A review of Age of Revolutions, a digital journal exploring the history of revolutions, directed by Bryan A. Banks and Cindy Ermus
Age of Revolutions
Mackenzie Brooks, Washington and Lee University
Bryan A. Banks and Cindy Ermus
Age of Revolutions is an open-access, peer-reviewed digital journal about the history of revolutions, revolutionaries, and the idea of “revolution” itself. Revolutions and talk of revolutions have become a ubiquitous part of daily life, and that development can be traced back to the 18th century. The mission of Age of Revolutions is to provide a platform for scholars of revolution to share their research beyond their niche scholarly communities, foster interdisciplinary discussion, and make academic expertise accessible to an audience that extends beyond academia.
Bryan A. Banks and Cindy Ermus founded the project in 2015 and have since brought on an editorial team to facilitate the peer-review process, manage the publication process, and engage on social media. Each editor holds a doctorate or is working towards a doctorate in a humanities field. Age of Revolutions is an affiliate of the Consortium on the Revolutionary Era and the Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution digital resource project, housed at George Mason University’s Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. Age of Revolutions is run on WordPress and is currently self-funded.
Articles are usually between 1,500 and 2,000 words, and the editorial process (i.e., from submission to acceptance or rejection), on average, takes a couple of weeks to complete. This allows us to foster debates about contemporary subjects as well as debates about the past. We give authors the opportunity to reflect on contemporary events through the prism of their research interests.
In temporal terms, Age of Revolutions focuses on the titular revolutionary era (c. 1650-1850), but recognizes that political, social, economic, and technological revolutions continue to this day. Most articles in the journal focus on the American, French, Haitian, or Latin American revolutions of the period, but we also regularly focus on topics related to empire and decolonization, intellectual histories of revolution in the 20th century, and 21st century social movements.
In spatial terms, Age of Revolutions encourages authors to look beyond the traditional “Western” definition of the revolutionary era as one dominated by American and French republicanism. Articles regularly focus on trans-Atlantic slavery, Islamic upheavals, and revolutionary exchange across Eurasia.
In short, our digital journal offers a multi-modal platform to exchange ideas amongst scholars of different disciplines as well as a space with which a non-academic audience can engage. Interdisciplinary discussion is a hallmark of the roundtables we publish on the site, as well as on our social media accounts. Readers can engage with Age of Revolutions on the site — www.AgeofRevolutions.com — or via social media on Twitter at @AgeofRevs or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AgeofRevolutions. Publications are often used in classroom settings as well. Our site is completely open access and proves a convenient solution to the dilemma many teachers face over textbook costs. To date, over 250 different colleges and universities worldwide have assigned pieces from the journal in their classrooms.
Age of Revolutions is a digital publication that produces and openly shares original works of history centered on a capacious definition of the concept of "revolution." Led by Bryan Banks and Cindy Ermus, both historians, the site offers weekly, peer-reviewed, long-form posts on topics from the Polish Revolution of 1791 to the Arab Uprising of the 21st century. The project presents its interdisciplinary perspectives on a modern blog-like platform. In addition to regular posts, there are roundtable series on topics such as "Native American Revolutions" or "Teaching Revolutions: A Series on Pedagogy” as well as conference proceedings from an affiliated group: the Consortium on the Revolutionary Era. Visitors can also find featured book excerpts and reviews, bibliographies, and relevant links to other projects.
The editors provide a well-reasoned explanation of the scope of Age of Revolutions in the "About" section. Their goal to encourage "the comparative study of revolutions" is born out in their body of consistent posts on diverse topics. As a scholarly publication, the project provides a peer-reviewed outlet for scholars (ABD or PhD required) seeking an open access venue for their work. I am glad to see that authors retain their own copyright by default and that posts are licensed under Creative Commons. The "blurbs'' section shares compelling reviews and experiences from scholars and published authors. They specifically address the publication’s quality, consistency, and utility as a teaching tool.
Age of Revolutions employs the WordPress platform. It effectively uses many of WordPress's native features, including categories, search, and media-rich posts. Images are properly cited throughout, though the project directors should consider adding alt text for accessibility. In keeping with the blog conventions, each post has sharing and commenting features. The articles themselves contain hyperlinked superscript endnotes, but the links are not functional so users must scroll to the bottom to read the endnotes. A "reading time" WordPress plugin provides a sense of the length of each post. Articles are tagged from a controlled list of categories, which can be browsed from a drop-down list at the bottom of the page. They are sorted in reverse chronological order on the home page and in chronological order from the "Archives" page.
Though Age of Revolutions offers several ways to browse content, I found myself wishing there were more obvious or systematic ways to navigate the material. Updating the top-level menu to include a direct link to all articles might be one solution, with the "Featured Books" and "Roundtables" relegated to secondary navigation. The ability to browse by category is appreciated and should be more visible. Similarly, the metadata for each article is dispersed between the top and bottom of the post, making it hard to immediately grab what one needs for a citation. In addition to the human-readable metadata, it would be helpful to have more machine-readable metadata embedded into posts so tools like Zotero could accurately capture the record, perhaps even DOIs.
Age of Revolutions should be commended for creating such an accessible and consistent work of public scholarship. The blurbs, social media presence, and partner projects indicate the publication is a valued outlet for this scholarly community. It sits nicely in a space that makes scholarly history both accessible and relevant to a public audience, much like Commonplace (American Antiquarian Society and Omohundro Institute) or Southern Spaces (Emory University).