more productive

Yesterday was much better. I worked on a new book, The Stuart Age by Barry Coward. This is a first year undergrad/A Level standard textbook, but one that I think is necessary. I’m very much a Tudor girl by inclination, always have been, and have 20 odd years of reading in that time period behind me which means that I have a basic knowledge that really helps when dealing with primary sources. For example, reading an account by someone describing the rising food prices in around 1548/9, I’ll know what the background to that is – a combination of harvest difficulties, enclosure, and riot problems, depending on where in the UK the person writing was. I just don’t have that same knowledge for the Stuart period, so I’m hoping this (rather thick) book will go some way towards rectifying that, and help give me the contexts for not only primary source material when I get into the archives, but also the more complex secondary monographs and academic articles.

So I worked on creating a timeline. Coward’s book has one, so I worked through that, adding info where I thought necessary. Its very geared towards the religious side of things, obviously, although I’ve included larger events like the death of a monarch or the outbreak of war. Its something that I think will be powerful and useful in the months to come – and as a computer document, I can add to it as I need to.

I’ve also started a vocabulary, to record my own thoughts on words that I’ve either not come across before, or where the meaning can be quite nebulous (epistemology being an example – I know it means the theory of knowledge, but its so much more than that, and it can mean different things at different times). I haven’t had to use a vocab like this since I was about 10. Thanks to a love of reading, I’ve always had a strong reading age – I was measured as having a reading age of 16 when I was about 11 – so I’ve a wide vocabulary and I’m not afraid to use it. However, working at this kind of level and delving into religious history in the way that I am takes me to a different level – with a range of new words linked to theory – like epistemology and ontology (does anyone else hear Maureen Lipman – ‘You got an Ology?‘ every time anything with an ology is said/typed? No? just me then…) but also a range of new terminology, some of which is quite difficult to grasp, such as Manichean (a belief in a dualistic good & evil).

Dragging me down, however, was a soreness in my throat – I’ve come down with a cold. I was able to pop painkillers yesterday but this morning I feel totally out of it. I had to get up to take my partner to the station for his job, but I think now I’m gonna head back to bed for a couple hours and see if that helps. Then I can get back to work on Coward’s book – he’s got a great preface to the third edition that goes extensively into the historiography of the period that I think will be very very useful.


Yesterday was shaping up to be a better day. I finished Spaeth’s book, which made me really happy, did some emails and admin, and then sat down to lunch. And while I ate, I thought I would start a new novel.

HUGE mistake.

I got totally sucked in, and nothing else got done for the rest of the day. I kind of don’t regret it, cos it gave me down time that was needed, and just to be able to read cos I wanted to, and not cos I had to, my eye leaping ahead and speed reading at the full speed that I can instead of ponderously making sure i read every line was an absolute JOY.

But it meant nothing else got done. Bah. Relaxation is necessary too, right?



best intentions

Well… I started out with good intentions at least! Today has proved to be a bit of a bust. My partner woke me at 4.30am, telling me he needed to go to hospital. Thankfully, after some discussion, we agreed that he didn’t need to go after all, that he would wait and try to see the doctor at 8.30am. I tried to get him comfortable and eventually managed to get another hour or so myself, but it wasn’t really enough. As a result I’ve been struggling to stay focused more or less all day – and partner being here all day, and with him needing to be looked after, meant it has not been the most productive of days.

I managed to do some reading on my current book, Church in an Age of Danger: Parsons and Parishioners, 1660-1740, by Donald A. Spaeth. I’m not sure it was the best book to start with: my knowledge of the religious situation in the post restoration period isn’t that great – in fact, my knowledge of the religious situation post 1603 isn’t great, never mind 1660. I’ve got a lot of work to do to feel as proficient in the period 1603-1740 as I do in the sixteenth century. Having said that, its a good book. Spaeth writes well and he’s introduced some of the issues, explaining how different historians have seen the church in the period, and in the immediate period after 1740. His work is useful, too, for chasing down other historians and what they’ve written. I’m not sure I’m going to get all the reading done before the PhD proposal needs to go in, but then, there is always another book to read, a source to chase. However, what I’ve read so far has triggered some thoughts about the way that the Reformation and religious history is viewed by different historians, the different takes on the established Church. I need to do substantially more reading but it seems to me at the moment that it is a mistake to try to view religious changes in a short space of time – that it is necessary to view the changes over the longue duree – even if the focus remains on a relatively small area. I’m sort of envisioning, at the moment, clergy-parishioner relationships through time, like two boats on a river held together by a pole. Periodically one or the other of the two boats will be subject to forces, either pulling or pushing, from either side of the ‘river’, which will place the pole under pressure, and may send the boats spinning chaotically while they try to absorb the impact of the forces. Sometimes a pole snaps, and a boat sinks – to be replaced by another, but you rarely get one boat alone. Hmm. that’s a useful analogy. I may have to rememeber that one – although, of course, it is very possible that my view of it will change as I read my way through the literature.

I also did a little bit of job search today (updated my CV, that sort of thing), sent a couple of emails, and checked out an issue with a paper I have to give in November – I suddenly wondered, last night, whether you have to actually submit the written document that you plan to present at a conference to the organisers. It seems that’s not the case, but I’ve got some useful notes out of just checking it wasn’t – they’ll come in handy come September/October when I’m preparing for it. I had an email to say that an article of mine has been accepted – not an academic article, but a general one for a blog site that has nothing to do with my academic work, but I’m pleased with that. My writing is getting credited, so its all good news.

Otherwise, a friend popped around with his small son. It was good to see him, and have a chat – although more time away from the books. But I don’t mind really – today’s been such a bust that it didn’t make much difference. On another day I might have been more abrupt.

I was going to go to the Uni library tomorrow but today being such a bust means I’ve changed my mind. I’ve a routine appointment on Wednesday morning at the hospital so I’ll probably go in after that instead. See if a friend wants a coffee and a natter. I feel that I need to get out and have a chat with a fellow academic at least once a week – it helps keep the spirits up, keep the focus where it needs to be. I’m determined to finish Spaeth’s book tomorrow – that way I can look at getting some of the books that I’ve earmarked from his footnotes that I think may be useful.

new beginnings

Part of the way through my part time MA studies, I’m now at the point where the topics for my MA dissertation and general area for my PhD research have been decided on. This will be roughly in the field of parochial conflict in the Early Modern period. The MA dissertation will focus on a particular village in Shropshire, where the parishioners went to extraordinary lengths to try to get rid of their clergyman in the post-restoration period. The PhD will focus on clergy-parishioner conflict throughout the whole of Herefordshire.

This summer needs to be about putting in the prepatory work for the next year or so, with several aims:

  • Doing the general literature reading for both my MA dissertation and PhD proposal;
  • Establishing the availability of primary source material for MA dissertation and PhD;
  • Beginning the research process for my MA dissertation (which is not due till Jan 2017, so I have time);
  • Writing my PhD proposal;
  • Doing a little extra research for an article I have already done a lot of work on, and just needs some extra to finish off;
  • Preparing to deliver my first conference paper in November 2015.

The record office that I will be primarily working from is closed (they’re in the process of moving to a new building and I cannot WAIT to see it) so its been suggested that I spend the time working on the background literature.The general aim is to try to get this finished by the end of July; or to at the very least get to the point where I can a) put information from primary source material into context and b) understand the finer points of the material I will be reading when I get to the record office.

I primarily work from home, where I am lucky enough to have my own little study and can work uninterrupted. That solitude, while welcome (and I know a few people who would give their right eyeteeth for it) can also be very isolating and it can be terribly easy to procrastinate, hence the blog – if I have to report my achievements at the end of the day to something (if not someone), then I’m much less likely to procrastinate! Hopefully this will work and help encourage me to keep my nose to the grindstone, as well as giving people an insight into what is required to work on and complete both an MA and a PhD.