Time to Publication

Timur Kuran’s The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East includes this description of the timeline for getting the book into print

  • 1996-1997 academic year: “the work that found is ways into this book began”
  • June 1997: “components of the initial draft was prepared”
  • June 1997: the author continued to work on the book while visiting the University of Munich
  • June-August 1999: the author did the same while a visiting fellow at Australian University
  • 2002-2003: the book continued to take shape at the University of Southern California where Kuran was a fellow
  • 2004-2005: whatever at that time existed of the book traveled to Stanford University where its author held a visiting professorship
  • April 2008: “the first full draft of this book came to fruition”
  • November 15, 2010: the book made its publication debut in hardback

From start to publication then is a span of 14 years. While this is surely not a record — consider the case of Kazuo Ueda, for instance, who worked on a Yiddish-Japanese dictionary for over 20 years — it’s impressive nonetheless, as is the fact that the book traveled three continents during its gestation. (Know of books that traveled further while its author was working on it? Do share.) Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Kuran published other scholarly articles during this time. Otherwise, his chances at receiving invites to be visiting professor/fellow and financial support to work on his book would’ve been nill.

The story has a happy ending: The Long Divergence is now in print and Professor Kuran has since 2007 held a tenured professorship at Duke University. For those of you who know about the tenure process in the humanities, is Professor Kuran’s career path considered normal? What is the average time to publication for academic monographs? How many works — books specifically — is one expected to have in publication to gain tenure at a prestigious, say, top-10 institution?

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