrave Macmillan for more than three years, it doesn’t surprise me at all, as I see this passion and commitment to the humanities, and the ability to come together and work as a team, every single day. I hope our authors see it, too.
In the six year that have passed, the Campaign for the Humanities has hosted an annual panel at the Being Human Festival of the Humanities in London every year, the Campaign has been the unifying banner under which we have provided countless conference sessions and workshops for authors. We have created partnerships with universities, for example by hosting a series of Cultural Conversations from Leeds Beckett University on our website. One of our key concerns has been to make the Campaign more international, and we have contributed to events in the USA at major conferences such as MLA and AAR and joined panels at a number of universities. We are always interested to hear suggestions of other initiatives and partnerships from authors and from institutions where we might be able to get involved under the mantle of the Campaign for the Humanities.
We hope to see the Campaign go from strength to strength, becoming more international in nature and showing how Palgrave Humanities can thrive at SpringerNature, alongside the sciences and other related disciplines. And with this commitment and mission in our minds, we return to what we do best, publishing the excellent books you want to write and to read, and perhaps to Wordsworth
“Dreams, books, are each a world; and books, we know,
Are a substantial world, both pure and good”.