Interview with Ellie Woodacre
This summer 2019, we’re celebrating already 5 years of the Royal Studies Journal! A few more posts on this are planned, so keep your eyes on this blog, on Twitter, or Facebook. First up is an interview with the person who started all this: Elena (Ellie) Woodacre is the heart and soul of the Royal Studies Network as well as of the Royal Studies Journal which is connected to the network and its other various activities. She is also editor-in-chief of the journal, and – together with the team of the journal – brings it to life. The first issue of the journal launched in July 2014 – 5 years ago! We caught up with Ellie to learn more about the first five years, and what is planned for the next five!
Covers of all ten issues of the last five years
RSJ Blog: Hi Ellie, we’ve looked deep into our archives, and one of the very first posts on this blog was your status report in March 2014 about the upcoming launch of the Royal Studies Journal! Then, in July 2014, the first issue of the journal went online – and now it’s been 5 years, 10 issues among them 3 special issues, two different technical systems, uncountable book reviews, and hopefully many, many articles and reviews in the pipeline still. Congrats for bringing such a project to life!
Could you maybe first tell us a bit more what inspired you and your colleagues from the Royal Studies Network to publish (yet another) academic journal?
Ellie: The inspiration for starting the RSJ was the same forces that led us to start the Royal Studies Network—we had a group of scholars and researchers who were all working in royal studies, but there was no defined academic forum for the field. We started with the conference series, Kings & Queens, which led to the formation of the network as a way to build connections and collaboration in the field. There have been fantastic publications which came out from all of the K&Q conferences, like The Image and Perception of Monarchy from K&Q1, Royal Women and Dynastic Loyalty from K&Q5 in Clemson and the recent Dynastic Change volume from K&Q4. Yet these volumes can only contain a brief selection of all the exciting papers from our conferences (normally about 100 each year!). The idea for the journal was that it could provide a constant publication outlet for research in the field, which wasn’t necessarily tied to the conferences, and could feature book reviews to help people keep up with new research in the field as well. We had an exploratory meeting at a Kings & Queens conference to gauge interest in a potential journal and the RSJ just took off from there—I can’t believe it’s been five years already!
RSJ Blog: Back in 2014, you told us in an interview that you were really impressed how quick the idea of the Royal Studies Network took a life of its own, and that you were happy that already around 220 scholars from all over the globe were connected in this network. On Facebook, we just had a short notice from Dustin, the network’s secretary, that we’re now up to 500! Can you tell us a bit more about this growth, which projects the network and the journal did in the last five years, and where you still see potential – or, what you hope to do someday?
Ellie: It is incredibly exciting that we’ve passed the 500 member mark—and when you look at the membership list you can see that we’ve got a truly global reach, with RSN members spanning from Australia and New Zealand, to North America and North Africa and all over Europe. And yet, as always, I feel like we could work harder to be even more global—I’ve been really evangelizing for royal studies to be as global and as inclusive as possible. That’s where the growth is—I really want to bring in more researchers who work on monarchy in Asia, Africa, Polynesia and the Americas. There is some amazing research on these areas already, but I’d like to see it more deeply connected to the RSN and reflected in the contents of the RSJ as well. Additionally, I want to bring in more members who work on monarchy both in the Ancient/Classical world and in the modern era so that we can really get the full timespan of royal studies represented in our membership and publications. This broad spectrum is vital to moving the field forward. Looking at monarchy across time and space, as works like The Routledge History of Monarchy and A Companion to Global Queenship both aim to do and making connections between scholars working in different geographical and temporal areas gives us a very different, and much richer, perspective on monarchy and royal studies.
RSJ Blog: Talking a bit more about the field of Royal Studies – in which ways did it change, or where do you see current academic interests?
Ellie: Apart from the “global turn” as I’ve just been speaking about, there are a lot of exciting developments in the field. I think one of the most exciting elements is the interdisciplinarity of the field. You can see that in the programmes for the K&Q conferences—researchers from different disciplines are bringing new approaches to royal studies and I think by bringing scholars from different areas together you can get very exciting inspiration and collaborations. Researchers from history, archaeology, anthropology, sociology, art history, literature studies, law, medical history, economics and so many more fields all look at various aspects of royal studies. Crossover, or cross-pollination, from one field to another gives us fresh perspectives. Take for example current research in the study of the queen’s household—you’ve got scholars like Nicola Clark thinking about gender and space in the household of Henry VIII’s queens and their palatial accommodation, Diana Pelaz Flores using elements of social network analysis to demonstrate the connections and wide ranging influence of queens through their household in Late Medieval Castile and economic analysis of queens and their household expenses by Charlotte Backerra and Cathérine Annette Ludwig-Ockenfels in the Holy Roman Empire during the early modern era. This really demonstrates the power of bringing in different disciplinary approaches to generate new insights into the field—changing the way we look at queenship and the queen’s household.
RSJ Blog: Continuing on from this, do you think that the work of the RSN and RSJ has also pushed royal studies/monarchical studies more on an academic level as opposed to the popular history writing which has dominated for a long time in this field (especially in Austria and Germany)?
Ellie: Obviously there has always been a fascination with monarchy and royal figures of the past and present—we can see that in the vast output of material from popular culture, media and history works aimed at a non-scholarly audience. While I think we should embrace this material—indeed there is some exciting research in royal studies on the remembrance and representation of monarchy in popular culture and the press–we also hope that our own publications in the academic field of royal studies connects deeply with the scholarly community as well as being potentially accessible and interesting to a wider audience. I do hope that our research will continue to gain wider recognition as an academic field of study and at the moment, one of the areas that our Listings team is working on is to link the RSJ to more scholarly databases of journals so that we can further enhance our reach and scholarly standing in academia.
RSJ Blog: Both the network as well as the journal are great places also for doctoral candidates and ECRs – was this something planned from the start, or did it just happen along the way? In which way are ideas about these scholars at the start of their careers implemented?
Ellie: This has always been a key aspect of the RSN and RSJ, to highlight the work of graduate students and PhD/Early Career researchers and encourage the next generation of scholars in the field. I actually started the first Kings & Queens conference as a PhD student and we’ve always aimed to make the conferences, network and journal a welcoming and vibrant community for students and ECRs. We’ve done this by featuring their papers at the conferences, bringing them onto the journal staff to help them gain experience in academic publishing and by running the article prize specifically for graduate students and Early Career researchers. This is a tradition that I am absolutely passionate about continuing—the RSN should never feel like an exclusive ‘clique’ or a restricted area that only senior scholars have access to. We’re all about being on the cutting edge of research, which is showcased in PhD theses and the developing work of ECRs. Plus, by bringing junior and senior scholars together at the Kings & Queens conferences and in publications like the RSJ, you can get fantastic collaborations! What I’d like to do next is perhaps start a voluntary mentoring scheme, like some societies run at major conferences—this would be a great way to move the informal connections and support networks formed through the RSN to the next level.
RSJ Blog: That sounds fantastic! We’ll keep our eyes open for any announcements regarding this. Finally, what are you working on right now? Except for all the work you do for the RSN and RSJ?
Ellie: I’ve got a fair few projects on the go at the moment! In addition to editing the RSJ, I’m an editor on two book series, Gender and Power in the Premodern World (ARC Humanities Press) and Queens of England (Routledge)—both of these series are really growing at the moment with lots of new titles contracted, some of which will be out fairly soon. These series are both deeply connected to royal studies and I hope will provide yet more publication outlets for our growing field. I have a work of my own contracted in the Queens of England series, a monograph on Joan of Navarre which I have been working on for many years—I’ve given a few papers on her at past Kings & Queens conferences. I’m also deep into writing a short form monograph on queens and queenship for ARC’s Past Imperfect series which I’m very excited about. This book looks at queens and queenship across time and place, exactly what I was talking about earlier in terms of the “global turn” of the field, looking at the constants and variable of queenship over the longue durée. Currently I’m wrapping up the chapter on family—I’ve been thinking a lot about monogamous and polygamous court systems and what impact this has on the role of a queen both as a consort and a queen mother, or royal matriarch. I’m also working with Aidan Norrie, Danna Messer, Carolyn Harris and Joanna Laynesmith on a four-volume series on English consorts for the amazing Queenship and Power series at Palgrave Macmillan and have a few other “irons in the fire” as well. Never a dull moment—clearly I can’t get enough of queenship and royal studies!
RSJ Blog: We neither! Good luck, and we’re really exited about the next five years, your upcoming projects and more publications in these book series! Thank you for joining us!