Back in June/July 2009 I did two posts ( Towards a Course on the History of New England - Introduction, Towards a Course on the History of New England- The Colonial Period) looking at the structuring of a history of New England. I had intended to carry this series forward into an analysis of the twentieth century, but this proved too difficult at the time.
In December 2009 in Belshaw's World - towards a history of the broader New England I outlined some of the developments in thinking towards the overall project.
So far as the colonial period is concerned, the biggest problem I faced lay in where to draw the line between Aboriginal New England and the colonial period. Did I finish Aboriginal New England with the story of the invasion or not? In the end, I decided to draw the line on Aboriginal New England at the arrival of the Europeans. The big advantage here is that it allowed me to tell the story of Aboriginal New England
I have now had a number of goes at a chapter structure for the Colonial New England section. I keep changing my mind! The main choice lies in a chronological vs thematic approach. In practice, I think that it's going to be a bit of both.
Perhaps the biggest change in my thinking since I began this blog in November 2006 lies in my increased emphasis on social history.
This is due in part to the continuing influence of John Ferry's "Colonial Armidale", as well as Alan Atkinson's Camden. I just think that there is some really interesting material.
I am reasonably confident that I can interpret the early colonial period because S H Roberts (Train Reading - S H Roberts the Squatting Age in Australia, 1835-1847) provides a good framework. I had not read this book for years. It has its rough spots, but is really a very good read. Most importantly, its sets a very useful context, including London as well as local events.
Local histories such as Wiedemann's Inverell (Book review - Elizabeth Wiedemann's World of its own: Inverell's early years 1827-1920) as well as property histories flesh the story out. There is really some wonderful material- see Saturday Morning Musings - New England's Ogilvie dynasty - that then carries through.
I am also reasonably confident that the framework provided by Robin Walker, Colin Ferry and others provides a structure for the latter part of the period. But what, then, are the gaps?
The first one is that I still do not know enough of the Aboriginal experience, especially in the later part of the century. Michael O'Rourke (Train Reading - Michael O'Rourke's Kamilaroi Lands, Train Reading - Michael O'Rourke brings the Kamilaroi to life) provides some clues, while Jim Fetcher's work ("Clean, Clad and Courteous" - Jim Fletcher's History of Aboriginal Education in New South Wales) provides something of an institutional structure. Still, my knowledge remains imperfect.
The second gap is the story of the lower Hunter including the relationships between Maitland, Morpeth and Newcastle. For a significant part of the Colonial period, Maitland was the big town of New England. Newcastle's power came later. So part of the New England story has to be told from a Maitland perspective. I also have to trace the rise of coal and of Newcastle and Cessnock in economic, social and political terms.
While there are many other gaps that I am aware of, these are the two main ones that really stand out at present.