Thursday, 20 January 2011


I have just received a message (dated 20th Jan 2011) forwarded from the publisher Oxbow books concerning some substantial alterations in a text I wrote in October 2008 which unbeknownst to me, before 10th December last year they appear to have agreed with a third party without my participation. It turns out from this letter that British archaeologist (a Roman pot specialist if you please) Rosemary Jefferies has been carrying on her behind the scene activities trying to get substantive changes made in my account of the Mucking excavations, apparently putting some kind of pressure on Oxbow (who are publishing it in a collected volume called Great Excavations). This is ridiculous. What is going on? I thought we'd sorted all this out with the publisher ages ago and that the volume was already being printed (the official publication date is given as 10th June 2010).

What appears to have happened here is a result of what seems to me wholly unprofessional behaviour on the part of Rosemary Jefferies. She has not consulted any of these changes with me. Just been 'agreeing' them with the publisher - a process from which I (and it seems the editor of the volume itself) have been excluded. Just who does she think she is?

The action of the publisher here is incomprehensible. They received a text which contains an assessment of the project and without consulting with me and against my wishes (explicit and justified) a month ago set about 'agreeing' alterations which if introduced would mean they publish under my name things which do not correspond to what I consider to be the true situation. Just what is going on? The senior editor responsible (Clare Litt) is not answering my emails.

There is nothing wrong with what I wrote; I was invited several years ago to write this, Jefferies was not. It is my view of the story of the excavation, and on the whole its a fine uplifting story. Earlier I was made aware of Rosemary Jefferies' comments on the contents of my text (which she had somehow obtained behind my back after submission) and I spent some considerable amount of time answering them. I naively assumed that this matter was resolved. At least that is what I was informed by the editors.

Should Ms Jefferies disagree with anything I wrote, there are normal professional means available to air any differences of opinion. She has however elected not to use any of them, preferring to exert pressure from behind the scenes to halt publication of my opinions. She apparently got hold of a copy of my unpublished text without my knowledge (how?) and started pressurising (how?) the publisher behind the back of the author to insert her changes in what I wrote (why?), as if it was some kind of Wikipedia article. Beats me why a publisher the status of Oxbow would accept that kind of behaviour. The email I have just received concerning the existing 'agreement' of substantive changes to my text without my participation in the process seems to confirm they do.

Rosemary Jefferies: Goodness knows what you've been saying behind my back about me to the publisher to make them do what you want. I think however that this behaviour is utterly unreasonable and unprofessional. Maybe one of your colleagues will see this and can explain to you that what you are attempting to do with another person's text is the wrong way to go about things.

Now just leave it out, and get on writing about your broken pots or whatever it is you've been doing in the twenty years since I last had the bothersome experience of working with you. I am saddened to see you have not changed.

Oxbow Books, if you are going to submit to bullying, please at least have the decency to keep in contact with authors into whose mouths this email suggests you still seem intent on putting other people's words and let them know what is going on and why.

Vignette: a sad and somewhat unbalanced cracked pot (not Roman).


Damien Huffer said...

Bloody Hell!!!! Something to watch out for....

Paul Barford said...

SomeBODY. Avoid people like that Rosemary Jefferies like the plague.

Paul Barford said...

Who would have thought that writing a simple text for a reputable publisher about a hole in the ground would be such a headache?

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