This could be a very long post!  Things have been very stressful lately, not only because of the PhD work but a number of other domestic issues have been getting in the way of things.  I hope that now they’ve all been sorted out and that I’ve heard the last of them…

Anyway, recently I’ve been working on cataloguing the ballads of the period 1530-1570 and  making a note of the topics and themes that come up in them.  It takes a long, long time!  Ten days ago I had an Extraordinary Panel Meeting at which I had to explain the ideas for my new project.  I want to investigate the ballads as evidence for knowingness, a term that is usually associated with the Victorian music hall.  I’m also using them to look for evidence of a public sphere, a term that is equally anachronistic in the sixteenth century, but I do think that there is a possibility for investigating the origins of the public sphere in the social and political commentary of the ballads.  As I also want to situate the ballads firmly in their musical context, I intend to look for evidence of the Protestantisation of secular music during the period.  I accept that this could be a challenge, but as my twin skills are history and music I really believe it can be done:  even a negative result would be an interesting one.as the music is to be such a major component of  the new project, I have a fourth member of my supervisory panel – a music history specialist.  So it’s a thoroughly interdisciplinary project!

The ballads are really interesting.  When I was in London I made copies of the broadside ballads in the library of the Society of Antiquaries, and I’ve spent the last couple of days transcribing some of them.  Again, it’s time-consuming work (my fingers’ muscle-memory is definitely not programmed with the randomness and wide variety of sixteenth century spelling)  but it’s a really good way of getting to grips with a text.  I’ve been working on a particular set of ballads and I’ve coloured coded each side of the argument so that I can see at a glance which side it’s on.  I’ve also scanned some of the secondary texts that refer to these particular ballads and put them in the file with it, so that all of the material is together.  At the panel meeting I said that I would have read all the ballads by Christmas, and I would also by then provide my supervisors with a revised chapter plan.  I’ve really got my work cut out, especially with all the Christmas preparations that need doing too.  I’m hoping to sit down for an hour with my main supervisor this week to talk it over as I’m not sure how much more detail I can put into my chapter plan at this stage.  I’m due another (standard) panel meeting at the end of January, by which time I need to have the bones of an actual chapter together.

When I was in London at the beginning of November I paid my first visit to the reading rooms of the British Library, which was really exciting.    It was absolutely fascinating to leaf through five hundred year old manuscripts….  Some of them even had little doodles in them!  There are several items for which I need to order copies, but I haven’t done it yet, what with everything else that has been going on.

I made another trip to London in November to the branch officers’ meeting of the Historical Association, where it was good to meet up with some old faces and make some new acquaintances.    It’s been a busy couple of months all round…

My John Roberts article is finished, done, dusted and waiting to be sent off to a journal as soon as I’ve got permission to use the document!  No-one will be more surprised than I am if it’s accepted, but, as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Which I suppose is why I am here doing this PhD in the first place!

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