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, 6 August 2012

Caution: Chapters in Transit

Chapters 5 & 3, giftwrapped...
This week, for complicated logistical reasons connected with the Olympics, I’m working from Weymouth where I’m staying with relatives. For equally complicated logistical reasons, I couldn’t join the rest of my party by car, so I had to come down by train with all my book writing materials for the week.

In what is meant to be a paperless age, I am nonetheless fiercely protective of the copious physical papers which I need to write the book – not least the hundreds of pages of photocopied sources which I’ve annotated heavily by hand. So I didn’t sent my sources and notes ahead to Dorset by car, but insisted on taking them with me (on my lap) on the train, as if I were a courier with some high-value diplomatic pouch.

Monograph-writing isn’t as transportable as I had hoped it would be – the papers I need to draft Chapter 5 by the seaside, and start a bit of work on Chapter 3, turned out to be very heavy, and very hard to pack. So I ended up having to cut a cardboard box into the right shape, and tying it up with assorted strings and ribbons, as if I were a presenter on a childrens’ programme. Never let it be said that monograph-writing doesn’t call on a wide variety of skills.

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