Welcome!

This blog takes you behind the scenes of the writing of an academic history book – like a ‘making of’ featurette. Its aim is to make visible the traditionally invisible process of what it’s like for a university academic in the Humanities to write a research monograph, i.e. a single-authored 100,00 word book.

I’m a History Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford, and the book I’m writing has a working title of The Elusive Church: Luther, Poland and the Early Reformation. This project is supported by a British Academy Mid Career Fellowship (2012-13).

On these pages, you'll find a regular 'log' of how the book is progressing, plus information about the project. I welcome your comments and thoughts - whether you're studying or teaching history at school or university, or writing non-fiction yourself...

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

End Game?

Well, it now feels as if the monograph is moving towards a kind of endgame – all the months of sensibly splitting my day between reading in the library and writing back in college seem a long time ago, as it’s now just a matter of powering through the final chapters, to complete a first draft this summer.

I had, needless to say, forgotten how hard this stage of the process is. I’d forgotten how, when I first placed a copy of my first book, in its shiny red-black cover, on my shelf, every time I looked at it in the first few weeks as well as pride, I felt a little stab of sorrow and resentment that it had cost so much blood, sweat and tears to produce something which looked so small, so easy-to-miss on a bookshelf.

Writing full time to a deadline is hard because on many levels it's not not very good for you – people get backache, eye strain, RSI and even DVT. Even in short spells, writing for several hours a day is also bad for the brain – I seem to emerge zombie-like out of the 16C century in the early evening, or at college lunch, slightly stupefied, and I’ve seen colleagues on sabbatical with that same vacant but preoccupied book-writing look. I’m trying to counteract the mental drain caused by intense book writing, with things which might stimulate my brain in gentler ways – new box sets, magazines full of pretty photos of Italian interiors, weekends away.


Of course, the paradox is that book writing is gruelling, but it’s churlish to complain about it. It’s a great privilege to have the space to write, something scholars and authors over the century have pleaded for… and a particular privilege that this is funded by the British Academy. It’s just very hard work, like most worthwhile things.

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