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?