Monday, 9 December 2013

An expensive hobby...

Having been plugging away at doctoral research for the last two years without any external funding, I've taken to calling it an expensive hobby rather than a viable career option. Of course I'd love to do history for a living, but times are tough and I'd rather appreciate the time I have now to do something I'm passionate about, than be overly concerned about prospects for a day job at the end of it all.

This trip is however, a step in that direction. Having successfully secured my first ever travel grant - from the kind people at CEELBAS - my time in St Petersburg is designed to be both a development of my language abilities and a return (at last!) to the archives.

Like some modern day Machiavelli I can once again 'speak to the ancients', returning to the very same building where I ended my last period of research. The weather is strikingly similar, as is the limited time I have to explore their holdings, but it does appear new material has been made available since I was last here.

I'll power on as best I can over the next couple of weeks (though the reading room is only open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday). This trip will at least allow me the chance to see the time needed to properly explore the holdings here in Petersburg, before I consider moving back to the Russian capital. I know the genuine excitement I feel digging through dusty documents is lost on most people, but I have never found it better put than by that misunderstood Italian: 

"When evening has come, I return to my house and go into my study. At the door I take off my clothes of the day, covered with mud and mire, and I put on my regal and courtly garments; and decently re-clothed, I enter the ancient courts of ancient men, where, received by them lovingly, I feed on the food that alone is mine and that I was born for. There I am not ashamed to speak with them and to ask them the reason for their actions; and they in their humanity reply to me. And for the space of four hours I feel no boredom, I forget every pain, I do not fear poverty, death does not frighten me. I deliver myself entirely to them."

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