This year we are celebrating ten years of blogging about the unruly sort of clowns and other early modern peculiarities. But we are also laying out plans for the next ten years, because it felt like it was time to make some fundamental changes in how we do things at the Monster.
We started this blog in 2012, and in all sorts of ways the world is a very different place now than it was then. Back then, the global financial crash and the UK coalition government’s policy of austerity loomed large. Today, the ongoing impact of the covid pandemic, Brexit, the Trump presidency, the climate emergency and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine set an even more apocalyptic backdrop. The MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements have brought more positive change, but in countless less obvious ways the nature and tone of public discourse often feels more radical and polarised than ever. Closer to home, the university sector in the UK has been transforming too, thanks simultaneously to the tripling of tuition fees and cutting of budgets, a central government increasingly hostile to the arts and humanities, the rise of decolonising initiatives, and a series of bitter labour disputes.
Our own situations have also changed. All four of us are now on permanent open-ended contracts, with solid publication records and ever-expanding administrative responsibilities. This is in sharp contrast to 2012, when two of us were still in temporary posts and the other two were very junior lecturers. We all now officially fit the label of ‘mid-career scholars’. All this could have spelled an ignoble end to our grand and monstrous venture. However, rather than simply puttering along and writing an occasional isolated post, squeezed in between our many other professional duties, we decided to take advantage of our current positions as established scholars of early modern history and build on the huge success of our recent Early Career Researcher Takeover event in 2021. More practically, we all now have extensive experience as peer reviewers and academic editors, so this seems like an ideal new long-term role for the Monster heads.
We are therefore delighted to announce that starting this year we will be hosting regular Monster Carnivals: online events that offer a platform for scholars of history, especially but not exclusively newer researchers, and those who study the late fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. The Carnivals will provide a forum for addressing critically important themes in current scholarship.
The Monster Carnivals will have something in common with conventional academic events and may sometimes be accompanied by online or in-person meetings. They will also share some features with issues of an academic journal, and we hope that they will be read and used by students as well as scholars. Their open-access nature means that they will also have plenty of readers beyond academia, as we have regularly discovered in our own blogging. And of course you’ll be able to follow along and join in the conversation via #MonsterCarnival on twitter.
Early Modern Matters: A Call for Contributions
Our first Monster Carnival will be launched in Autumn 2022 on the theme of Early Modern Matters. We are calling for contributions that highlight why early modern history matters to wider scholarly debates and to broader society.
This could be something very small – such as a microhistory that gives some unexpected insight into the human condition – or very something big – such as an argument about the long-term impact of early modern globalisation. It could be focused on the relevance of early modern history to issues that are central to current conversations such as racism, migration, disease or invasion. Or it could speak to the role of learning and teaching early modern history in an environment placing renewed official emphasis on STEM subjects and vocational training. Or it could be something completely different – as long as you can pitch a post that sounds interesting and might fit under the heading of Early Modern Matters, we’re happy to consider it!
Information on how to submit is below, the deadline for submissions is August 31 2022.
Early Modern Matters: advice for aspiring bloggers
Below is a brief explanation of some of the key principles behind our own blogging. It aims to familiarise potential contributors (or anyone else thinking of venturing into blog writing) with the reasons why we have come to write for the monster in the way that we do. As you will see, most of them relate to our sense of who reads the blog, when and why.
We’ve come to think of the monster as a ‘magazine’, rather than a research blog, so we ask for short, succinct posts no longer than 1,200 words, and potentially significantly shorter. As blog readers, we all know that once you get the gist of a post, you are unlikely to read right to the end of longer pieces unless you have a particular interest in the subject matter. So shorter is better when writing for a non-specialist audience, and fits with blog reading as a ‘supplementary’ research activity that scholars use to fill in gaps between other tasks. A neat side effect is that blog posts can serve as excellent brief introductions to topics for undergraduate students, so they work well as a teaching resource.
We’ve also found that it’s a good idea to approach a blog post in a different way to other writing, and indeed to make a virtue of the freedom the format gives you. A more conversational style, colloquialisms, and jokey asides can all find a place, or perhaps you want to write a listicle, or experiment by storifying or playing with genres. One of the reasons the monster has lasted so long is undoubtedly the enjoyment we get from speaking to a different and wider range of readers, and writing just for the pleasure of it. This also explains why we want you to keep footnotes to a minimum – posts are not intended to replicate or ape conference papers or research articles.
We know that many of our readers are not early modern specialists, nor are they all historians, so writing with this audience in mind and avoiding or explaining technical language and key concepts will expand the reach of a post.