PhD and the end of year 2

It’s just about the end of the second year of my PhD and looking back over the past two years I feel that I have accomplished a tremendous amount of work, but at the same time not nearly enough. A common enough feeling amongst PhD students at this point in their research.

The transcription and translation of manuscripts, and the drawing out of themes is a lengthy and drawn out process. There are no shortcuts when working with unpublished manuscripts.

Transcriptions of the document are needed. In the first instance these are often made from microfilmed copies of the original. I have also worked with the original manuscript and the difference in readability is amazing. The original in this case is much clearer and when looking at how the manuscript was used being able to see the colours of the ink and the amount of pen pressure are essential.

Of course not all transcripts result in lovely published critical editions.  Much of the manuscript that I have transcribed will be incorporated into the text of my thesis, but a large amount of the work will be relegated to an appendix.

So the third year begins in October and I will be spending the next year reading and writing like a demon and wondering where all the time has gone. But I’m still enjoying the research and seem to be on target.

Wish me luck.

Historical Novel Society Conference #HNS2014

The last academic year has flown past. The research has progressed with the translations and transcriptions almost completed. My intention over the next two years is to share my progress on this blog as part of my research process. This should be easier now I am on the analysis stage. Previously any posts about my work would probably have said ‘still transcribing’.

But as part of my research this summer I attended the Historical Novel Society’s 2014 conference held in London at the University of Westminster’s Marylebone Campus. My room was on the nineteenth floor with amazing views over London. It made me wish that I had brought my camera but with plans for the conference and a few days in the British Library I had decided to travel light. So the only picture I have is one taken with the iPad and here it is –

View over London


The conference was extremely interesting and of course very useful. It is first and foremost a conference for historical fiction writers at all levels of their career. Lindsay Davis was one of the authors I was particularly eager to meet and her ‘in conversation’ section of the programme was excellent and all based on a good dose of common sense.

Lindsay’s books were required reading on my undergraduate Medieval History degree at Queen Mary College London to remind students that history deals with the lives of real human beings not an abstract concept of ‘medievals’ as strange or other. The same of course applies to other periods of history.

The conference was filled with workshops on aspects of writing specific to the historical novel and took seriously the problems associated with merging fiction with perceived fact. There were also opportunities to pitch ideas to editors and can immediate feedback. I was led to believe it was a nerve-wracking process for those waiting for their turn in the pitch-sessions.

There were plenty of tea and cakes over which to share ideas and plans for that next book and provided me with a number if contacts for participation in my research. The next conference is in the States with more to interest the reader than London managed. I just wish I could be there but I am looking forward to the next London one in 2016.