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...

Monday, 14 October 2013

A Year of History

On September 30th, the British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship which had funded the past year of monograph-writing came to an end. When midnight struck, I was pleased that I could in fact point to a full draft of the book, complete (for better or worse) with two more chapters than I had originally planned on writing. However, I was disappointed that – even with a full draft – finishing a book is such a slow, drawn-out process, and that it will require a few more weeks of minor but crucial editing before the MS is ready to send off to readers.

Above all, I was very sad that the Fellowship had come to an end, because it had created an invaluable, exciting, stimulating space within my career to think hard about one big problem for a concentrated, significant period of time. My colleagues have all been great about respecting the hermit-, purdah- like state of being on leave. It has probably been the most productive and interesting time of my research career – less frenetic than being a doctoral student (when you’re learning everything from scratch), less stressful even than being a post-doctoral researcher (in Oxford parlance a Junior Research Fellow), because so much of one’s research time then is spent applying for, and worrying about, permanent jobs. Even so, the BA Fellowship probably finished at the right time – there comes a moment when you need to leave a draft for a few weeks, and clear your head, before tackling a raft of small, precision-engineering changes.

It’s hard to know how to thank the British Academy – my main ‘human’ contact has been with their helpful administrative staff who have answered my small queries along the way; the committee of scholars which read the application and decided to support it was anonymous, and has long since dispersed. So this blog – which has also been supported by the BA – seems a fitting place to express public gratitude to them for a great year of history.