When I first saw the advertisement for the Bibliography of British and Irish History (BBIH) Section Editors, I am ashamed to say that I had not heard of this vital resource. After a Google search and having checked my university library’s website, I quickly realised that it was a hidden gem. Except, it was not hidden and I really wish I had been made aware of it before. Here was the perfect resource for keeping up to date with the latest research, a comprehensive reading list on pretty much any topic I could think of in British and Irish history, and all at the press of a few buttons. Naturally, I gravitated towards the subject areas that interested me and it was instantly obvious that this would quickly become my ‘go to’ resource. In that constant battle to keep on top of the most recent historiography, here was the tool that would make that so much easier. Here was the means by which I could quickly get to grips with, for instance, the huge volume of literature on internationalism in interwar Britain. It also allowed me to identify works that simply did not appear in a Google search, which inevitably leads to the mixed emotions of ‘Damn, there’s so much more to read’, ‘Hurray, no more trawling through lots of different bibliographies’, and, very occasionally, ‘Hmm, there’s an opening here, maybe I should write something to fill it.’
The BBIH is huge. There’s no other way to describe it, but it is huge in the best way possible. Like a kid in a sweet shop, any historian will get that little rush of anticipation (if, like me, you lead a very exciting life) at seeing all of the interesting work that is being carried out all of the time. This is especially so when it is on topics that you have not immediately considered as relevant. As a Section Editor, I very often take note of the latest articles and books as I go, some of them on entirely unfamiliar topics, adding them to that growing ‘to read’ pile that has to be tackled eventually. From eugenics and family allowances to Swedish counterintelligence in 1939-40, I really do feel like a better historian for having all of these interesting topics handed to me on a plate. One result has been that students I teach get the BBIH sales pitch. The thing that seems to attract most is that it really could not be more simple to get on top of reading and to improve their work accordingly. I suspect some of them wonder whether I am on commission because, whenever there is a query about historiography, the BBIH is now invariably part of my answer.
Currently, I am in the third, and final, year of my PhD into the opposition to appeasement in the 1930s. Of course, the literature on the politics of the 1930s—and appeasement itself—is dauntingly vast. That is where the BBIH is increasingly coming into its own. Vast amounts of literature? Easy, here is the list of what you will need. There is always something to do, some article to read, or last minute archival trip to go on, or those little bursts of inspiration in the dead of night. And yet, so little time to do it! However, I am told that this is part of the process, so it is probably a good thing.