Although I’ve been an Honorary Researcher at Lancaster University for a few years, I’ve never done any teaching with them until this term.  Between now and Christmas I am teaching on the first year Reform, Rebellion and Reason course as well as the second year Making History Course.

What’s more, I’ve got my very own office.  Not an office that is borrowed from someone on research leave, but my very own empty office without anything in it except what I take in.  Apologies here for the darkness – it’s not that I’m a mole, but I don’t think I had found the light switches at the time!

office lancaster

Reform, Rebellion and Reason gives the students an overview of 3 key themes in early modern British history.  Making History is a rather different kettle of fish. Rather than study an aspect of history such as a period or a theme, it introduces the students to a range of characteristic practices within the discipline.  There are lectures, for example, on how historians use a range of source materials, and how history relates to working in the archives.  I will be giving a lecture called ‘History, Scripts and Scores’, which will look into how I use song texts in my work, and how other historians have used sources which were written down but intended for performance.  I’m looking forward to it, as it will be the first time I’ve used my own research as the direct source for an undergraduate lecture.

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At the very end of October, I was very excited to discover what I think is my first ever citation in someone else’s book.  My own book, Singing the News, didn’t come out in time to make the note, so the reference is to my PhD thesis, but I’m still feeling very proud of myself.  Not least because the book in question is Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Thomas Cromwell: A Life.  I would be lying if I said that there wasn’t a flicker of excitement.  Delighted squealing might be rather more honest.

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I appreciate that this might sound a bit like showing off, but it’s actually about more than my ego (yes, honestly).  The fact is that, sitting at home writing in my office, and especially while I haven’t got a permanent job and colleagues, it’s difficult to remember that other people might actually be interested in what I write.  I tend to think of it like I’m in some sort of bubble, writing just for me…

But apparently not:

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During the summer, we spent a week on the Isle of Wight.  Our visit to Carisbrook Castle was livened up by the sound of music floating through the grounds.  It was provided by Blast from the Past, Chris Green and Sophie Matthews, who advertised one of their performances with a rather self-deprecating call of ‘Come and hear why the Renaissance happened!’

As you can tell from the videos that I took, this rather undersells the music and their musicianship, so I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.  (I must apologise, though, for the rather shaky camera-work – there is a reason why I’m an academic and not a cameraman.)  I’m also hoping to get along to GreenMatthews‘ performance of A Christmas Carol: In Concert at Edge Hill University in December.

davDuring the summer, we went to the Isle of Wight on holiday.  This time, we visited Carisbrooke Castle, where Charles I was imprisoned after the Civil War.  It was, perhaps, the perfect time for me to visit, since I spent several days earlier in the summer running a summer school for Edge Hill University on Charles I and because in the new year I will be helping to teach on the Civil War module at Lancaster University.

It was also particularly interesting because we went on a day when there was a jousting event: The Battle for Good.  There were three jousting displays: the first was the Parade of Helms, to introduce the knights; the second a melee; and the final one a jousting tournament.  Even though it was a re-enactment, it helped to bring the place to life.  The outcome of each joust was not set – they were not acting but doing it ‘for real’.  One thing I noticed was the squires, who were among the horses during the melee to replace broken clubs.

digThere were all sorts of other activities on site, including music from Blast from the Past, Tudor games, stalls and hobby-horse ‘jousting’ for children, which made it much more interesting than it normally would be!  There was also a man talking about medieval crime and punishment – presumably someone who does this regularly for schools since it’s part of one of the GCSE curricula.  The music was excellent – I was highly amused to hear one of the musicians remark ‘selling’ their performance by crying “Come and hear why the Renaissance happened!”  Actually, we thoroughly enjoyed the instrumental pieces, but although I’ve got a couple of videos of the group in action, I don’t seem to have taken any photographs!

But of course, I had to visit the hall range, where Charles I was imprisoned from 22 November 1647 to 6 September 1648.  Although he was imprisoned, he was kept in some comfort and allowed significant freedoms, as was normal for noble prisoners during the period.  He was even allowed to keep many of his household with him. All this changed following the failure of his negotiations with both the Scots and the English Parliament.  His household attendants were sent away, but through secret messages, arrangements were made for Charles to escape captivity and flee the island by boat.  On the night of 20 March 1648, he attempted to climb out of his bedroom window, but he got stuck in the bars and the escape plot was foiled. He was then moved to a more secure bedroom, where another escape plan failed on 28 May when it was betrayed.  He left the castle in September, when he was moved to Newport to facilitate negotiations with Parliament.

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By the time you read this, I’ll be part-way through teaching my very own course for the first time (Edge Hill summer school excepted).  It’s exciting, but also a bit nerve-wracking, especially since I didn’t have very long to pull it together.

It’s an 8 week module on The Making of Modern Britain for an undergraduate foundation year, and as well as introducing students to the period in question, it’s designed to give them a thorough grounding in the skills needed to study history at university.  I’ve included lots of different types of source material, including various types of secondary sources (books, journal articles, popular history magazines and radio/television programmes) as well as primary evidence from newspapers, censuses, official documents and and cartoons.

I’m really looking forward to teaching it, as it’s something so different to what I normally do, and I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes.

I have spent much of the summer wrestling with a conundrum, which I still haven’t solved.  As regular readers will know, I have been working on the Pilgrimage of Grace.  I submitted my article to a peer-reviewed journal and at the beginning of summer, I got word back that they had decided not to publish it.  Of course, this was disappointing news and I read the feedback from the peer-reviewers with interest.  Thankfully, it was by turns enthusiastic and constructive in its criticism.

But therein lay something of a problem.  Both reviewers identified different aspects which they thought would benefit from further expansion.  Now, not only does that mean more work (which of course goes with the territory and is, to some extent, expected) but also, it will take the article well over any journal’s word limit.  It was already long.  If I do what the reveiwers suggest, it will get even longer. Unpublishably long.

I mentioned this to my fiend, whose response was along the lines of ‘well, it’s not worth worrying about until you’ve done the revisions’.  But I honestly don’t think I can just prune 3000 words without it having a serious impact on the overall piece.  And in fact, it would mean more pruning than that, because it would have to go much shorter in order to accommodate all the new aspects too.

I’m left with a dilemma.  Do I do lots of extra work, and then try to shoehorn it in, taking a pair of shears to the article in order to make the new stuff fit? (It will take several months more work to get through all this.)  Do I leave it as it is and try to find a home for it elsewhere – and even then it will require quite a bit of editing?  Or is this trying to tell me that it wants to be something longer?

The problem with the last option is that there is little, if anything, between the journal article (c8-10 thousand words, depended on where you go) and the full length book…  I’m not really into book territory with it at the moment – it would need widening well beyond the Pilgrimage of Grace – and a book would take years.  Which, frankly, I don’t have if I want to get a job.  I need more publications on my CV, and I need them sooner rather than later.

A couple of weeks ago I went down to London for a few days, killing several birds with one stone.  The main purpose of the visit was to go to a meeting of the Historical Association Branches and Members Committee, but I went down two days early so that I could get some work done too.

I spent the first afternoon of my trip at King’s College Library, where I read Fiona Kisby’s MA thesis.  The second day I spent in the British Library, looking at sixteenth and seventeenth-century manuscripts.  It was really interesting, and good to get back in the archive, since I don’t do much research from anywhere but home.

By happy serendipity, my visit coincided with the Royal Historical Society lecture at which my name was announced as a new Fellow.  The lecture itself wasn’t related to anything that I work on – in fact, it wasn’t even on a subject I knew anything much about – but it was certainly thought-provoking. Prof Naomi Standen spoke on global history in “Colouring outside the Lines: Eastern Eurasia without Borders”.