A Day In The Life of a Historian

Apologies for the lack of a full post but if a picture is really worth 1,000 words, then this is hardly an abbreviation.

Today’s Reading List

I would hazard to guess that not many people comprehend just how much reading historians do on a regular basis, nor how incredibly diverse our piles of books tend to be. For me at least, easily half of what I read never makes it into a final article or paper. Not because it’s not good solid work, mind you, but because it leads me to another source that I find more illuminating in the end. This particular stack is the result of my current project, a history of Islamic Spain. Yet you’ll notice that most of the titles don’t appear to mention Spain at all; instead I’m dealing with Syria or the Roman army. Why the heck is that?

in order to write history — much less understand a particular point in time— one has to know a broad swath of information relating to a specific group, point in time, region, etc. Since Spain was originally part of the Roman Empire, and that various barbarian groups who later settled in Spain were sometimes members of the Roman Army, I need to have a better understanding of what we think the Roman Army was like in the 4th and 5th centuries. Likewise, since some though certainly not the majority of Muslims who arrived in Spain during the 8th century had ties to Syria (in particular, Damascus) I need to understand what Islam was like there in order to contrast it with other beliefs and practices in Spain and North Africa. And then this process repeats itself for the next artifact, idea, culture, or document that I encounter and wonder “how does this fit in with what I had read before?”

Sometimes my brain gets more than a little full, but taking breaks every now and then allows me enough time to digest it all before moving onto the next text or idea.

Anyway, just wanted to share that with you. I’ll have another full-sized post after the Labor Day holiday.