Interest in British history wanes

February 12, 1999

Cambridge University Press is cutting the number of monographs it publishes because of a fall in demand from buyers.

Richard Fisher, publishing development director of the CUP, said it expected its output of monographs to drop by between 15 and 20 per cent over the next three years. It publishes about 300 or 400 a year, mainly in history and English literature.

Worst hit is likely to be modern British history, which no longer commands the interest it once did in this country or abroad. Classics, medieval studies and economics are safer as they are successful sellers.

"The view here is that the monograph remains central to what we do," said Mr Fisher. "But obviously we have to balance that with other things. We have to address questions of quality and significance."

He said there had been massive over-supply of monographs in 1996-97, partly caused by the research assessment exercise and pressure on young researchers to publish books. University libraries had also reduced the number of hardback books they bought because of financial pressures.

"The imperative of any university press is dissemination," he said.

"Clearly it often makes much more sense in publishing and other terms for that to be done in two or three big articles rather than a book. The trouble is, that does not get you a job these days."

CUP has written formally to the Higher Education Funding Council for England to complain about distortions caused by the RAE.

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