Of Rabbits, Hats, and Holes

There is a compulsion that anyone who has ever done historical research has felt. A need to chase down the loose ends, to follow the documentary trail as far as it will go. I like research snacking – using spare time or setting aside short periods to look at new materials every day, even when […]

Read more "Of Rabbits, Hats, and Holes"

The Art of Apparent Artlessness

There is an unspoken ideal among many academic historians when it comes to style. A good way to think of this is as ‘the art of apparent artlessness’. Wilhelm Roscher used this phrase to discuss the way Thucydides wins over his readers unawares, subtly seducing their thinking, without making his argument explicit.[1] This style of […]

Read more "The Art of Apparent Artlessness"

Edit Kindly

There is no substitute for a kind reader. You must find a person, or even better a group of people, who are willing to read your work kindly. To read kindly is to give a writer the benefit of the doubt, to sympathise with their intentions, and to meet them halfway. This kind of reader […]

Read more "Edit Kindly"

Write Regularly

‘Write regularly’ belongs in company with other notorious writing advice, such as ‘show don’t tell’ and ‘kill your darlings’. Academics are brilliant at unpicking this kind of advice, and showing the complex ways in which writing regularly – or showing not telling, or killing your darlings – is neither possible nor desirable in the real […]

Read more "Write Regularly"