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, 31 January 2013

All Change

Monograph on the move again.

I’m spending this afternoon packing up my books and monograph papers, housed since May in a rather nice Victorian  set in Somerville’s Maitland building, and tomorrow afternoon I get to unpack again in my ‘official’ room/office, in Wolfson building.

In my grumpier moments, I suspect that it’s not a good use of my time, in a monograph writing year, to have had to vacate my Wolfson office twice (once for 3 days, once for 9 months) as a result of noisy and overrunning building works in the college. 

But being a bit nomadic these past 13 months has had its advantages. Over summer, I got to share a work space with my History colleague Benjamin Thompson, which meant that the monograph-writing began to feel a bit more like a mainstream office job, with someone to chat to during tea breaks etc, rather than the default, splendid monastic isolation of the Oxford don on research leave. I’ve also been forced to sort out my papers at regular intervals, which has kept in check the tendency of my photocopied sources to migrate all over the carpet, like an ominous sludge. Above all, however, I find I write much better with regular changes of scene, and view. There’s something mentally stimulating about new surroundings and, conversely, a sense of staleness if you sit in front of the same window, at the same desk, most days for over a year. The sheer over-familiarity of the physical environment can dull the intellectual senses, which are already struggling to stay fresh from thinking about the same material, intensely, for a long period of time. So I’m hoping that all this upheaval will unleash some extra energy in the coming weeks… 

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