The Medieval Review celebrates 20 years of electronic publishing

  • Sept. 18, 2013


Scholars of medieval times may focus on the distant past in their research, but many of them have long looked to the future for technology to share their findings and ideas.

They began using email to publish and share book reviews in 1993, before the World Wide Web was in common use in higher education. The initiative resulted in The Medieval Review, a journal now based at Indiana University Bloomington and celebrating its 20th anniversary.

The Medieval Review has always been exclusively digital, with no print version, and it has always been open-access, which means that subscriptions to the listserv and access to the website are free and available to anyone. As such, it is one of the oldest online, open-access journals: In 1993, there were 45 such journals; in 1994 there were 181; and today there are 9,953.
The Medieval Review had its first appearance as the Bryn Mawr Medieval Review, founded in 1993 by James O'Donnell and Eugene Vance, and it was initially housed and funded by the University of Washington. In 1996, the journal moved to Western Michigan University and took the name The Medieval Review; there it was housed in the Medieval Institute and funded by the Medieval Institute, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of History. 

In 2007, the journal moved to Indiana University Bloomington, where it became part of the Medieval Studies Institute's Journals Initiative. Funding has been provided by Medieval Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Departments of History and History of Art. The website has greatly benefited from the support of its host, IU Scholarworks.

The executive editor of the journal is Deborah Deliyannis, associate professor in the Department of History in the IU College of Arts and Sciences. The editor is Diane Reilly, associate professor in the Department of History of Art in the College.

The Medieval Review publishes reviews of current books in all areas of medieval studies, a field it interprets as broadly as possible. It operates as a moderated distribution list: Subscribers receive reviews as email, and the journal has deliberately kept its reviews in the same simple format, so they can be accessed by viewers with the widest possible number of email readers and browsers. 

There is no paper version. Once posted, reviews are archived and available for viewing, searching, printing, etc., on the website. The electronic medium allows for rapid publication of reviews and provides a computer-searchable archive of past reviews, both of which are of great utility to scholars and students around the world.
The Medieval Review has about 6,000 subscribers who receive reviews as email; these subscribers are found in more than 50 countries on every inhabited continent. Volunteer editors contribute considerable amounts of time to keep the journal running, and a board of review editors provides recommendations for reviewers for books in the full range of medieval studies. A complete listing of editors from the past 20 years can be found the website.

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