Friday, 8 January 2016

2015: a year in blog posts

It's time for our annual look back at the blog posts that have been particularly popular over the past year. As ever, Blogger’s data is not entirely reliable, but it does let me see what has really worked as far as you, the readers, are concerned.

If you've missed any of the most popular posts, click the links to take you to them.

Our best year yet

The first thing to note is that 2015 saw a significant increase in readership. I hope that a lot of this was because people have been gradually discovering the blog over the years, but at least some of it is down to the fact that I am now promoting the blog on Twitter. I started doing this in the summer and it has really boosted hits. It does mean that the most successful posts are generally in the second half of the year, which may be as much because of the way that they're being promoted as because of their content.

I did write about social media and how I try to use Facebook, Twitter and this blog to connect with readers. Surprisingly (to me, at least) this was one of the most popular posts of the year.

Guest posters rock!

Guest posts are always popular, and that has been particularly true this year. Kirsten McKenzie's post 'On Being An Expert' drew the second most hits of any post ever. Readership of the post reflected the success of her book Fifteen Postcards. I think that Kirsten is not only a popular writer but clearly has a lot of friends in New Zealand, where she seems to be involved in everything from running her antiques shop to organising her local Air Training Corps and supporting her kids' school. And, in idle moments, turning out blog posts like this one.

Other noticeably successful guest posts came from Jenny Kane, Paul Fraser Collard and Maggie Cammiss.


June saw the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, marked by the publication of Burke at Waterloo. In honour of the occasion I posted regularly about events 200 years ago, culminating in accounts of the battle itself. It was my post on the much less well-known, but arguably decisive, battle of Quatre Bras two days earlier that was the most widely read.

Black Watch at the Battle of Quatre-Bras, 1815, by William Barnes Wollen

Besides the posts on my own blog, I wrote about Waterloo for Antoine Venner's 'Dawlish Chronicles' and the Historical Writers' Association's Historia


There's no getting away from it: I write about war and many of my blog posts are related to military events. It's odd, because I've never been in the army myself and, when I was younger, had little interest in that sort of thing. I wrote a piece in July arguing that military history matters – probably more than it is fashionable to admit. So, besides Waterloo, I wrote a few posts about Cawnpore and its aftermath. I was pleased to see the interest these generated, although the post on the aftermath attracted more hits than the pieces on the siege itself.


A post on the importance of reviews, attracted a reasonable amount of interest. I'm glad to say that I followed my own advice to write more reviews and that these got a decent number of hits. They included The Strangler Vine, The Scarlet Thief and The Maharajah's General.

This isn't a review site, but I'm always happy to read books for review. If there's something you'd like me to review, let me know. Although I have been known to make exceptions, I'll only generally review books if I think I can say something positive about them and I do definitely prioritise things that I already have a copy of. Given the interest that people seem to show in reviews, perhaps this is something I should be doing more often.


Outside of historical writing, one of my main interests is Argentine tango. Every so often, in what I always think of as an act of pure self-indulgence, I write about it on my blog. Every year I am surprised to see these tango posts among the most popular. This year was no exception, with the highest number of hits going to 'Mi Buenos Aires querido', a post about life in Argentina, thinly disguised as a book review.

The Williamson Papers

I don't write that often about my own books, but in November I posted about the Williamson papers. The reason was that the final part of this trilogy following John Williamson through Borneo and India back to England will be published in April. I'm excited about completing the Williamson Papers and I was delighted to see how much interest there was in reading about Williamson's adventures. It bodes well for 2016.

In conclusion ...

So there we are: the usual mix of history, articles about writing, stuff about my own books and random posts on tango. The interest in guest posts and reviews means that I should probably do a bit more of this in the future but readership figures suggest I must already be along the right lines. If you have your own ideas about what you would like to see in this blog, do respond using the "Comments" box below.

I hope that you are enjoying what you see here and that you will carry on reading in 2016. If you do enjoy it, would you consider buying some of the books? It really does make a difference.

Thank you.

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