Anybody who has been seriously involved in historical study at whatever level will know that the work begins in confusion, uncertainty. Sometimes it just seems impossible to link things together. We drown in information. Things are disconnected.
Then, if we persevere, patterns start to emerge. We see connections between things. Now we are pointing and counterplotting between the general ideas we have been forming and the further evidence. Some things we put aside, others come into stronger focus. Now life has become interesting!
If we continue beyond this point, a new process emerges. Now we are both broadening and deepening our knowledge. Everything we read links back in some way to something we have looked at before. You would think that life would suddenly become boring, but no, for now we have just so many directions we can go that choice becomes an issue. In an interconnected world, we can follow threads in whatever direction we like.
You can see this process in one of my favourite history blogs, Janine Rizzetti's The Resident Judge of Port Phillip. I suspect that Janine had no idea that her study of one person at Port Phillip would take her deep into the world of Upper Canada.
I explored a little of this in a post on my personal blog, Greece, history & the on-line world. Here you can see how things link and cross-link.
One of the difficulties for all historians and especially those who work isolated from the profession, and that is in fact most people studying history, lies in the inability to share. We go to our families or friends with a very interesting if somewhat arcane piece of information and they just roll their eyes!
This is where blogging comes in. We can write the stuff and put it out there for all to see. Often, of course, no-one notices. They behave just like our family or friends. Even then, we have at least written it down, and the act of writing refines thought.
Beyond that, and if we keep at it, we do get some feedback. We find one or two people who are actually interested in that otherwise arcane piece of information. It doesn't happen all the time, but it happens often enough to be of value.
All this may seem to be at some remove from my present main topic on this blog, social change in New England 1950-2000. In fact, it's quite germane.
In 1923: Classical Greek in the New England countryside, I provided a small snapshot of one small part of New England life in 1923, one far removed from normal historical discussion relating to the area. This drew a comment from KVD providing a link to a Sydney Morning Herald notice on the material I was talking about. I am already in front!
The post in question was triggered by some work that I was doing investigating New England's Ogilvie family for the next post in the culture change series. So now you have two of the things that I have been talking about in play.
The first is the new directions effect. Who could or would have thought that a search on a New England pastoral dynasty would take me to a Greek play performed in the original Greek?
The second is the deepening effect. I have added another small tile to my growing New England mosaic.
Now all this is really very satisfying. Remember, the thesis on which my writing is based is that the history of New England is more than just a variation at the margin to the broader Australian story. It is a story in its own right.
I am sure now that I can show this if only I can complete the work. I think that I can write a story that will explain New England to New Englanders, but also challenge the simplistic theme based structures on which so much of Australian history writing is based.
What I really want to do, and it's a huge challenge that may be beyond my skills, is to recreate worlds now vanished that simply hang together. If I can do this, I pose a fundamental challenge to those who deny the existence and validity of those worlds.