To follow up to an earlier blog post on the process of publishing an article in Historical Archaeology, I want to discuss what is involved in putting together and publishing a Thematic Issue of the journal. Every year two of the four issues of Historical Archaeology are guest edited collections on specific themes. Some examples of thematic issues from the past few years have been on The Archaeology of Chinese Railroad Workers; Material Testimonies: Landscapes, Artifacts, and the Oral Tradition; and Contemporary and Historical Archaeology of the North. Thematic issues often but not always emerge from sessions at the SHA conference as well as other conferences and meetings. From this starting point, guest editors are usually in a good position to propose publishing the papers in a thematic issue.

Proposing a thematic issue

If you are interested in guest editing a thematic issue of Historical Archaeology, the first step is to contact me at to tell me about the topic. In most cases I will ask you to follow up with a brief proposal that includes a one-page overview of the collection and the way it will be approached by the contributors. The proposal should list the titles and authors of the articles that will be included. There is no magic number of articles for a thematic issue, but they are typically around 10 articles. Thematics always have a short introduction written the editor(s), and they also often have a concluding discussion essay written by a leading person in the field or, as often, by a scholar in a cognate discipline relevant to topic. The proposal should also include a timeline detailing the deadlines for collecting drafts, plans for the peer review, and submitting the collection to the HA editor.

Once the proposal is submitted, the thematic will go into the queue. Thematics follow the schedule guest editors create and manage, but they are published in the order they are formally accepted for publication. The journal editor can certainly let you know how many thematics have been accepted and tell you the next slot (i.e. volume/issue number) that is open.

Herding cats

As the guest editor, you are responsible for selecting the contributing authors, arranging the structure of the collection, supervising the peer review of the papers, and finalizing the submission to the journal. While this should be an enjoyable process, there is no getting around that pulling together ten articles from ten or more authors requires a lot management. I recommend staying in regular touch with your contributors and setting and keeping fair but firm deadlines.

Internal and external reviews

Once all of the articles are in hand, it is typical that editors will organize an internal round-robin review. In this format, each contributor will be assigned to review two other articles in the collection. As contributors to thematic, the authors are expected to be experts in the field and thus ideal reviewers for the other papers. Peer reviews should comment on the organization of the article, the clarity of the argument, the effective presentation and use of the data, and the overall quality of the writing.

The guest editor will collect and return the reviews to each author with a statement explaining what they see as most important aspects of the review that need to be addressed in a revision. Once you have collected the revised the articles, the collection is ready to be assembled for submission to the journal. I am more than happy to arrange for an electronic submission. This is also the stage when the articles including tables, figures, and permissions need to be formatted to conform to the Style Guide of the journal:

Upon submission to the journal, I will arrange for the collection to be reviewed by one or two outside readers who will provide comments on both the overall collection as well as the individual papers. This external review will spur a second round of revisions, and it will also confirm for the journal editor that the collection is suitable for publication.


Assuming all goes well, the revised articles for the thematic can be compiled again for a final submission. Once the editor has all the files in hand, they will send the guest editor(s) a letter stating that the collection has been formally accepted for publication and indicate which Volume/Issue number it will be assigned.

Right now we are publishing thematic issues about one year after they have been accepted. So, after the collection has been accept you will have a 6-8 month break before hearing from the journal’s copy editor with queries about the articles. The copy editor will work directly with the authors to finalize the manuscripts for publication. The next step will be to review the printer proofs. For this stage the journal editor will send typeset PDFs of the articles to the guest editors, who should review the collection as a whole and circulate the articles to the individual authors for proofing. Once the proofs are returned, the corrections are submitted to the printer, and the issue will be published within the next couple weeks!

*Image: Early 20th-century British postcard depicting lucky horseshoes, old shoe, and a black cat. [From the collection of the M. Chris Manning, 2013, published as Figure 3 in his article, “The Material Culture of Ritual Concealments in the United States,” Historical Archaeology 48(3):52-83].