19 January 2011
This blog is about my research, on British people in occupied Germany after the war, not about me personally. But if anyone wonders why I first decided to write the blog and what motivates me to carry on posting, (ever since I published my first post on this blog in October 2005), have a look at my post on Why I write an academic history blog on the website and blog of the History Blogging Project.[These links no longer work - see below]
The project was launched yesterday (18 January 2011) and aims to promote and support UK-based academic historians who either have a blog or are thinking of running one. In particular the project will develop a set of training materials to help postgraduate historians create, maintain and publicise a blog on their research.
If you are a postgraduate student and either have your own blog or are thinking of creating one and are not (yet) aware of the project, do get in touch with the organisers. I am sure they will be glad to hear from you.
Updated 3 February 2014
The History Blogging project is no longer live, and the links above no longer work, so I have copied below my post on Why I write an academic history blog, as originally written in January 2011:
For the past 5 years I have written an academic history blog, recording some of my ideas and, I hope, discoveries, as I work my way through my research.
I started the blog as a way to make myself write something about my research. At first, I didn’t know if anyone would read the blog and I didn’t care. Even if no-one else ever looked at it, I thought it would be useful as a way of helping me get my thoughts in order.
Over the past 5 years I have written 118 posts; an average of just under one a fortnight, so not quite the rate of one post a week, that I originally aimed for.
I now receive an average of 48 hits (page views) a day. Some of these are probably automatic enquiries from search engines and some people will look at more than one page in a session, so I don’t know how this number translates into real people viewing the blog. I guess an average of around 10 people look at it every day.
Most people come to the blog via searches on Google. Amazingly, if you type “British occupation of Germany” (the subject of my research) into Google, a page from my blog comes up as no.3 on the list, after two pages from Wikipedia. If you type “Operation Unthinkable” (the subject of one post) my blog also comes up third on the list, after Wikipedia and the Daily Mail!
Over the years, I‘ve had 37 comments from readers (excluding spam). Some referred to personal stories about themselves or their families. Some were from academics commenting on aspects of my research. One was from someone in Russia who said he was surprised to learn that something he had assumed was a Cold War myth perpetuated by the Communist Party (that the British had drawn up plans to invade Russia after the end of the war) turned out to be true after all.
I’ve lost count of the emails I’ve received; probably an average of one every week or two. These have come from, among others, a prize-winning children’s novelist who wanted to check the historical detail for her next book, students working on their long essays or dissertations, people researching their family histories and a lady born in Germany, now living in England, who told me about how she and her family stole coal from railway wagons after the war and who now runs her own blog.
As an academic historian, writing the blog raises some issues, which I hope this new project will address:
- Does writing a blog conflict with our research? Is it right for a PhD student to engage in this way with a non-academic audience?
- Should academic bloggers have more respect for the academic principle of proper peer review? No one has checked what I write for accuracy. Anyone can start a blog and write any old rubbish, if they want. Could academic blogs be open to abuse?
- In my posts I sometimes quote from books I have read and the archives I have researched. As my blog is entirely non-commercial and conducted for educational purposes, am I right to claim that this is permitted by the “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright act?
- Should I engage more actively with other people writing history blogs, for example by commenting on their blogs, and so try to create more of a community? Is so, what is the best way of doing this?