Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New England Australia History Research Report August/September 2009

In August my meanders took me in a new track.

In Introducing the Armidale poets I started a new series looking at one recent stream of New England writing. I followed this with  Hockey and the Armidale poets. Pea and ham soup and poetry and then  Armidale poets - beginnings. At this point, and as so often happens, I got sidetracked.

I want to continue this series because, apart from pure pleasure, it fills another little gap.

Train Reading - Michael O'Rourke's Kamilaroi Lands then Train Reading - Michael O'Rourke brings the Kamilaroi to life and Belshaw’s World: A closer look at Kamilaroi and language continues my discussion of the Kamilaroi people based around three of Michael's books. Michael's writing really has been very helpful in developing my thinking. The only problem is that I have on some ways bogged down in this one element of New England. I have a lot of part written material, but I need to bring it to the point that I can make it available.

As I indicated in one of the Kamilaroi posts, one thing that has been helpful was the decision to draw a line in the Aboriginal New England section of the history at the time of colonisation. This makes it easier to focus on the Aboriginal story. I was finding that later events kept on interfering with my thought and writing.

 Armidale Air Show 1959 was triggered by a post from Paul Barrett. The link to his post is included in my post.

In Saturday Morning Musings - weird history and other meanders I quoted (thanks to Christopher Moore's Canadian History) US historian and writer Jill Lepore:

To be a public historian, not a public intellectual, not a popular historian, not a pundit, but a public historian, is to be a keeper of our memory as a people. And that, if I had my druthers, and the capacity, is what I would want to be.

I am not sure that I could claim to be a pubic historian. I think that that would be pretentious. But certainly I am trying to record and present aspects of New England's past. You see, the problem is that while there are still some historians writing at local and regional level, there seem to be none writing at a broader New England level.

The North exists. If you overlay maps of the current administrative divisions of NSW Government agencies with other boundaries such as the TV aggregation boundaries you will see it emerge. Yet no-one is writing about it as an entity. No-one is preserving and re-presenting the collective memory.

The Armidale Airshow of 1959 is one very small element, as is Belshaw’s World: The Palais Royale and memories of a Newcastle past. When I write about the Palais or Newcastle past I write not as a Newcastle or Hunter Valley person, but as a person from elsewhere who still sees Newcastle as part of his personal  historical world.

I accept that my approach including my continued support for New England separation raises its own issues in terms of objectivity when writing as an historian. But so long as I give my sources and express my arguments clearly, then others can critique what I write.

Sunday Essay - Farming, green house gases and the importance of practical experiments- Part One and  Sunday Essay - Farming, green house gases and the importance of practical experiments- Part Two are both explorations of current issues. However, both also link to another element of New England history, rural science and experimentation.

Just another thing to write about!        


Anonymous said...

Are you sure you want to be a pubic historian?
'Private Parts: a history of the genitalia' sure would be a catchy title

Jim Belshaw said...

I fear, anon, that that's more public than I want to be! Like the title.