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, 2 November 2012

Saab Meets Monograph

Where is the monograph?
Photo by Leo Reynolds

Over the past week, I’ve been recovering from concussion, after an accidental but forceful blow to the head involving a solid Swedish-manufactured car door. It’s been rather odd thinking about academic writing in the subsequent slightly wobbly haze. One of my first thoughts after realising I’d been hit was ‘oh no, the book!’, as if a hefty bang could literally knock a monograph out of your head. (Which thankfully, it hasn’t). While I’ve been tucked up at home reading secondary literature, I’ve found it rather curious that a bruised brain might find it hard to make a cup of tea, but is still perfectly happy digesting and mulling over the arguments, for example, in Euan Cameron’s latest tome on the Reformation. Pulling together this monograph, one of the challenges has been trying to second-guess how the mind works when writing a big academic text, and trying to create a cognitively optimised environment (e.g. the book-writing rules). This incident, however, is a rather blunt reminder that all that thinking, and rumination, ultimately has a physical locus and origin. My Somerville colleagues have optimistically suggested that a firm knock to the head might have a positive effect on the book, unleashing new insights... but for now there are no mysterious historical super-powers to report, only a faint background headache. 

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