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...

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A River of Sources

Trying to reach the other side...
Photo by  Janeyism

In the Christmas period, life intruded on the monograph somewhat, in the form of a chest infection and domestic relocation. Over that break, I decided to recalibrate the structure of the second half of the book slightly – rather than a series of chapters discussing different kinds of Reformation responses (printed polemics, preaching campaigns, humanist reform programmes), the chapters will instead discuss how ‘Lutheranism’, the old / catholic church and reform/Reformation were constructed by people in Jagiellonian Poland, as shown in their policies and writings.

This change of emphasis means, however, that I have to go back through all my marked-up sources, and read them in a slightly different way. This is proving to be (of course!) slow and labour intensive, though thankfully not yet dull. While book-writing itself is a big leap of faith, major source-processing exercises like this are particularly trying on the nerves – it’s like jumping into a river and trying to swim to the other side, hoping that your energy doesn’t give out, knowing how important it is to keep going… in this case, for a few weeks. The gamble is that, once all this information is extracted and logged and arranged in my computer files, writing the actual chapters will be relatively quick and straightforward.

Having to spend 2-4 weeks going meticulously through sources, maintaining a certain speed, isn’t particularly compatible with the book writing rules, which suggest half a day of computer work in college, followed by half a day in the library. So, I think it’s going to be a long, hard January...

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