bloggy stuff

The top ten posts of 2016

It’s that time of year for reflection, so for all of you keeping tabs, here are the top ten blog posts of 2016 at Hatful of History:

10. Another reason to #FundTrove: Communist Party of Australia material now digitised

9. 1951 and the attempt to ban the Australian Communist Party: When Turnbull’s predecessor gambled on a double dissolution election

8. Historians and the online archive of the Hillsborough Independent Panel

7. Starting a discussion about self-archiving political movements and the international left

6. “Don’t Let Them Die!”: The British Far Left and the Armagh Women’s Prisoner Protest

5. Turning that blog post into a journal article: A quick guide

4. Hobsbawm, 1956 and the Mythology of the CPGB Historians’ Group

3. How to navigate the Comintern archives online: A guide for the non-Russian speaker

2. Corbyn, Labour and the limits of the British far left

And the number one is…

1. Policing the Northern Irish border in the 1970s

And remember, if you enjoyed reading this blog this year, do donate to keep me/it going here, or click the ‘DONATE’ banner on the right hand side.

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Starting a discussion about self-archiving political movements and the international left

I have been in discussions with various people over the last few months about how movements ‘remember’ themselves and how they engage with their ephemeral history. I am interested in how these movements have often self-archived their materials and what they have done with these materials – are they open to researchers and people interested interested in the history of these movements? Some organisations and movements (as well as certain individuals) have donated their historical papers to various university archives or museums. These are valuable to researchers, but still privilege those who can gain access – usually academics and independent researchers who can afford to do archival research on site.

However some organisations and enterprising researchers are overcoming these obstacles by scanning and digitising the materials of the various progressive and left-wing movements across the Anglophone world. Sites such as the Marxist Internet Archive have been scanning many American, Canadian, British, Irish and Australian documents from the international communist movement, including various Trotskyist and anti-revisionist groups. A number of institutions across the globe have followed, such as the University of Wollongong’s Communist Party of Australia journals, the collection of South African radical material digitised by DISA, the Anti-Apartheid Movement collection at Oxford University, and the Amiel and Melburn Trust collection of British new left journals and the CPGB’s Marxism Today. As well as these institutional initiatives, others are digitising their historical documents at the grassroots level. This can be seen with the Red Mole Rising website, which is archiving online the materials of the International Marxist Group, the Irish Left Archive, the Red Action archive and the Anti-Fascist Archive, amongst others.

The wonderful thing about these online archives is that they are democratising the research of these movements. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can now access these documents, without incurring the costs of doing archival research. This is particularly helpful for those conducting research internationally. The downside is that these initiatives are often costly in terms of equipment and labour, with individuals having to volunteer a lot of their time and effort to provide these resources for others. Also by relying on the efforts of individuals with access to certain collections, there are significant gaps in what is available online. For example, I would like to see more stuff from Militant and the Workers Revolutionary Party made available.

It is exciting to be conducting research in this era of increased digitsation, but there are limits to what we can access at the moment. More people need to get involved – either providing original documents, or offering their services in the scanning process, or by helping out with the costs of hosting the websites (particularly as Scribd and Dropbox are increasingly used to hold these large file depositories).

At the same time, many original activist documents are languishing in people’s attics, basements, garages and other storage areas. These need to be located and preserved. If you have a collection of left-wing ephemera stored away somewhere, do try to find it and think about donating (or selling or at least, lending) it to people who can digitise it and preserve this (often obscured) history.

I hope this starts a discussion about how historians and activists can work together to help ensure that the documentary history of the international left is not overlooked.

Turning that blog post into a journal article: A quick guide

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It feels like this sometimes…

One of the popular blog posts for academics that I have seen over the last year has been on turning your journal article into a blog post. I am assuming this is aimed at academics who don’t blog regularly and may be considering contributing to multi-authored blog as an opportunity to showcase their research. This post is on the opposite and probably the more likelier scenario for those who actively blog – how do you transform a blog post into a journal article?

As a blogging academic, I have often used one or several blog posts as the framework for a journal article, with the blog serving the purpose of working out my ideas by getting them down onto the (electronic) page and getting feedback. The following post is a general guide to how I go about this process and some of the key things that I consider when trying to shape a blog post into a workable draft article. In many ways, it is similar to transforming a conference paper into a fully fleshed article, but it also differs, especially as a blog post caters for a general audience and a conference paper is probably already in more formal academic language. I don’t aim for this post to be definitive in any way, but thought that it might be helpful to some…

  • Does the blog post have a clear and explicit argument? What is the purpose of the blog post?

Blog posts obviously have a variety of functions. I often use my blog posts to discuss a particular research document or archive, using the post to highlight the research potential of something quite discrete. Other times it is to try to relate something historical to contemporary occurrences or debates. Then other times it is fleshing out a new analytical idea. These, although they don’t happen that often, are the best for transforming into a journal article. While they may be a bit rough in their analysis, they probably have a clear enough argument to serve as the framework for the article. From there, you can start to take the more practical and straight forward steps to transforming the blog post into that journal article.

  • Proper introduction and conclusion

Blog posts don’t need much introduction and may need to be snappy, bold and condensed to grab the attention of the general reader. Often with my historical blog writing, I will try to work in some link to the present or try quickly to frame it within some wider contemporary debates. However a journal article needs a proper introduction, outlining the main points of your argument and often placing the article within a broader academic context.

Blog posts need to be much more brief than a journal article and a conclusion is usually a quickly tied up affair. A journal article conclusion needs a lot more care and needs to reinforce the argument already made. No cliff hangers or meandering final sentences!

  • More formal or specialist language

Although primarily intended to facilitate communication between academics in your field across the world, academic blogs also, for the most part, try to engage with the general reader and therefore the language and terminology used may be toned down for greater accessibility. In my academic writing, I also try to eliminate all the personal pronouns, such as ‘I’ and ‘we’, which crops from time to time in my blog writing mode.

  • Insert relevant sub-headings

This is something that I will do with most articles that I write, but I find that blog posts are quite stream-of-consciousness in their composition and are likely not to have the structure required for a journal article. Inserting relevant sub-headings sign posts to you (and to the eventual reader) what you’re doing to do and where you’re going to go argument-wise. It also helps break the article up into manageable chunks. In some cases, I have put together several blog posts into one journal article, with each sub-section being a blog post in itself.

  • Expand/insert literature review

Even when engaging in a debate in a blog post, there isn’t the space to delve into a deep and systematic literature review – especially as most literature reviews would bore the pants off the general reader. But part of a journal article is situating your research and arguments within the broader academic context, which means at least a nod to the existing literature.

  • Insert references

Depending on the blog’s audience, you may or may not have references included in your blog post. If I am writing on my own blog, I often do include footnotes (and sometimes in-text citations). However some more general blogs do not use references at all, relying only links to relevant material. This can be one of the more tedious exercises in transforming a blog post into a journal article, but it has to be done (and done properly).

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With these tasks done, you should have a framework to work with and the blog post should look more like an article – all you need to do is flesh it out. I hope this post is helpful. I am sure many people can ably write both a blog post and a journal article, but I find these steps easy to remember and handy list to check off as I go.

Good luck writing comrades!

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Please help the cause…

Readers, I am currently in between contracts and as we all know, the current job market is hell. So while I seek gainful employment, I have added a ‘donate’ button to the sidebar, just to help with the maintenance of this blog (via the maintenance of me). Essentially this blog runs on coffee and second hand Marxist literature. So if you enjoy visiting this blog, please help the cause! All donations are welcome and trust me, the ‘donate’ button is temporary.

Click on the button below to donate via paypal, or click the same on the sidebar.

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Stuff by me elsewhere on the interweb!

I just thought I’d mention two pieces which might be of interest to readers of this blog. Firstly, my 2013 article in the Journal for Cultural Research on the 2011 and 1981 riots in the UK is currently free to download/access.

Secondly, my guest blog post on the British Union of Fascists and the perception of Australia as a ‘proto-fascist’ colony made the top ten posts of 2015 at the Imperial & Global History blog.

I highly recommend reading them both!

History Carnival 152

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The History Carnival continues and like Bakhtin would have wanted, here it comes to distract us all from our work (As Shit Academics Say reminds us, ‘You should be writing”). Hatful of History is delighted to bring you a selection of the recent bloggings on history and/or by historians.

The terrorist attacks in Paris last month brought out several different historical issues on what Brett Holman coined the ‘historioblogosphere’ (or the ‘unorthodox scholarly publishing platforms’ as Melissa Castan has phrased it). Peter Frost in the Morning Star looked at an earlier massacre in the French capital, the killing of over 200 protestors marching against the French occupation of Algeria in October 1961. Mark Humphries, guest posting at Historian on the Edge, rebuked Niall Ferguson’s lazy comparison between the global West’s ‘war on terror’ and the fall of the Roman Empire. And the anti-immigrant hysteria after the attacks was critiqued at Frog in a Well, using the example of the internment of Japanese Americans in the USA in the Second World War.

Other news stories, such the British MP John McDonnell’s quoting of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book in the House of Commons, led to Adam Cathcart at The Conversation to explain the hullabaloo was all about and why such a little book is so important. In more local British news, an archaeological project by the University of Reading at Glastonbury Abbey gave rise to a discussion, over at the Clerk of Oxford, about the use of the legend of King Arthur by monks at the Abbey over the centuries.

Speaking of the Middle Ages, the wonderful Notches blog featured a post by Katherine Harvey on masturbation and the Church at this time, showing that ideas about solitary sex were more complicated than we would think. The Prosecution Project blog has also recently included a discussion of the history of sexual behaviour, looking at court documents that reveal the lives of ‘queer’ Queenslanders and soldiers during the Second World War. Inspired by this post, Marion Diamond at Historians Are Past Caring has written about long-term same-sex relationships that avoided the legal gaze.

Those who have not been fortunate enough to escape the legal gaze have been the urban poor, who have often had to beg to maintain their existence. Brodie Waddell at The Many Headed Monster looks at the disparaging terms used to describe beggars historically and the use of the term ‘rich beggar’. On the urban poor in the twentieth century, the blog ‘Labourers, Porters, Charwomen and Needlewomen’ discusses those who lived on Tiger Yard Camberwell estate in 1930s London. At the Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, George Campbell Gosling explores how class, money and ‘respectability’ all informed how women were treated in maternity hospitals in the inter-war period before the establishment of the National Health Service. Still on the subject of hospitals, Helen King at Nursing Clio has looked at the history of x-rays and the treatment of the wrists over time.

Keeping with the first half of the twentieth century, Brett Holman at Airminded has argued against using the term ‘blitz’ to describe aerial bombing in the First World War. And tenuously, one of the German cities that was the recipient of much aerial bombing in the Second World War was Dresden, which then had the (possibly mis-) fortune of being rebuilt while part of the German Democratic Republic. Dresden has been, for many, a symbol of the downside of German reunification since the 1990s, but many were cheering, as The Old International noted, when local football team Dynamo Dresden unfurled the largest banner in Europe. November also the anniversary of the collapse of East Germany and Ned Richardson-Little blogged about the ‘long fall’ of the Berlin Wall at his new blog, Superfluous Answers to Necessary Questions.

While historians have focused heavily on the reasons why the GDR collapsed in 1989, there is also a growing literature on GDR (and the rest of the Soviet system) and their international solidarity with the ‘Third World’. The Imperial and Global History, run by the University of Exeter, featured another outstanding post on Soviet internationalism and Latin America by Tobias Rupprecht. At the African American Intellectual History Society blog, Reena Goldthree has written about an earlier form of internationalism, Garveyism and Pan-Africanism, and attempts by Garveyites to create a global mass movement, which rivalled the anti-colonialism of the inter-war Communist International. As well as fractious relationship with various national liberation movements, the international communist movement had problems with the women’s movement during the inter-war period. Writing at the University of Sheffield’s History Matters blog, Ben Lewis explores the role that Clara Zetkin played as a leading figure in the Bolsheviks and her role in the women’s movement.

Based on the research done by University College Dublin’s Mary McAuliffe, the Dublin Inquirer’s Louisa McGrath has also written recently about revolutionary Irish women and looks at the role that these women, particularly lesbians, played in the 1916 revolution. With next year being the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, Liam Ó Ruaric has outlined at the Irish Revolution blog, the global significance of the revolution.

Lastly, Sharon Howard, in last month’s History Carnival at Early Modern Notes, asked where history was going next. Lucy Robinson’s exciting blog post on mass observation and her diaries from the 1980s throws up ideas about the new directions that history may take us. And over at the University of Birmingham’s Modern British Studies blog, Kathryn Robinson writes about using 1980s sitcoms to analyse Thatcherite Britain.

So keep blogging! And reading blogs! And if you read something great over the next month, use the History Carnival nomination form. Art and Architecture, Mainly is up next on January 1, 2016.

Hatful of History to host History Carnival for Dec 2015: Nominate now!

A policeman joining in with the festivities at the Notting Hill Carnival in west London. (Photo by Frank Barratt/Getty Images)

A policeman joining in with the festivities at the Notting Hill Carnival in west London. (Photo by Frank Barratt/Getty Images)

I am excited to announce that the History Carnival will be hosted by this blog next month, starting on December 1. The History Carnival is a long-running phenomenon and celebrates the best history blogging from around the world. If you have read any history-related blog posts recently, feel free to nominate them here. At the end of the month, I will collate the most recommended and post it up on here, with a few suggestions of my own. Early Modern Notes is the current HC host, so go check out what they’re doing to get a feel for the Carnival.

Now get nominating!

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