Okay, the real one year anniversary of EM Spanish History Notes was a week ago, more or less. But I thought that I’d take an opportunity to talk about what it’s like to write this blog.
I decided to start this blog for a number of reasons. First, it seemed useful: I would want someone to keep a blog like this so I would know what new stuff is out there – it might as well be me. Also, I thought it would help me stay in touch with friends and colleagues out there at other schools, and allow me to meet some new people. I resolved to start the blog, something I’d been musing over for a year or so, after attending a conference – the SCSC in Minneapolis – and having a great time hanging out with other scholars; the blog is partly an attempt to host a sort of “permanent conference.” Lastly, after finishing my first book, I was a bit bored professionally – what could I do that didn’t have the long, long turn-around time that a book or even an article has, but was more immediate and time consuming in a meaningful way?
How well did I achieve these goals? What surprises were in store for me? I’m glad you asked!
1) Yes, it’s taken the extra time off my hands. Although it takes less time than you’d imagine.
2) I have been keeping in touch with people better, and, especially, “meeting” new people, at least electronically. Just today I exchanged emails with a young scholar with whose name I was familiar, but whose work I didn’t know. It turns out her work is very interesting, and now I have a new person to look forward to meeting in person and whose work I look forward to reading in articles and eventually a book. Fun! Not as many comments as I would have imagined, or hoped for, though.
3) It’s certainly useful to me. It’s helped me keep up with the literature in early modern Spain and, perhaps more importantly, opened up new vistas of scholarship of which I was only dimly aware. I was surprised by the broad range of research out there that’s being done: not just cultural and social history, i.e. the topics most pushed by dissertation programs because most marketable today, but also political, constitutional, and economic history; historical memory, medicine, cartography, science; connections in the Atlantic World, the Mediterranean, and Asia; and more. After spending 10 years paring my reading list down to only those things that can help me write my dissertation/book, it’s been very nice to come up for air, look around, and see what else is out there. I have been very impressed indeed by what we, collectively, all do.
4) There have been a few surprises. WordPress, which hosts the blog, gives me some details about what people look at most and when. Viewership has been the highest when school is in session. By May of 2009, I was averaging 10 “hits” per day, probably1-3 people clicking on 3-10 items. The most popular thing to view, by far? “Historians of Early Modern Spain.” We’re a nosy bunch. I wonder how many people find their way to this blog by gooogling their own names …
But a few other trends have emerged from the data I’ve received, both what I’ve found to post about and what people have viewed. Other posts that have received the most attention include links to “special” items like the “Hispanic Review Special Issue” post, or the mention of “Kagan’s Kaleidoscope.”
Book of the year? Clearly Stuart Schwartz’s All Can Be Saved. That has attracted by far the most critical attention from reviewers, even garnering a special forum in the William & Mary Quarterly. I have only skimmed the book, and I can’t say whether his argument is “right” or not, but certainly this book made the most waves in 2008-09.
Trend of the year? I can’t say. Maybe I haven’t been surveying the literature long enough, so perhaps in a year or two I can identify what’s new, as opposed to simply what’s new to me. But it’s been a fun year blogging, rewarding and not too difficult, so I intend to keep it up for the conceivable future. Enjoy!