The Early Modern Commons (Sharon Howard) – Interview #5


“Blogs can go quiet for a long time and then just start up again.  You think this one looks dead as a door nail, but it’s not.”

“There are as many good types of blog posts, as there are bloggers.  It’s got to be something that the blogger wanted to write, and was interested in doing.”

The Early Modern Commons is not a blog about History but rather an aggregator for blogs covering the period c. 1500-1800.  As the website says “It is intended as a resource to help readers to keep up with early modern blogging and to connect with people who share their interests”.  This seems to me a great idea.  There are so many blogs out there but relatively no easy way to find them.  It’s a 50/50 chance that a Google search will bring up what you want as it is entirely reliant on key word searches which may or may not have been used by the author(s) of the blog posts.  But now, thanks to Sharon Howard the architect and owner of Early Modern Commons, it is possible for anyone interested in the early modern period to locate useful and interesting blogs.  It’s not comprehensive, but it is by far the best index out there.

The Early Modern Commons website
The Early Modern Commons website

It is possible to search by keyword and tags.  There are also featured blogs, a list of the most recent additions, and a list of recent posts drawn from the entire catalogue.  Sharon also lists upcoming conferences related to early modern matters, making the resource even more useful.

Recently the aggregator has been used for research by Newton Key on blogging practices (see the Open Peer Review version here Newton Key History blogosphere).  Lee Durbin has used the feed data from Early Modern Commons to set up a twitter account called Renaissance Hub (Twitter username: @Renaissance_Hub).

The podcasted interview is available to listen online or download.  It is 27 minutes long.

The Early Modern Commons, Sharon Howard (Sheffield) – 25 February 2013


Outline of questions asked during the interview:

  1. Before we begin could you tell us a little more about yourself?
  2. Let’s move on to the blog aggregator, The Early Modern Commons.  Could you tell us a little more about what it is that The Early Modern Commons website does?
  3. How did The Early Modern Commons come about?  What was the original thought processes behind it?
  4. Do you think it has succeeded in terms of your original plans?
  5. It seems to me that the Early Modern Commons provides ample scope for developing networks amongst scholars and bloggers around specific themes within the context of Early Modern studies.  Do you think that this has happened and, if so in what ways?
  6. Could you give us an insight into how Early Modern Commons is managed?  Do you seek out blogs on the right subjects or wait for blogs to be submitted?  How much is it an automated decision vs. an editorial one?

Promotion and popularity

  1. Who do you think is the main audience for Early Modern Commons?
  2. Do you have any stats about how many people visit Early Modern Commons or any information about what they get out of it?
  3. Do you do any promotion of Early Modern Commons?  i.e. social media (Blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc.), websites, leaflets etc.?

Best Practice & Concluding thoughts

  1. I’d like to just move on briefly to Blogs about History in general.  The Blogging for Historians project is particularly interested in what can be learnt between History academics and those blogging as part of their work in Archives and Libraries.  Do you find that the Early Modern Commons draws in interest from a variety of professions or is it largely restricted to academics, or archives etc.?
  2. In your view, what makes a good blog post?
  3. Do you have any suggestions for best practise in using and managing blogs either as an institution or individual?
  4. Do you have any future plans for The Early Modern Commons aggregator?
  5. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Historyonics blog (Tim Hitchcock) – Interview #2


 “I think that at the moment we don’t yet have a clear sense of how blogging and the blogger-sphere and Twitter, fit into the academic world in general and that the best practice comes from standing back and saying well, what are you trying to do as an historian?”

– Professor Tim Hitchcock 

This podcast looks at a very different type of History blog.  Tim Hitchcock is Professor of Eighteenth-Century History at the University of Hertfordshire.  He is a digital historian and has undertaken a leading role and contribution to various online projects including the Old Bailey Proceedings; London Lives; and connected Histories.  Back in 2007 he also set up a blog that he named Historyonics to talk about various aspects of his work, upload transcripts from papers he has given, and as a means to comment on digital projects, although Tim is the first to admit that the blog did not start out with any particular goal in mind, nor does it necessarily now.

This interview was interesting for various reasons.  First we are dealing with a personal blog set up with the only goal in mind to serve the authors own research interests.  There was no institutional involvement here, nor any interest in promotion.  Blog posts are not regular or frequent, but posted only when Tim feels he has something worthwhile to say.  Yet, Tim has thought about blogs and their purposes and has much to contribute to the subject.  His view is not one of complete devotion to the blog as a genre or tool, but neither is it negative to it either.


The podcasts is approximately 22 minutes long and is based on a series of questions adapted from those asked in the previous podcasts (see below for the questions).

Tim Hitchcock Podcast:



Outline of Questions asked in the Podcast

Purpose of the blog

  1. Before we begin could you tell us a little more about yourself?
  2. Let’s move on to the blog itself.  What is the Historyonics blog about and why and when did you set it up?
  3. Were there any particular concerns, priorities, and hopes that you had for the blog?  Could you give us an insight into the original thought processes behind it?
  4. Which blogging platform did you use and for what reason?  What did it offer you that made it the most appealing and useful?
  5. This is a personal blog.  Do you try to blog regularly (i.e. post at pre-set regular intervals) or is your posting more fluid?
  6. I have heard other academics talk about how they use their blog to work out ideas for their main research, or as a way to promote that work.  In your view what can a Historian gain from blogging?

Promotion and popularity

  1. Who do you think is your main audience?  Does this affect what is written on the blog?
  2. In your view how successful has the blog been and what do you base this view on?  (i.e. stats, public discussion etc.)
  3. How many people tend to visit the blog each month?
  4. Have you received much in the way of feedback from those visiting the blog?  Do visitors often leave comments related to particular blog posts?
  5. How have you promoted the blog?  Other social media (Twitter, Facebook etc.), websites, leaflets etc.?


Best practice

  1. In your view, what makes a good blog post?
  2. Do you have any suggestions for best practise in using and managing blogs as an individual or on an institutional basis?
  3. Is there anything else you would like to add?

This blog post was also published on the Social Media Knowledge Exchange website.