The way ahead

An article of mine has been accepted for publication in the September 2012 issue of the Australian Journal of Politics and History, to be entitled '"Bomb back, and bomb hard": debating reprisals during the Blitz'. I'm very pleased with this for a number of reasons. Firstly, it's been a while since I last had an article pass peer-review (and not for lack of trying either). Things were starting to look a bit lean; but now I'll have something published each year since finishing my PhD, which is not too bad a rate. Secondly, it was an invited submission for a special issue resulting from the AAEH conference in Perth last year. That's nice because it's an honour to be asked (I'll have more details on the other AAEH articles when the publication date comes around), but also because the humanities conferences are rarely published (unlike in the sciences, though there conference proceedings are not usually peer-reviewed as this one is) so it's rare to get a publication out of a talk so directly.

Finally, I think this shows the way ahead for me, assuming I continue in my current mode as an independent (slash alt-ac) historian. That is, in part, through Airminded. The initial inspiration for my AAEH paper came through post-blogging the Blitz; I worked through much of the evidence and issues here in a series of posts on various aspects of the reprisals debate. Then I presented the paper in Perth; and now I'll have an article in AJPH. Without the goal of a PhD (or a grant) to drive towards, having a process like this seems like a good way of keeping some focus and producing publishable research -- rather than just ambling along with the blog and drifting into unseriousness. Of course, there will always be unserious ambling here, and the drift will probably happen eventually; but if I can repeat this process a few times (i.e. posts to paper to article) I can hopefully keep myself at least theoretically employable for a few years more. And in fact I've already started on the next iteration, the topic of which is probably easy to guess for those paying attention! Watch this space.

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18 thoughts on “The way ahead

  1. Congrats Brett. It is good that you have thought about a meaningful way forward. It would be shame for the research and writing to stop. Are you still looking for the much vainted academic position? Certainly for jobs over here in the Uk I can only say once the book is published that will help. It is crazy but seems to be the way things are going here.

  2. Heath Graham

    Excellent news.

    I'm still hoping you can find a home for your dragons=bombers argument!

  3. Errolwi

    Deep in the Weta Digital servers....
    (Peter Jackson has Dambusters in production hell, and Temeraire optioned).

  4. Congratulations. And I'm always happy when mainstream journals pick up worthy war and society topics. As far as a job search goes, more power to you. Is there a way for you to teach in the interim? I'm not saying the U.S. adjunct model is great, but I am glad it lets me stay in touch with that side of academic life.

  5. Congratulations! I'd have said three articles and a book contract were more than doing OK; one of the professional historians round here may have more detailed info (Chris? Alan?) but AFAIK that's above and beyond what might be expected from a full-timer in a research post here for the next REF submission. So fingers crossed...

  6. Post author

    Thanks, everyone!

    I am still looking for an academic position, but having very little luck; I've yet to get to the interview or shortlist stage. The job market seems very random at the moment, here and in the UK. People with stellar CVs and experience applying for junior or otherwise marginal positions; others with CVs no stronger than mine walking into lecturing jobs. Immigration restrictions in the UK add an extra degree of difficulty; I'm not even sure whether it is worth applying there any more. The job market here is (perhaps) bottoming out. But there are so many qualified people chasing too few jobs, there's no reason for any job search committee to get excited about my CV unless by chance my specialisation fills a gap they think needs filling. (It would probably help if I could learn to pitch myself better -- after my most recent application I realised I had been playing up the military history side when the job title actually had 'modern British history' in it. Wasted effort.) All I can do is keep trying to improve the CV and keep on applying... but at some point I'll have to decide that it's just not going to happen and try something else. That point is not here yet but I'm already 2.5 years out from getting my PhD, so it's getting closer...

    I'm currently working 3 days a week in IT, a mix of desktop support and system administration. The advantage of this is that's it's enough to keep me afloat and it gives me up to 4 days a week to work on the book and do other research. (And, because I work at a university, library access!) The disadvantage is I'm not saving anything so can't afford research trips to the UK, which is something I need to do at some stage. (Also not doing my superannuation any favours.) At some point, probably after the book is done, I'll have to take on more hours. (At least it's not that hard in IT; I've already had to turn down extra work this year.) I'm not averse to doing some tutoring or relief teaching, but I'm not aware of any going. Tutoring is usually done by postgrad students as they have to pay you more if you have a PhD -- except when they decide not to hire tutors at all and add it to the academics' workload, since that doesn't cost anything extra! Before the book is done, though, it's probably not a good idea, it's too much of a time sink.

    Ah, so much whining! This is why I haven't written a 'no jobs' post :)

    Heath and Errolwi:

    Yes, I'd like to do something more with that. It's hard to know where it would fit though. I haven't got enough primary sources to justify a peer-reviewed article and it's a bit long-winded for a popular piece.

    Of course, if Peter Jackson wants to option it he can contact me through this blog :)

  7. All I can add so far as jobs are concerned (from a US perspective) is this: the applicant pool is so bloated right now, and search committees are so spoiled for choice, that credentials which at one time would have been good enough to get you tenure today function merely as baseline entry-level requirements. This is also somewhat field-specific, however - modern British history being especially awful. Sorry I don't have anything more optimistic to report ...

  8. Congrats Brett.

    On the job front all I can say is that the first book seems to be all important. This was certainly the case with the jobs that came up at Birmingham last year. However, I have heard from a colleague that post-2013 this will lessen because the next round of REF will have been and gone. It seems that it goes in phases. When you are applying for jobs around the time of the REF then publications are all important but afterwards not so much. Though they are clearly still important.

    I am not convinced by the immigration issue though. One of the people employed by Birmingham for the War Studies lectureships is coming from the US (West Point) and we have been willing to wait a year for him to come. I think it is a case of if your are the right candidate then the institution will do what they can for you. Birmingham has also recruited other non-UK and Europeans in the last few year.

    Hopefully something will come up soon. I watch friends who have completed and the struggle they go through. Apart from you I know of 6 people who have completed, and only 1 of them has a full-time position. Several of them have something but it is nothing concrete. It makes you think...

  9. Chris Williams

    Nice one, Brett.

    I'm afraid that I'm more pessimistic than Ross on the immigration question - perhaps my institution is more tight-arsed than his, but appointing a non-EU national can only be done if the appointment panel can say, hand on heart, that none of the other people in the line up are capable of doing the job. This of course forces them to re-advertise if the #1 candidate turns it down, so I suppose the moral of the story for non-EU applicants is, spend as much time and effort as you can in convincing the panel that you are going to accept any job you are offered.

    In an ideal world, historians from country Y who wanted to do archival research in country X but didn't have the cash to get there would link up with a historian in country X who had a reciprocal problem, and each spend a week (or however long) frantically snapping pics for the other. The next level of complexity would be to set up a LETS, and run a global market in research services. Recycling the surplus generated in West London would become a stumbling block, however.

  10. Post author

    Thanks, again.


    Interesting about the stage of the REF cycle influencing how important research is to job search committees. Also a bit frustrating if you're coming onto the job market at the wrong time! Seems like a perverse incentive to me, but maybe it's intended to counterbalance the emphasis on research.

    I think I applied for that Birmingham job -- and got nowhere, obviously. I didn't have the book contract then. But you wouldn't have had to wait for a year for me to start either! :)


    That's useful advice. Though given the aforementioned state of the job market you wouldn't think it would be too hard to convince a job search committee that you are desperate for work and will jump at any offers. I suppose one argument I can make (and have) is that, given British history is my area, the prospect of being in the same country as my primary sources is somewhat enticing. As opposed to being on the far side of the world...

    My take is there's not much point in my applying for open-specialisation jobs, on the basis that unless a department is looking for someone exactly like me they won't be willing to go into bat for me at the Home Office. So I'm applying for ones which specify, eg, modern British history somewhere in the position description. But it's been put to me that I should just be applying for any and all positions which don't actually exclude my specialities. I'd rather concentrate on the best chances and spend the time doing something which will ultimately enhance my CV (research, writing) rather than churning out another application which will go straight to the bottom half of the pile... but perhaps I've become unduly pessimistic for some reason!

  11. Chris Williams

    Hmm... it depends on the opportunity cost of each of the ultra long-shot applications. If it's just a question of 20 mins cutting and pasting, it might be worth applying for them all, on the basis that you might find the one that was accidentally advertised only in Australia, and then you'd be the only qualified candidate and they'd have to take you. But that's an outside chance so probably not worth more than an hour a month.

  12. Post author

    Yeah, that's the problem: it rarely seems to be that easy. Every application process has its own little quirks. There's either some arcane piece of information you need to track down that nobody ever asked for before, or the demand for an obsessive listing of every job you have ever had, or they want a cover letter with references or the references are to be included in the CV or they are submitted via the online form. To a degree cover letters and selection criteria statements can be reused, but at a minimum they need to be tweaked to fit each job's particular needs. I could be less fussy but then putting in a slapdash application seems counterproductive. So it seems to take about half a working day to write a proper application. It feels like winning to submit one to somewhere that has rejected you before, if they have a comprehensive online system that saves all your details. Then it really is just a matter of cutting and pasting. Of course, given that they have rejected me and my cut-and-pasted application before there's no reason they won't reject me again :)

    I guess the other question is whether my sense of what is or is not a long shot is off. In a sense they're all long shots in this environment. On that basis I may as well apply for everything; but I'd rather do research than spend all my time writing applications. I've already done two this week; that's enough.

    By the way, do you know the Chris A. Williams of Current University, Anytown, UK, who provided Vitae with a copy of his CV to use as an example? I thought you might, given your extremely similar names and research interests :) Anyway, please thank him for me, as I've found it quite useful in rewriting mine recently!

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