Several years ago I got in the habit of starting the year here at History in the Margins by talking about the historical topics I hope/plan/expect to read and think and write about in the coming year. It’s a useful exercise as far as I’m concerned; you can think of it as the coming attractions portion of the blog. (Feel free to step out for popcorn and come back later.)
Usually I find when I look back that I was diverted along the way.. That didn’t happen in 2017. (And a good thing, too.) As promised, I spent most of the year working on my global history of women warriors. It’s been frustrating, overwhelming, and fascinating. I’ve discovered wonderful examples of women warriors who I didn’t know existed. (Alexander the Great’s older half-sister! A Tibetan nun who led her clan against the Chinese!) I’ve had to abandon fascinating women who just didn’t fit my definition when I looked at them more closely. (Some of them appeared as blog posts. Hojo Masako, for instance. And the Empress Maud.) And I found out what writing a global history really means–struggling to understand the history of times and places that I know nothing about, relying heavily on translations and secondary sources, deciding when to stop researching a time/place/battle and write the dang thing. I now know more about Illyria in the 5th century BCE, the imperial succession in 3rd century Rome, medieval Georgia,*and eighteenth century Hungary–to name a few–than I could have imagined. Unfortunately, I learned more about each time and place than went into the book because I need to feel like I’m on on solid ground when I write. I don’t like skating around gaping holes in my knowledge. (Gaping holes in the historical record are an entirely different issue–and another thing I’ve spent some time on this year.)
I’m not done yet. (By the time you read this I hope to be quite a bit further along.) I need to expand some chapters, fill in some holes, write a conclusion and an introduction, and give the whole thing a final scrub and polish before I turn it in on March 1.* Still on the docket: women who disguised themselves as men to fight, the all-female regiments of Dahomey in West Africa, Russia’s Women’s Battalion of Death in WWI, female samurai, and the vexed question of Viking women warriors.
Wish me luck.
*Tamar of Georgia didn’t make it into the book, either. It about broke my heart.
**At this point last year, I expected to turn in the draft manuscript by January 1–the stupidest deadline known to man.