The Life of the Lamp

For the last two months I have been immersed in a project to write a scholarly article on the history of American “Musty Ale”, a topic I developed on the blog in numerous posts earlier.

Many of the things I stated in the posts were validated by the academic work (that’s what it is, no more or less).

But I developed numerous new lines of thinking and deepened the old ones. My conclusions ended as rather different than was suggested here earlier.

Of course, the postings were still essential as preparatory work, a kind of travaux préparatoires.

You can read all about it in the forthcoming issue of Brewery History, the journal of the U.K.-based Brewery History Society. Some information on the BHS, here.  

As I mentioned on Twitter, thanks are due to the Journal’s editor Dr. Tim Holt and to Martyn Cornell who encouraged me to take on this work.

As a lawyer holding a few degrees, one at Master’s level, I know how to write at scholarly level. I just hadn’t done it in a while, and the effort recalled for me the reality of years ago: it is hard work, a mental effort equal on its terms to the hardest physical labour, and yet it’s physical too.

At first, after a few hours I had to leave it for another day, factoring too my regular work of course and other obligations. But later, the physical effort eased, I went through a kind of training for that part of it…

Any book, I’m sure, is not so different, but writing where you have to justify by footnotes almost all factual statements, and ensure hyper-accuracy, and stand by your research and conclusions should any cavil with you, is unique. Not that I am blasé or ex-cathedra really on the blog here, but writing on an academic level is exactly what it says.

It gave me a new respect for the work professors and any researchers at their level do every day. People joke about eggheads and ivory towers but believe me, what they do is vital to society and requires enormous dedication and a good measure of spade work, too. It was Johnson who said a lexicographer is a harmless drudge, eh? Well, he got the drudge part right. It’s the insights and flashes of genuine discovery that make the whole thing worthwhile.

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