November 2018


Just before the summer holidays, my son took part in his school summer concert.  One of his contributions was a cover of David Bowie’s ‘Starman’, which he accompanied on the piano.  He taught himself to play in just a couple of months, so here is a ‘proud mum’ moment.  Quite an achievement.

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Up at Lancaster, I was asked if I could pop something quirky in my office that represents my research.  My son made me a lego ballad singer!

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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!

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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.

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.