Medieval classic of political theory – available in open access

These days discussion around academic publishing is dominated – for a reason ­­– by paywalls and resulting non-availability of research data. Although the problem undeniably is direst in some Medical and Natural Sciences with journal prices rising to stars, Humanities are not untouched by this phenomenon: resources like Acta Sanctorum can be outrageously expensive and several publishers charge well over 100€ for a monograph.

So I was very pleasantly surprised when running into an editing project of William of Ockham’s Dialogus, conducted by Australian, Canadian and German scholars under the wings of British Academy.  Although critical edition will be (and one volume already is) published in print, the draft versions of every chapter are available for free on the project home page. And according to the editors will remain so even when the whole work has been published.

What makes all this even more valuable – and interesting also beyond the field of Medieval Studies – is that the editors have published English (and partially German) translation for the whole work, only available on the home page. This hopefully will encourage those not comfortable with Latin to explore Ockham’s in his own time revolutionary ideas about power of the pope and the emperor, subjects’ right to oppose tyrannical rule as well as possibility of a community of faithful to challenge the interpretation of authorities. Beginners’ journey to the world of Ockham is further aided by rudimentary introductions.

On the other hand those interested in the principles of editorial work are treated not only with clear Editorial Policy but also collations and witness files. Do not expect anything fancy, its only text, PDF being the most complicated format.  But it’s there and it works.

When browsing through it I got the impression that this is what Humanities should be doing at the moment.  Make the intellectual and cultural legacy freely and easily available, when need be in modern languages, but do it so that the research data and principles are open to scrutiny. I’m impressed.

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