The Art of Threading

A Conversation with Mike Stuchbery

Mike Stuchbery aka @MikeStuchbery_ is an Australian historian, writer, commentator and broadcaster based in England. He fights fascism through his writings and shares his knowledge of popular history.

Interview published on May 8, 2019

Q. Could you introduce yourself in a few sentences?

A. My name is Mike Stuchbery. I'm a writer and historian, originally from Australia, but now settled in Luton, England. These days I spend a lot of time on Twitter telling stories about history, rambling about old places I want to go, and harassing the Far Right.

Q. How did you get into writing and when?

A. I've always written for own enjoyment, but following a stint working for the Australian government creating educational materials and acting as a historical researcher, I decided to get into popular history writing. I've written for publications in Germany, the UK and Australia on facets of history that intersect with current affairs. I also work as a copywriter, so I'm often working on a number of different projects in various fields. You've probably come across me before without ever realising it!

Q. You joined Twitter in June 2014, what led you to signup? Have you continuously been an active user since then?

A. I first joined back in 2008! This is my second account. When I left Australia to teach overseas, I figured it was time for a fresh start. I have been fairly continuously active since then - it's both a way to showcase my writing, and keep in touch with friends across the world.

Q. We noticed your last blog post is from May 2018, which seems to coincide with the time you started to write threads. Did you replace traditional blogging with writing threads instead? Why?

A. Twitter is where the conversation is - it's a lot more reactive, more flexible. It's a good way of acting on feedback in real time. Blogs have their place, but I like the way that Twitter - and in particular, threads - give small, regular doses of content on a topic, like shots of espresso!

Q. What authors influenced you? What books do you recommend?

A. George Orwell, Anthony Bourdain, Bill Bryson. I have a hard time recommending books. I'm more for people simply picking up a book and enjoying the process of reading than telling them what to read. If you love reading, or can learn to love it, you're more like to pick up a wider range of books and sources for your information. That can't help but be a good thing in this age of 'fake news'.

Q. You are fighting fascism and you are passionate about history; do you think both are linked? Do you see knowledge of history as a weapon against fascism?

A. Of course they're linked! It's only through the measured and considered study of history that we are able to show fascism for what it is - a dangerous and insidious 'death cult' of an ideology. We have the perfect test cases in Mussolini's Italy, Hitler's Germany, and to a lesser extent, Franco's Spain. It's a cliche to say that 'there's nothing new under the sun', but human nature is what it is, and we do react in fairly predictable ways to various events. It's only the speed and the force with which things happen that fluctuate. It's not unreasonable to take the devastation caused by the Second World War and clearly draw a line between it and the destructive tendencies of fascism.

Q. How do you choose which topics to write about? What’s your usual process like?

A. To be honest, I just work on what takes my fancy. My favorite period is Early Modern Europe, so there's a lot rising out of that, but I'll also come up with a thread idea if there's something in the news that applies - last year was a big one for threads describing how fascism took hold in Germany, as we saw similar movements gaining traction in the United States. Usually, I'll write a thread up in Google Docs - I'm pretty good at gauging my 280 characters per tweet! Then I'll add links and images, and post manually through the website. I find the rhythm of a tweet every two minutes or so really generates buzz.

Q. Is there something you’d like to see appear on the Internet in a few years from now (an improvement, a tool, a service, anything)?

A. I'd love an edit button for Twitter! Perhaps some tools to enable easier embedding of sound clips into Twitter, or a means of having a tweet being triggered by NFC - useful for tours of heritage sites.

Q. What are your favorite accounts on Twitter? Any thread authors to recommend?

A. Ooh, love my history crowd - @rebeccarideal, @fxmc1957, @greg_jenner, @drjaninaramirez, @caitlinrgreen, @wrkclasshistory, @f_yeah_history, @hrcastor. There are hundreds more, just come and ask me!

Q. Anything you’d like to add?

A. No pasaran!

You can support Mike on Patreon and find his threads here.


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