Feature: Journal of Late Antique Religion and Culture volume 11 – Javier Martínez & Patricia González

The latest article from the Journal of Late Antique Religion and Culture (JLARC), entitled “Knowledge and specialised trades in the late antique West: medicine vs engineering”, was published on 8th January. Its authors Javier Martínez and Patricia González compare and contrast the trades of medicine and engineering in the Roman world, and provide a theory as to why the Romans’ medical skills were mostly passed on to later generations while their engineering skills were soon lost.

Read the whole article at: https://jlarc.cardiffuniversitypress.org/articles/abstract/10.18573/j.2017.10451/

The high degree of technical and scientific development accomplished in the Roman world is quite staggering. The construction of concrete vaults still standing today, and unsurpassed until the Modern period, is proof of their engineering skills. Similarly, Roman medics were capable of practising eye surgery and embryotomies on patients who survived such interventions. However, with the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West during the long fifth century and the emergence of Christianity, popular imagination sees these two sciences collapsing into the Dark Ages. While this is not absolutely true, it is not completely false either. In the Iberian and Gaulish examples we analyse in this paper, we want to put forward how engineering all but disappeared, while Roman medicine continued and was preserved through the Middle Ages and into modern times.
Complex techniques and specialised instruments, including vaulting and levelling, seem to have been lost in sixth- and seventh-century constructions. All new buildings are much simpler in design and techniques, even if built to large scale, because the problem was not the lack of skilled builders but the lack of trained engineers and architects who could do the necessary calculations. The specific example of aqueducts and their abandonment, and the way new churches were built, serve to illustrate this point. In medicine, however, there is a clear continuity of old Roman practices during late antiquity, partly promoted and protected by the Church. Only a few specific elements and tools seem to have been lost, while most generic and specialised sets of knowledge continued.
We propose that some of the reasons behind these diverting paths in the two sciences reside in the way these sets of specialised knowledge had been transmitted in the Roman world, underlining the weakness of Roman overspecialisation. Engineering was taught either through the army or through private apprenticeship systems, was limited almost entirely to men, and flourished during the periods of economic bonanza when large projects were carried out. The Roman elites would have a certain knowledge of construction and architecture basics as part of their cursus honorum, but this was never proper training – the engineer was not a socially privileged position. In this way, once the Empire collapsed, the army disbanded, and large building projects came to an end until the late sixth century. By then all chains of training in the West seem to have been terminally disrupted (as opposed to what happened in the Roman East). Medicine, on the other hand, was a very developed science, but it was not concentrated in a few hands. Army medics and surgeons existed, but they were not the only ones: municipal medics, trained slaves, herbalists, midwives, priests, even perfume makers, all shared fractions of the vast corpus of Roman medical science. It was accessible to men and women, and it was kept in high social esteem as well, so the transmission of medical knowledge was not as limited as engineering and not tied to the fate of the Empire.

JLARC

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Cardiff University Press’ Review of 2017

As we begin 2018, we’ve been looking back at our activities over the last 12 months. It was certainly an eventful year for us! Here are some highlights:

  • In January, we focussed our attention on our mission to support the professionalisation of students. Harriet Gordon and Evelina Kazakevičiūtė, who are both studying for their PhDs at Cardiff University, were welcomed onto the Press Editorial Board as our first ever Student Representatives.  We also conducted an informal survey among our editorial teams to find out more about aspects of student engagement in our publications. At the end of the month, our newest student-led journal was launched – The British Student Doctor.
  • In March, we received final confirmation that funding had been approved to establish monograph printing. We spent the next few months assessing suppliers against our needs.
  • In April, the journal Asian Literature and Translation was relaunched as a Cardiff University Press title. Three days later we accepted two new titles for publication: the Journal of Corpora and Discourse Studies and our first series of working papers, the Design Research Working Paper Series.  As a result, all three Cardiff University Colleges were represented in our publications portfolio for the very first time.
  • In May, we held our fascinating and very enjoyable Publications Showcase and first Editors’ Forum, bringing together representatives from all of our editorial teams in one place.
  • In June, we had another journal relaunch, with the first issue of Romantic Textualities to be published by the Press.
  • In July, we signed our Partner Press contract with Ubiquity Press.
  • In October, our portfolio of publications and our website were successfully transferred over to the Ubiquity Press hosting platform. We also launched this blog!
  • In December, we accepted a second working paper series for publication, Attic Inscriptions in UK Collections. We were also pleased to welcome a new member to our Editorial Board: Dr Dylan Foster Evans, Head of the School of Welsh here at Cardiff University.

2018 is undoubtedly going to be just as busy, with lots of new things happening. We’ll keep you informed on this blog site!

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How we got here

The idea of setting up Cardiff University Press originated back in 2013 within a number of academic Schools, supported by the University Library Service. The vision was to be committed to innovation and excellence in publishing, for the benefit of both academia and the wider external community. In early 2014, following discussions with all three Colleges and approval from the University Executive Board, the project was given the go ahead to develop “a Cardiff University Press online brand”. A Scholarly Publications Manager was appointed, and the first meeting of what was to become our Editorial Board was held in November 2014.

2015 saw the appointment of our Executive Officer, and our first web pages began to take shape, along with general principles, selection criteria and other publication guidelines. In March 2015, JOMEC Journal became the first journal title to be officially accepted for publication, and supplied our first journal issue four months later. Martial Arts Studies and Romantic Textualities were accepted for publication soon afterwards.

Cardiff University Press was officially launched on 9th July 2015. Shortly before Christmas of that year Open Journal Systems (OJS) was adopted as our hosting platform for our publications (which had swiftly grown to five titles).

During the first six months of 2016 six more titles were accepted for publication, covering subject areas and disciplines from all three Colleges. The Press was also aware of an increased interest from researchers to facilitate monograph publishing.

Two student representatives joined the Editorial Board in January 2017, as part of our ongoing commitment to the professionalisation of students.  In July we formed a partnership with Ubiquity Press to enable future monograph publishing and larger range of online services to editors, authors and readers. We launched our new hosting platform, web pages and Press blog on Wednesday 25th October 2017, during International Open Access Week.

We’re hoping to launch our monograph publishing activities in early 2018. In the meantime, do contact us to express your interest in publishing a monograph with us.