EMEMH publications – analysis continued

I’m continuing the cursory descriptive analysis of the EMEMH book info. I’ve added a few more titles, mostly decent-length books from popular presses that I honestly don’t focus too much attention on. So now we’re at 181 titles. Prepare yourself for more gory details, plus a few colorful charts. I still need time to think more about the peer review issue, but I will get back to it soon. In the meantime…

Even with the new books I added, the relationship between the economic crash and book titles remains, with an expected lag time of a year or two.

As the chart below indicates, about 10% of the 181 works were reprints/reissues/new editions of earlier works, with a few of the originals  dating from as far back as the late 1970s. Interestingly, while Cambridge published the most titles (16) overall, fully a third of those were in fact reprints. So as far as new publications are concerned, Brill actually published the most new works in the decade, with the next tier consisting of Oxford, Palgrave Macmillan, Cambridge, Boydell, Longman and Ashgate grouped together at 9-11 titles.

The reprints were also clustered from 2002-2006 (a high of 5 in 2002), helping to explain why the numbers were so elevated in the middle of the decade. In other words, only once did the number of new publications actually reach 20 titles or more.

Books by Year, original and reprint/reissue

It’d be interesting to see how the 2000s compare with the 1990s. For the future perhaps.

The division of labor between academic presses and popular presses is relatively constant, with academic presses (combining their academic and popular titles) ranging from 64% to 88% of the total output, averaging 78%.

# Books by Year, Academic vs. Popular Presses

I’m curious what the proportions are for modern military history – do academic publications on 19C and 20C military history keep up with the publication tidal wave available from popular presses? In a different but related vein, I’d imagine the percentage would be even higher for early modern non-military history, given the popularity of military history among the general public?

As an aside, has anyone else noticed how popular military presses will sometimes make outrageous claims about their authors (many of whom I’ve barely heard of), e.g. “among the world’s most respected historians”? I won’t mention any specific names, but I find it really bizarre. Although it’s quite possible there are more people throughout the world who have heard of them than have heard of me, so I guess it’s just envy! Reminds me of that Simpsons episode (season 13, “The Blunder Years”) when Homer is hypnotized by Mesmerino into believing he is a variety of famous personalities: Homer hypnotized. Classic.

The average number of pages is less informative, with the average EMEMH title coming in at a whopping 350 pages (median of 315). With the crisis in academic publishing, there’s much talk of presses looking for shorter works, but this doesn’t seem to be the case in our field thus far; the average number of pages has actually increased very slightly over the past few years. Or maybe that’s why there are fewer titles being published? A histogram of the page length illustrates the bell-shaped distribution with a long left tail, a mode of 250-300 pages, and most works ranging from 200-450 pages.

If we break the page count down by publisher, our suspicions are confirmed once again.

Average number of pages by Publisher

Notable are the shorter averages offered by Pen & Sword, Routledge, Spellmount, Sutton and Tauris (?). This trend is further confirmed by the numbers, for when you break it down by academic vs. popular press, academic books (which, recall, include the academic/popular hybrid) still average 40 pages more than those printed by their popular cousins. Oddly, however, academic press’s popular books (admittedly only 27 titles) average 100 pages more than their academic titles. [Note: if this was a more rigorous analysis, I’d look at the distribution as well as the mean. But it’s not.]

The previous pattern holds as well regarding prices – nowadays, new hardcover monographs on EMEMH cost $100 or more, with only a few presses offering cheaper paperback books. There is a significant difference between presses as far as price-per-page is concerned, not that this measure means much. A dozen presses charge $0.29 or more per page, but a significant number also charge $0.15 or less per page.

If we turn to the country data, we are shocked to discover that English-language EMEMH works focus predominantly on England. Shocked.

Country # Title Ave $ Ave #Pgs %HC Ave #Yr
Britain 73 $81 351 71% 50
Europe 37 $68 322 53% 158
France 18 $71 372 61% 102
Germany 13 $54 339 62% 64
Spain 8 $78 345 50% 58
Italy 7 $79 331 71% 109
Austria 6 $54 356 33% 49
Netherlands 6 $120 448 67% 85
Ottomans 5 $42 362 20% 198
Russia 4 $80 392 50% 167
Denmark 1 $204 388 100% 37
Portugal 1 $180 370 100% 300
Scotland 1 $178 292 100% 49
Sweden 1 $69 416 0% 163

In case you didn’t know which European countries dominated the Anglophone academic world (including the jobs), there’s your answer: England (Britain), France, Germany and then the rest. As for the price trends in the table above, it is noteworthy that the smallest countries (Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal and Scotland) have much higher average prices (hardcover only), presumably because there is less interest in those countries in the Anglophone world. The relatively low price of the other tail countries is likely due to the fact that only surveys are published on those countries, and surveys tend to cost a lot less and are often in paper. The smallest countries apparently don’t have much need for a survey! The following chart illustrates the approximate doubling of the number of titles published on each country. Zipf’s power law anyone?

Just about every publisher, regardless of the size of their EMEMH catalog, publishes on British, European, French and German history. The smaller presses are less likely to publish on the smaller countries however. We should also remember that even though there are 37 titles that cover “Europe,” this really only means more than one country; most historians’ linguistic and archival horizons are limited to a few of each.

The average number of years covered per book is interesting. No surprise that books covering Europe (or two or more countries) generally focus on a few centuries at least, 158 years on average. You’d think it’d be easier to focus on an even smaller period of time and cover multiple countries – but then we know how those Europe-wide books usually work. As the distribution indicates below, most EMEMH works focus on a short period of time.

Histogram of Count of # Books by Number of Years Covered, 50-year bins

The popular presses and the academic popular ones (like Longman and Palgrave Macmillan, but also Boydell) tend to cover shorter time spans, likely because of their preference for specific wars, commanders and campaigns. Some of these figures are undoubtedly shaped by the length of specific wars that those countries were involved in.

When we look at specific wars (histogram below), the largest number of works deal with more than one war. Two-thirds of those multiple-war books dealt with a specific country however, only 30 attempting to cover more than one country across more than one war. Another 27 of these multi-war books focused on Britain, and the next largest number was France’s 7 works. Once again, national history dominates. You can also see that wars with heavy English participation were most popular, along with that perennial favorite, the 30YW.

The most subjective variable I created was the ‘type’ of history. This was a total judgment call, but I wanted to see the subjects within EMEMH that historians chose to write about (and presses chose to publish on). I chose one value for each book, even though most books could have different sections that address a variety of topics, e.g. several books refer to the Military Revolution, but I only classified one as focusing on that debate. Authors make a choice whom to market their books to and the title plays a defining role in this, so I went with the choices the authors (and publishers) made.

Type Titles Ave $ Ave Pgs %HC Ave #Yrs %Pop
W&S 48 $89 363 72% 114 2%
War 22 $58 433 45% 20 14%
Biography 19 $71 350 58% 55 37%
Country 15 $107 362 67% 103 20%
Army 14 $83 305 71% 106 57%
Battle 13 $51 273 46% 55 62%
Siege 13 $77 296 85% 83 23%
Naval 12 $61 395 50% 112 8%
RWP 7 $91 303 71% 132 0%
Survey 7 $27 262 29% 133 57%
Strategy 3 $75 371 67% 82 0%
Reference 2 $29 274 0% 322 0%
Art 1 $315 824 100% 122 0%
Diplo 1 $41 252 0% 10 0%
Edited 1 432 100% 150 100%
Global 1 $60 320 0% 138 0%
Medical 1 $150 283 100% 18 0%
MilRev 1 210 100% 90 0%
Total 181 $76 350 62% 91 22%

As we see, books falling under the War & Society rubric were the most popular subject matter, twice as popular as the next ‘genre’ of EMEMH, although W&S is an admittedly broader value than some of the others. W&S accounts for about a quarter of the total number of titles, so it’s fair to say that W&S has established itself pretty firmly within the subfield. We could also conceivably add to these 48 works those seven titles on RWP (my shorthand for religion, war and peace), as well as the two works on military art and military medicine. It’s also interesting to note that W&S has tended to be a broad survey affair – an average 114 years covered per book. Presumably this is because of the nature of the topic, i.e. the scarcity of W&S sources for a specific war, compared to the military correspondence between generals and Court? We also note that even though W&S is the most popular genre, its audience is almost entirely academic – 2% of these titles were published with a popular press.

Despite the rise of W&S literature, if we total up the EMEMH titles that tack a traditional tack , it reaches 94 books, or over half of the total. Naval history has also taken off in the past few decades, as the strong showing of 12 titles here indicates. In short, W&S has definitely made inroads, but traditional military history still dominates the EMEMH literature. You can see that the traditional genres of the history of battle(s), armies and commander biographies are still going strong, with the popular publishers accounting for a significant proportion of these.

Finally, we can look at the popularity of terms in the titles. Scholars and presses spend a fair amount of time figuring out how to get all the key buzzwords into their title in order to pique the catalog browser’s interest, as well as result in the maximum number of hits on databases and online searches. If you want to see a tag cloud of the top 200 words appearing in those 181 titles (and who wouldn’t), wait no longer:

Create-A-Title: Word Cloud from EMEMH titles 2000-2011

So just pick half-a-dozen of those words and you’ll be ready to write. I’m thinking I should title my book “War, Warfare and the Military Army in Early Modern Europe.”

As you can tell from the above word cloud, there aren’t many technical terms that are shared by multiple titles, i.e. not many broad historiographical debates at work. Even the famous “Military Revolution” only appears in 3 titles. “Society” of “War and Society” fame is relatively frequent, as is “culture”, but by far the most common terms to appear are geographical and chronological ones. Clearly we’re not a very imaginative bunch when it comes to entitling our works, nor does it appear that we have a unifying debate that we are addressing, at least none indicated by the titles. And in case you were wondering, 67% of the titles have a subtitle (or at least a colon).

The next post in this series will summarize what we’ve learned from all this.


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  1. The Flood continues | Skulking in Holes and Corners - May 21, 2017

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