It begins…

30 Jan

Hello all, and welcome to earlymodernjohn. This is a blog about history.

I’m a Ph.D student, working on the ways English-speakers learnt foreign languages in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. I’m interested in phrasebooks, language-teachers, interpreters and charlatans. I write about the ways in which language and society interact, from the language of women in the seventeenth-century Netherlands down to the gestures and speeches used when Europeans and Americans first met. It’s a massive subject and an enormous amount of fun to work on. I also happen to think that researchers like myself have a duty to talk to a wider audience than our fellow academics about what it is that we do, and why it’s important. If we can also use this platform to tell truly terrible jokes, then that’s a plus. Hence the blog.

If you’re wondering, the term ‘early modern’ is one used by historians to refer to the period roughly between the sixteenth and the eighteenth century. Like any historical term, it’s heavily disputed: we use it every day without knowing quite what it means. I’m pretty liberal about this, and think anything from Gutenberg’s Bible in the mid-fifteenth century to the kick-off of the French Revolution in 1789 is probably fair game for your average early modernist. And with that deeply controversial generalisation, I’ll prepare myself to be shot in the face by any historian who reads this.

If you’re still wondering, the term ‘John’ is one used by historians (among others) to refer to me. I’m loud, fuzzy, and Irish. I like jokes and swimming, and I probably drink too much coffee. There’s a picture of me somewhere around here, holding an owl. That’s pretty standard.

And should you be worrying, the blog won’t just be about things early modern. I’m interested in pretty much anything to do with history and with language, so there should be plenty of that here. As a graduate student at a UK university, I’m also very concerned about higher education policy and the way universities are going here and around the world, so you might well get some politics on here too. And, of course, there will be the terrible jokes.

As well as my own chat, you can also expect links to all that’s curious or intriguing in the world of history. There are some fantastic historians out there – academic and non – who are reimagining how we should be communicating our work to the world. I’m happy to follow their example.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll keep coming back for a poke around and a bit of a shout.




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