A Room of One’s Own?

This post on office space in UK higher education history departments is based on an online survey that 174 people filled in via a link I tweeted out last week. The survey asked respondents about their employment conditions, employer, and office space. Three apologies before I begin: 1. I didn’t ask about age, disabilities or gender, […]

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The Shadowy Monsieur G

The simplest story is the one which always has the best chance of being believed, usually it corresponds least to the facts.[1] I am writing the story of a murder in 1925 by peering over the shoulder of someone else. More specifically, I am peering over the shoulder of a shadowy figure named Monsieur G. Monsieur […]

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Fate in Fact

Should historians be more honest about their intuitions? Take the example of how historians imagine their subjects as characters. In his book Poetry in the Making, Ted Hughes tells a story about how the novelist H.E. Bates was in the habit of making up biographies for people he came across: Some of these little fantasies […]

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  There is nothing harder than starting. Do historians feel this more keenly than other writers? Like our endings, our beginnings can feel arbitrary, as if there is something false about carving a piece out of History to say this is the story. The only way to overcome this artificiality is to embrace it. What […]

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Perspex Armour

When my writing has been criticized, I retreat behind academic armour. This is partly a ‘positive’ effect. ‘Positive’ not in the sense of being a good thing, but in the sense that it leads to additions. Things like more evidence, or more caveats. Things like more authoritative names. Things like footnotes. Footnotes convey weightiness. They parry, but they […]

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Put Yourself at Risk

Creative writing manuals agree that great writing comes from vulnerability, and conviction. Why should history be the exception? This vulnerability does not have to be explicitly autobiographical, although it can be. In her book The Extraordinary Work of Ordinary Writing, Jennifer Sinor connects her own experience of keeping a diary with her struggle to make […]

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