Contested histories 2

August 29, 2003

Future luckless authors of university histories may wish to know of the pitfalls. My manuscript on Keele University, for example, was criticised for having chapters that were too short - but how long should a chapter be? Some were short, others were more than 10,000 words long.

It was said that "the overall style gives the impression of it having been written in note form" - that is certainly not my usual style, but readers must judge for themselves.

I was told "it generally lacks the breadth of research" and compared unfavourably with a forthcoming history of the University of Glasgow "which is being invested with in-depth research by a team of scholars" - but how many authors should be involved was a matter for Keele, not me. Glasgow is celebrating 550 years not 50.

None of that team of scholars can have my knowledge of the whole of the period of the history, and I doubt if their "in-depth research" can be as exhaustive as mine.

Finally, the specialist critic doubted "whether there would be any market for such a book outside former or current staff" - perhaps a likely event for most university histories.

John Kolbert
Keele, Staffordshire

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