Across 2022, the Year of Stories, we are spotlighting Publishing Scotland members, who will share their own story in their own words. Get to know The White Horse Press, who publish scholarly books and journals on environment and society.
What’s your story?
The White Horse Press is an independent family business, founded in 1991 and run by Sarah Johnson, her parents Andrew and Alison, and James Rice, Alison’s nephew and Sarah’s cousin. We publish scholarly books and journals on environment and society, which the observant will realise covers just about everything! The business takes its name from Sarah’s childhood Eriskay pony, Erica (now sadly deceased). Eriskay ponies are a local Hebridean breed, taking their name from the Isle of Eriskay, near South Uist.
- Sarah, who read English at Oxford and whose Ph.D. from Cambridge dealt with Nature, Culture and Landscape in Pacific Travel Accounts, now lives in Cambridgeshire and is perennially renovating The Old Vicarage where she also works. She was brought up in an Old Manse on the Isle of Harris, so it must be in the genes!
- Alison and Andrew met in Oxford, but have spent nearly 50 years living mostly on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, where they now run a croft and manage some offshore islands as nature reserves. Previously they turned the aforementioned Manse into a well-regarded hotel, before moving into publishing because of their concerns about the environment.
- James worked for many years in cultural film exhibition, after reading Biology and Ancient Greek at Swarthmore and Oxford. He now lives in Edinburgh, where he splits his time between the White Horse Press and consultancy for independent cinemas. He was brought up in New York but he and Sarah bonded in childhood over their shared love of Harris rockpools and their obscurer denizens.
We publish four respected subscription journals, Environmental Values, Environment and History , Global Environment and Nomadic Peoples. From 2022 we will be publishing two Open Access journals, Climates and Cultures in History and The Journal of Population and Sustainability. We have an expanding booklist of monographs and edited collections that mesh with the themes of our journals, and those tangential to them: cultural history with an environmental flavour, conservation history, the history of environmental ideas… We are currently developing an Open Access booklist. Over the years, our books and journals have been recognised with prizes and field-leading Impact Factors. We are small independent publishers who aspire to standards of academic quality as high as those of the best international scholarly publishers, and to a friendliness and personal touch that far exceeds them.
Tell us about some of your key stories.
Our ‘key story’ is about the interrelationships of human societies and the environment, and our titles over the years have ranged from the mountains of Italy to the tribal territories of East Africa; from Pacific islands to Parisian boulevards or the Mongolian steppe; from wolves and other ‘wild things’ to aesthetics, economics, and political justice. We have always worked closely with European scholars, and those from further afield (Brazil, Malawi, Australia) believing the stories of human embeddedness in nature to extend beyond any borders. We are strongly international as a press, but, as individual partners, deeply aware of the rootedness in place from which identity springs. In 2021 we published titles including Animals and Society in Brazil by Ana Camphora and Place and Nature – a collection of essays on Russia, edited by David Moon et al.
What draws you to a story? What makes a good story?
We have been enmeshed in the environmental history community since its inception, so we look out for titles that are in dialogue with or provocation towards themes and issues we are aware of. We are keen to publish the work of young scholars (for example Leona Skelton’s history of the River Tyne and Valerio Caruso’s study of Naples’ suburbs), knowing that they will be the shapers of tomorrow’s discourses. We are as interested in detailed case studies as wide-ranging essay collections and really there’s no set answer about our publishing criteria – the beauty of being a small press is that we can publish what attracts and interests us.
What stories should we look forward to or check out this year?
Perhaps our most important current publishing project is the Open Access A Perfect Storm in the Amazon Wilderness, by Timothy Killeen, currently online appearing chapter by chapter, with the first print volume due in Spring 2022. In the current age, perhaps nothing is more important than the destruction that is being wrought in the Amazon and Tim Killeen documents it, and its drivers, with agonising detail and lucidity. Otherwise, 2022’s books range from an anthropological study of Livelihoods in Tanzania to an oral history of farming in Yorkshire, by way of an (Open Access) essay collection entitled Pathways, exploring ‘movement heritage’. I should also mention, for a Scottish publishing audience, our reissue in paperback of Rob Lambert’s Contested Mountains: Nature Environment and Development in the Cairngorms, 1880-1980, coming in March. All, in their ways, about environment and society!