Finding Your Next Book or Where Do Ideas Come From?

ideabulb.gifWhere do book ideas come from?

As a first and second year graduate student, I was obsessed with this question. I spent an inordinate amount of time wondering how my professors came up with great article, book, and dissertation topics.

On numerous occasions I asked them where they got their ideas and they all replied: “you read.”

Needless to say, their answer left me unsatisfied. I felt like I read a lot, but no fantastic ideas seemed to come to me.

Still, I accepted their answer and moved my mental energies on to research papers, exams, and my dissertation.

In this post, you will discover how I finally began stumbling upon ideas and how my second journal article topic has turned into my second book topic.

Spoiler Alert: I came to my newfound ideas by reading.


Cuyler, Gansevoort & Co.

I volunteered at the Albany Institute of History and Art during my last few years of dissertation work. I spent my time in the library where I answered visitor/researcher questions and created finding aids for collections.

Leonard Gansevoort

Leonard Gansevoort

One of the collections I created a finding aid for had never been used by another scholar. (Exciting, I know!) The collection had come from an old Albany family who had moved to the island of St. Croix. The papers had been mouldering in an attic and contained family and business papers and correspondence from the Ten Eyck family. I found the correspondence of Cuyler, Gansevoort & Co among these papers.

Cuyler, Gansevoort & Co. opened a mercantile firm in Albany in 1783. It comprised a partnership between Jacob Cuyler and his brother-in-law Leonard Gansevoort. The firm exported New York lumber, ashes, and naval stores and imported West Indian produce. They sold their imports wholesale to country traders.

Cuyler, Gansevoort & Co. experienced many problems. They couldn’t collect debts—foreign or domestic—and they experienced difficulties accessing and prospering in the Atlantic marketplace.

These merchants’ letters fascinated me, but I could not fit the story they told into my dissertation. Unable to let the story of Cuyler, Gansevoort & Co. rest, I wrote a conference paper for the American Historical Association annual meeting (2013) and then turned my paper into a journal article.

The article, “Trade, Diplomacy, and the Consequences of American Independence: Cuyler, Gansevoort & Co. and the Business of Trade During the Confederation Era” will appear in the July 2015 issue of The Journal of Early American History.


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Wednesday Link Roundup #96: Whiskey, Bourbon, and History Fun

Samuel Adams RoundupWednesday Link Roundup: Links to the most interesting history, news, and writing posts that passed through my RSS and Twitter feeds over the last week.



The Atlantic explores the history of distilling in “The Jewish Origins of Kentucky Bourbon” and “Women Making Whiskey: An 800-Year History.”

Smithsonian asks “What Makes Bourbon Uniquely American?

Peter Hess investigates “The Albany Connections of Burr, Hamilton, and Schuyler.”

Smithsonian reveals “How 75 Yars Ago Nylon Stockings Changed the World.”

Columbia University Examines Its Long-Ago Links to Slavery.”

The New York History Blog offers a review of Freedom Journey: Black Civil War Soldiers and the Hills Community, Westchester County, New York

James Grossman discusses the role of patriotism in history in “On Patrotism.”

Loren Collins explores “Entering the Job Market with a BA in History.

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History Communicators’ Chat No. 1

On Wednesday May 13, 2015, historians interested in furthering the idea of “history communicators” and integrating the position into the historical profession convened on Twitter for the first of many #histcomm chats.

Jackie Jecha storified the conversation.



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What I Am Reading This Week: The Royalist Revolution

I read at least a book a week for my research and for Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History. I thought it would be fun to highlight the book(s) I read each week so I can help you add to your reading list.

What am I reading this week? Eric Nelson’s The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding

 Book Description from Amazon: 

Amazon Image “Generations of students have been taught that the American Revolution was a revolt against royal tyranny. In this revisionist account, Eric Nelson argues that a great many of our “founding fathers” saw themselves as rebels against the British Parliament, not the Crown. The Royalist Revolution interprets the patriot campaign of the 1770s as an insurrection in favor of royal power―driven by the conviction that the Lords and Commons had usurped the just prerogatives of the monarch.

Leading patriots believed that the colonies were the king’s own to govern, and they urged George III to defy Parliament and rule directly. These theorists were proposing to turn back the clock on the English constitution, rejecting the Whig settlement that had secured the supremacy of Parliament after the Glorious Revolution. Instead, they embraced the political theory of those who had waged the last great campaign against Parliament’s “usurpations”: the reviled Stuart monarchs of the seventeenth century.

When it came time to design the state and federal constitutions, the very same figures who had defended this expansive conception of royal authority―John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, James Wilson, and their allies―returned to the fray as champions of a single executive vested with sweeping prerogatives. As a result of their labors, the Constitution of 1787 would assign its new president far more power than any British monarch had wielded for almost a hundred years. On one side of the Atlantic, Nelson concludes, there would be kings without monarchy; on the other, monarchy without kings.”

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How to Use Trello and Due Dates to Write Your Book

Trello-blogWhen did it become May?

We are already 5 months into 2015 and I still have a lot of work to do on my book.

In this post, you will discover how I used Trello to create a revisions calendar and establish due dates so I can finish my book by the end of 2015.


Due Dates and Productivity

For me, April proved to be a productive month.

I finished an academic journal article and an article for the Journal of the American Revolution. Additionally, I attended two conferences (RevReborn 2 & NCPH 2015) and produced five podcast episodes.

As I reflected on April, I began to wonder: How could I replicate and experience this productivity with my book?

After thinking for a few moments, I realized that due dates had made me productive in April. This understanding prompted me to sit down and compose an aggressive, but feasible revisions calendar.


How to Create a Revisions Calendar with Trello

I used a free, web-based tool called Trello to create my revisions calendar.

Trello allows you to better visualize your projects and the work needed to complete them with project boards, lists, and cards.

You create a project board for each project you want to work on and complete. I titled my project board “AMERICA’S FIRST GATEWAY,” the tentative title for my book.

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