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...

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Condensed Monograph

I’ve agreed to give a paper later this month in Budapest, at a Reformation conference organised by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and I’ve promised that this paper will be an overview of the Elusive Church book project.

This sounded straightforward enough when I gave my kind hosts the title. I’ve given ‘book overview’ papers several times before. These condensed my first monograph into a 50 or even 20 minute talk, and they were very quick to write. I’m realising, however, that there’s a crucial difference between giving a bird’s-eye, condensed tour of a book you’ve already written, with the arguments reasonably crisp in your own, and of talking authoritatively about a book you’ve not yet drafted.

On the plus side, if you give a paper on a book post-publication and people in the audience make very perceptive points about things you’ve missed or could explore differently, all you can do is smile thinly, and swallow the sinking feeling, knowing it’s too late. Whereas whatever feedback colleagues in Budapest might offer, there is still plenty of scope to act on it…

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