Terug in Nederland

Today begins my seventh summer research trip to Holland, but this year will be quite unlike previous seasons. Whereas travels to archives, libraries, and trips through the Dutch countryside or to the coasts had occupied the majority of my time previously, this will be a summer of writing. Whereas in years past a set of research questions dictated my schedule and organized my activities, pages completed will mark my progress.

Naturally, the research is never done, and especially when your research subject lays so far afield requiring long-distance travel, the writing process proceeds much more smoothly with

Morning during my first day in Den Haag

potential resources at hand. For my work, no place is more suitable than Holland. I will split my time between The Hague and Amsterdam, The centrality of these cities and the density of archives and libraries means that books that would take weeks to interlibrary loan are only a train ride (or if I’m lucky a bike ride) away. After seven years of work on this project, I have largely everything I need, but a few unexplored corners of that work require illumination, and a few side projects stand extra attention as well.

So, in keeping with past summers’ research strategy, mildly adapted to present needs, what follows are my research/writing goals.

  1. Writing. Specifically, finishing chapter 4 of my book manuscript Floods, Worms, and Cattle Plague: Natural Disaster at the Closing of the Dutch Golden Age. Chapter four explores the famous shipworm epidemic of the 1730s when a species of (likely invasive) wood-boring mollusks gnawed a path of destruction across much of the coastal Netherlands, inciting widespread panic, dike adaptation, and a providential condemnation of Dutch moral character. (more on my progress to come).
  2. Writing. Beginning chapter 5 on the second outbreak of rinderpest in the Netherlands. Lasting roughly 20 years, repeated plagues swept across much of the Dutch Republic, killing more than a million cattle. Contemporaries described the plague like a fire burning its way through meadows, from Germany and Flanders to the sea.
  3. Writing. Grant writing to be exact. As part of a collaborative digital history project between Creighton University and Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha (NE), Dr. Simon Appleford and I are submitting a grant to the National Endowment for the Humanities. The project, called “The Natural Face of America” merges the transcribed, translated journals of German scientist Maximilian von Wied with restored, digitized images of Swiss artist Karl Bodmer’s watercolors and sketches of his two year journey. When completed, it will be the most comprehensive resource of primary source material covering this important journey. Our grant would support a two years of work on the project. Last summer’s efforts resulted in an impressive pilot website (kudos to Dr. Appleford for the design) and made effective use of student research, but the grant would take us to the finish line.
  4. Writing. Conference proposals. ESEH, WCEH, and a few other interesting opportunities await.
  5. Writing. Book proposals. The proposal has enjoyed favorable reviews from editors so far, but I want to cast as broad a net as possible. I plan, as a result, to submit two further proposals, one perhaps while abroad.
  6. Design. Course design to be specific. This goal is the odd one out. It may even require the most amount of “research” during this trip. I will teach the Critical Issues course “A History of (Un)natural Disasters” for the first time this fall and I have significant prep work ahead of me. The course is both a thematic history of global disasters, but also a part of the Creighton Core, which necessitates integration of course material covering the social justice implications of disasters. In addition to significant background research on disasters, I plan to write at least the first two lectures.

It has not escaped my attention that I have more trip goals than in years past and this will be my shortest trip by a couple of weeks. I also plan to do less interprovincial traveling (during which I’ve written most of my past blog posts). I hope to find time for updates nevertheless. These posts have been very useful sounding boards for early thoughts on research subjects and a helpful record of my productivity. For these reasons alone, the blog could be considered a seventh major goal. I’m also curious how a writing-oriented trip will change my expectations and need for this type of writing. When the primary goals have been research, this short-form writing provided a venue to “chew” on some of the hardy and complex ideas that I would further refine later on. I didn’t realize this heading into my first summer, however. Perhaps blogging will once again offer new, unforeseen benefits.

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