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, 30 November 2012

Stacking Boxes

I’m just back from a Reformation colloquium in Hungary, where I squeezed this book project into a 30 minute conference paper (wisely or otherwise). That was painful to do, partly, because writing the paper prompted a slight crisis about the structure of the book. In trying to resolve that, I ended up in my Budapest hotel room scribbling yet another diagram of the monograph. This one is more like stacking boxes (or Russian dolls, to use an East European metaphor):

This diagram (apologies for bad photo) sets out what I’d like the book to do (even if I don’t yet know entirely how it’s going to do it, structurally). The central argument / thesis sits in the middle, enclosed by the evidence and the main meat of the book. This in turn sits within a box labelled ‘Context of the European Reformation, 1520s and 1530s’, i.e. what is happening in other kingdoms etc at the same time, comparatively. The biggest, outer box, into which everything has to consciously fit, is ‘the wider Reformation’, i.e. making sure my material speaks in some way to (or has one clear eye on) the bigger, longer-term religious trends seen in the 15-17C. The book, with its own specific early 16C Polish focus focus, thus has to be in dialogue with what is happening Reformation-wise across both time and space. Now I need to find a way of mapping this onto the daisy diagram… 

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