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 Ive 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 dont 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. Im 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 Todays slogan has it: What Happened Then Matters Now). While some of my posts are also like that, Im 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 youre reading any good historical work or listening to a paper, or thinking about your own work, theres 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. Its that that makes history more than a record of one damn thing after another. Its also why, in an ideal world where historians had more time, wed 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 its particularly useful because I find the act of writing the entry itself clarifies my thought. If I cant write my thought down coherently, its 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: Ive read something I disagree with. (I suppose its inevitable I write more about these than things I completely agree with. One of the reasons Ive 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 havent yet worked out how to write an academically rigorous 500 words on why someones 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 Ive 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 Im not quite sure who of my friends and acquaintances to inflict this on. So instead, Im going to tag Hincmar.