“Maybe all this history has taught me some things”

I’m not the kind of person who follows through on things. I’m much better at complaining about the many opportunities I never took, the projects I never fully committed myself to, the blog posts I never wrote. This year, however, I actually achieved a very long-standing goal of mine. After several years of setbacks due to bad health and more or less chronic loss of self-esteem, I can now call myself a master of the humanities (in history). I wrote my masters thesis on the recent historiography of the British Labour Party (“All that is solid melts into Blair? A historiographical study of New Labour”), completing a project I started all the way back in 2008 (!). If you wanna geek out about Labour’s organizational reforms in the 1980s or the rise of  New Labour in the 1990s, have a go in the comment section.

In the grand scheme of things, one masters thesis is not much. The amount of insightful writing and research on this part of the Labour Party’s history is formidable, and I hold no illusions of my own breaking much new ground. The great thing about history as an academic discipline, however, is that the slow and steady accumulation of new knowledge and continuously putting accepted truths to the test in order to judge their validity and assess how the history has been shaped and told, is an integral part of the field. In that sense, I feel that I have made a contribution, if only a minor one. I would have included a link to my thesis, were it not for the fact that, when I decided back in 2008, I opted to write it in Norwegian. I didn’t feel that I mastered English well enough to capture the necessary nuances of academic discourse, and perhaps I still don’t. On the other hand, by writing in Norwegian, I hope that I can provide some insight into the intricacies of British politics to the few Norwegians who stumble upon it in the university archives and prefer to read their first language.

Immediately after I submitted my thesis, I was deeply unsure about how good it was. I knew it was thorough for a masters thesis, with a comprehensive bibliography and an unusually broad and close reading of several older and never classics in the field of Labour Party history. My thesis adviser assured me that she thought it was both well-written and well-researched, but I was nevertheless prepared for the possibility that it could fail the standard criteria of how a historiography thesis is supposed to be. And I was right to do so. When the time came for me to make an oral presentation and defend my conclusions, I was given a grade that I have to admit I was a little disappointed by. The process itself was a little frustrating, too: I think I did reasonably well on my oral exam, and we had a productive discussion about what constitutes a proper historiographical thesis, but there were a lot of things about my thesis that I would have liked to discuss that we simply didn’t have time to delve into. A paradoxical thing is that although I think I made a reasonable defense of my overall approach to the subject and its methodology, I knew what I’d written well enough to point out weaknesses in my own conclusions that could have been probed further, even though it might have made my conclusions slightly less convincing.

The end of the year is supposed to be a time for humility and introspection, but I realize that what I’ve written so far may come of as humble-bragging, at best. But believe me, it’s not the thesis I’m most proud of (if I  had chance to do it over again, I probably would have focused on some different books, just to name one possible flaw); it’s the fact that I finished it at all. My health has been unpredictable, if not to say just plain bad for the last several years, which has set me back again and again. In addition, I am relentlessly critical of my own work. Even now, when I have a stamp of respectable academic approval on this work, I still haven’t dared to re-read it. One thing is that I’m so damn tired of the subject, but I’m also afraid I might discover even more glaring flaws than the ones I already know of.

As for the rest of 2014, it’s hard to say whether I’ve done my best to be a good, productive person. I have a loving and understanding family that’s done more than its share to help and support me when my health has failed me, but in dark moments I can’t escape the feeling that I demand too much from them, or that I depend on them too much. These thoughts aren’t necessarily rational, seeing as I can’t really do much to change my situation (some of my problems have been with me since I was born), but they’re there nonetheless.

One thing I do plan to change in the coming year, though, is my productivity as a writer. Compared to most previous years, I’ve been neglecting this blog in 2014. I hope to rectify that, starting in January. I write semi-regularly about politics and pop culture for a Norwegian group blog, but there are certain things I’m more comfortable writing about on this platform, particularly when it comes to personal and gay stuff. I also want to write more about politics. After many years of inconsistent blogging and aversion to finishing things, I’ve realized that making promises is pointless. But ’tis the reason for resolutionns, so my ambition for 2015 is to work to become a better, more consistent (less verbose) writer on a broader range of topics.

First, however, I’m planning a couple of posts to sum up the year in music and movies.

To any readers who are somehow still following along, thanks so much for reading.

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