In an earlier post, I said how pleased I was to see that it was now possible to obtain copies of my first book, Dissension in the House of Commons 1945-74, in a softcover edition. As I recorded, it was essentially a volume of data on dissension in the division lobbies of the Commons. It derived from a manual study of about 3,000 division lists and at least one million names. As one reader observed in commenting on the post, given modern computing such data nowadays could probably be obtained in an afternoon. However, as the picture illustrates, the volume itself was more than a dataset, as it also included summaries of the debates on which the dissent occurred.
Looking through the volume brought back memories of the research entailed. In those days, it was a case of going through each volume of Hansard, examining each division list and, if there was some dissension, recording in longhand details of the debate as well as listing the names of dissenters, and checking The Times for any coverage of the dissent. The recollection prompted me to check my archives (aka the shelves in the garage) and look through my original files: I still have the longhand transcriptions of the debates. The typescript material is actually more extensive than that which was published, as I also recorded data on free votes on which party members divided.
The handwritten pages I later transposed to typescript. The manuscript of the book was over 1,000 typescript pages. The book itself is 643 pages.
A friend not so long ago told me that I was an introvert. This he deduced from the fact that an extrovert looks to instant gratification. As my friend noted, I am quite prepared to engage in research for ages until I produce a result. Given that this volume of Dissension (I produced a later one for the 1974-79 Parliament) entailed at least two years of solid research, virtually all of it spent underground (Hansard and The Times were stored below the surface in Stack 3 of Sheffield University Library), he probably has a point.