Why I blog

I have recently been tagged with a meme by Jon Jarrett at A Corner of Tenth Century Europe to give three reasons as to why I blog. So here goes:

1) The personal is political is historical

One of the things I’ve been very interested in for several years is the connections between my political-religious views (liberal Christian feminist), my research (medieval gender and religion) and my personal life (recent mother). This blog provides a way for exploring and sharing views like these which don’t have any other obvious forum, given the normal separation between academic discourse, religious language and personal conversation.

This emphasis on the personal (and particularly references to my child) is why I blog anonymously. I’m not very anonymous, in the sense that anyone who read my blog and really wanted to know who I was could work this out from my research interests and attendance at conferences (and if you have a specific reason for wanting to know who I am, I am normally happy to reveal this via e-mail), but I cannot easily be Googled.

I also think this personal emphasis makes some of my historical writing slightly different from the many other excellent blogs on medieval topics. Often these are particularly interested in how the medieval past affects and shapes the present (or as History Today’s slogan has it: ‘What Happened Then Matters Now’). While some of my posts are also like that, I’m almost equally interested in the other aspect: how our (my) present affects the past, or rather our (my) perceptions of it.

2) Making connections

If you’re reading any good historical work or listening to a paper, or thinking about your own work, there’s often a point at which you see a sudden connection, a pattern that goes beyond an individual historical moment to tell us something wider and more significant. It’s that that makes history more than a record of one damn thing after another. It’s also why, in an ideal world where historians had more time, we’d read and listen to much more that was out of our field, whether in terms of period or theme, because that can be particularly effective at producing sudden unexpected illuminations.

This blog is partly a way of recording some of these ‘aha’ moments, both for myself and for anyone else who might be interested. And it’s particularly useful because I find the act of writing the entry itself clarifies my thought. If I can’t write my thought down coherently, it’s normally because my argument is still confused in my own mind. After all, explaining an idea to someone else, (as far as possible in non-technical language) is one of the key tests of whether you really understand it yourself.

3) Writing back

A number of my entries, however, are prompted by a more simple and basic motif for blogging: I’ve read something I disagree with. (I suppose it’s inevitable I write more about these than things I completely agree with. One of the reasons I’ve so far avoided writing book reviews is that the only books I have much to say about are the ones I really disagree with; I haven’t yet worked out how to write an academically rigorous 500 words on why someone’s book is almost exactly correct). My blog posts on these topics are just a distilled version of the angry disagreement that goes on my head for hours (or days sometimes) after I’ve read a biased/stupid/preposterous article. I tend to post such views on my blog rather than use the comments facility on the original article (if that is are available), mainly because it allows me to respond both at length and at leisure (whereas comments normally need near immediate responses). It also means that my friends/relatives get a choice of whether they bother with these rants or not.

At this point I should then pass on the meme to some other poor unsuspecting blogger, but I’m not quite sure who of my friends and acquaintances to inflict this on. So instead, I’m going to tag Hincmar.

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