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...

Friday, 3 August 2012


Too many balls?
Photo by Pedro Moura Pinheiro

 When I wrote my thesis, and indeed my first book, I went though in a sensible, sequential order – one month spent drafting each chapter, working methodically from nr. 1 to nr. 9. This time, it’s working out rather differently. Not only are the chapters being written (for reasons of morale and scheduling) in a funny order, but it feels as if I’m juggling several of them at a time.

Over the past 10 days, for example, I’ve spent time
-         Drafting chapter 5 (foreign policy)
-         Planning chapter 3 (Ducal Prussia) and photocopying additional sources for it.
-         Editing chapter 2 (Royal Prussia), which was drafted earlier this summer
-         Reading in general about heresy and doctrine, for the book’s framing argument/ Introduction.

This feels like an organic, very stimulating, but also slightly high-risk way of working. When all the balls are in the air at once, and you have a good clear view of them, it’s exciting to see how they all fit together to make one book. It’s easier to see connections between chapters and sources, and so far it has brought a sense of clarity. However, it also feels as if just one false move will send the balls flying, leaving me in a fog of confusion, and unsure how to start picking up the pieces.

Then  I received an email from a journal asking me to urgently make some revisions to an article I had submitted a while back, which is related to yet another chapter (on printed polemic). This may prove to be one ball to many, I fear. Time to gently put some of them down…

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