Belonging and Transgression Conference Presentation
Belonging and Transgressions: History to the Public
Tiia, Simon, Holly and Cherish represented the History to the Public team at the UCL ‘Belonging and Transgression’ conference held in London at the end of June. Here we share a summary of key points from our presentation, which looked at the benefits of blogging for young academics.
Our writers come from across the globe: the UK, the USA, Canada, Germany and China. We study in different disciplines at a range of universities, which we believe gives us exciting perspectives to share through the blog. Having a wide range of expertise and skillsets, along with different worldviews, makes our project rather unique.
We like to think our audience is broad enough to encompass people across the world who are interested in history, both within and outside academia. The blog is also a great platform to share the topics we’re working on with family and friends, who are more likely to read a 500-word article than an entire essay, chapter or thesis!
We wrote our mission statement collectively, when we first began in December 2014. It was really important that everyone’s views and ideas of what the blog should be were respected. Simon was mostly in charge of putting it together into its final version, and he did a great job! We feel passionate about what we do as a blog and hope that others do as well.
The nature of collaboration has been a large part of what we’ve done since day one. We write blog posts together, we edit together – and on occasion we even dine together. As a team, we also support each other by teaching one another new skills: from using online tools to improving our academic writing style (or styles – after all, figuring out how to adapt our writing in order to communicate with different audiences has been the steepest learning curve for many of us. Simon, we’re looking at you again…).
As regular visitors to the website will know, our articles fall into five broad categories: Current Affairs, Popular Culture, Research, Working in the Field and Working Outside the Field. Some of our most popular articles include Simon’s oral history article, Maurice’s interview with the historian Liam Hogan, Wenqing and Jianan’s Empress Wu article and more recently Samantha’s piece on surviving a PhD.
We also share bibliographies, which are useful for helping readers to explore a topic they have found interesting in more detail. They also serve an academic purpose, as they provide a more extensive selection of texts than university reading lists, often including relevant texts from across different disciplines. We also wanted to provide a set of texts that would help expand (and maybe someday rival) Wikipedia. If you’re researching a more niche topic, it would be useful to have collections out there made by students, for students as a starting point.
A recent addition to the website has also been podcasts, which have worked out well so far. We’re still experimenting with the format of the casts, of course, but our ultimate aim is to come up with audio instalments that complement our written posts by focusing on more in-depth roundtable discussion of a topic.
Our first set of themed articles was for Women’s History Month. We have since decided to make these months a regular feature, and this summer we’ll be exploring the theme of ‘Leisure and Play’ throughout history. These themed months are proving an ideal way to generate articles from a range of periods, countries and fields of study, whilst also recruiting new writers to the team (and welcome to all of you in advance!).
Our aims for the future
Our main aims for the future are to keep expanding and growing as a team and supporting each other in our research. We plan to run a ‘writing retreat’ together, providing a collaborative environment to improve our academic writing. Naturally, we also hope to reach an ever broader audience, both by continuing to diversify our content and by working with student communities at different universities.
Obviously, most of those aims also depend largely on you, dear reader! If you’d like to get involved on any level, from giving us feedback on our posts to writing for us yourself, we’d absolutely love to hear from you, so get in touch!