I have just posted an item about this on the ‘Need a thesis topic?‘ page.
Is it a waste of time producing an index for a book when lengthy works are appearing more and more in searchable electronic format? I implied, rather carelessly, that the answer to this question is ‘yes’ in the course of explaining why, as a rule, I intend in future to publish only on my website, in searchable PDFs. (This was, of course, only one of many reasons I offered for this decision.) However, having recently been required to complete another long and complicated index for the new edition of my textbook (usefully reproduced in the ‘sample chapter’ on the Palgrave website here), I was reminded of just how valuable the exercise is. A good analytical index not only sifts the important from the trivial but also provides cross-references between subjects (‘see also …’) and sometimes even a primer in synonyms (‘going native, see localitis’) and pseudonyms (‘Cornwell, David, see le Carré’). This is why it is so depressing to see the spread of books with shoddy indexes, and sometimes only ‘Name Indexes’ – or no index at all! It is also worth noting that indexing is likely to produce a book with fewer mistakes, since it requires what is in effect a second and in some ways more searching reading of the proofs. When indexing my manuscripts, I always find some typos and the odd inconsistency (‘pre-negotiation’ here, ‘prenegotiation’ there) that have been missed both by the copy editor and by my own proof-reading. Preparing a proper index can take many days, and I am well aware that most young scholars are today under too much pressure to be able to afford the time. For those unable or unwilling to do it themselves, therefore, my advice would be to negotiate with the publisher on the point: try waiving the royalty (always miserly anyway) if, in return, they will pay for a professional job. Alternatively, visit the excellent site of the Society of Indexers, and explore hiring directly. A book with a first-class index (always likely to create a good impression on a busy reviewer) will probably be worth far more to you in the long run than what you will save by doing without one.
The American Academy of Diplomacy has just released a major report called ‘American Diplomacy at Risk’, which reflects and further stirs ferment within the US Foreign Service over the continued erosion of professionalism in US ‘diplomacy’. There is an excellent backgrounder to this here, with links to the full report as well as to comments on it. This development has also prompted me to add a new suggestion to the ‘Need a thesis topic?’ page.
The announcement by British prime minister David (‘Sleepwalker’) Cameron that Britain is to send military advisers to Ukraine is the latest of a long series of Western blunders that has contributed to the catastrophic crisis in Ukraine. This is because its net effect has been to encourage the government in Kiev to ignore the implications for its foreign policy both of its geopolitical situation and its large Russian-speaking population. It’s time to re-read this excellent blog and the many comments on it, as also Noam Chomsky. The Foreign Office in London cannot escape censure either, as pointed out recently by Mary Dejevsky. The hopes of those keen to see a diplomatic settlement in Ukraine remain with Angela Merkel and François Hollande. The less heard of David Cameron (and kindred spirits in Washington) the better.