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

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New England history 2010

Statd Dec 10 2 The chart shows visits (yellow) plus page views (yellow plus red) on thus blog over the last thirteen months.

I think of this year as one in which the blog began to acquire a life of it's own, with some more regular readers.

New writing on New England's history

This was also a year in which other writing on aspects of New England's history emerged. Here I am thinking especially of Paul Barratt's Australian Observer and some of the writing on Archives Outside, especially that by UNE Archivist Bill Oates.

You can get a feel for Paul's writing from his Armidale, New England and TAS tags. although there is inevitable duplication among the tags. You can find Bill's posts here.

Outside the blogosphere, the various local history groups continued their work, while staff at both UNE and Newcastle continued working on specific topics. However, it remains true, I think, that there is limited work on the broader New England or North. Much work is locality or narrow region specific.

Over the year I have referred to some of the work being done. However, I have not attempted to do a full review because my focus has been on those things relevant to my immediate historical concerns. I think that's a weakness, because it means that there is still no access to New England's evolving historiography. It remains fragmented.

Note to self: please record things as you come across them so that you can do a proper end-year review!

Visitor Interests       

Turning now to visitor patterns, I don't have detailed full year stats because Google only started aromatically recording traffic details during August this year. However, since then, the most popular posts have been:

The dominance of the geography post is due to the number of international visitors interested in US New England who end up on this blog.

The importance of posts connected with the Aborigines has been a continuing theme. As I have said before, I need to update these posts in light of later work.

I also need to make some of my material more accessible, taking search engines into account. For example, the material posted on the life of David Drummond includes fully footnoted information and analysis on key periods in the history of public education in NSW. You won't actually find this easily via Google search.

All that is required to make it more accessible is a new post with the right heading linked back to the original material.

My own writing in 2010

My first post New England's History - blog objectives was posted in November 2006, just over four year's ago. Much has changed since then.

When I began, the broader New England has largely vanished from public view.

This was partially due to changes in taste that meant that area and country history outside the purely local had largely vanished, replaced by popular themes. The big wave in research and writing triggered by the establishment of the New England University College in 1938 peaked in the early 1980s, in some cases such as the Aborigines earlier, and then went into abrupt decline.  By 2006, entire slabs of Australian history and historiography had vanished from view.

There were lonely voices, UNE's John Ryan comes to mind, that kept the faith. But my statement is, I think, still true. For that reason, my first work was simply trying to lay a base, to recover.

To a degree, and I make no apologies for this, I am a historical populariser. I want people to be interested in the history that I am interested in.

In December 2008 I wrote my first column for the Armidale Express. Quite a bit of that column has been devoted to local and New England history, again something that I must pull together to make it more accessible.

Christian Knight, my editor, tells me that the column appeals most to an older demographic and especially those with local connections - Armidale has a highly mobile population.

I am sure that Christian is correct. The audiences at the history seminar papers I have delivered in Armidale are all older, one of the few audiences where I am actually younger than the average, dating from the peak period when country, New England and regional history was main stream. Yet there is, I think, a change.

One theme in my general writing this year has been the history of the attempts to gain self-government for New England. This writing has been a response to the re-emergence of interest in New England self-government. That's a change.

A second theme in my writing has been the history of Aboriginal New England. This was there before, but has become more focused. I find that there is a deep need among Aboriginal people to know more of their past. Not the generalised past so often presented, but the very specific past that relates to them. Too often, this is lost in the broader discussion.

I am not sure that I would classify this as a change - the need was there before. However, it has become more clearly focused in my mind.

The biggest change this year has been much greater feed back on my work.

When I began at the end of 2006 I wrote alone. Slowly, I began to get responses. This year it has reached the point that I no longer feel alone.

There are many people that I could mention. However, I will take just one example, Michael O'Rourke.

Back in September 2009 I spoke of Michael in Train Reading - Michael O'Rourke brings the Kamilaroi to life. Michael has been an inspiration. The depth of his work, his generosity to me, inspires me.

2010 was the year in which my writing went structured. Structure was always there, but I became more focused.

During the first part of the year I worked along two main  themes.

The first was the Aborigines, leading to the paper I delivered in Armidale in July on New England's Aboriginal languages. I hope that this will be published this year.

I am no longer worried about saying something new and interesting on Aboriginal New England. I think that you will find something new and interesting, a picture never before written. I am worried about my ability to do the topic proper justice. Here I have come to the view that it is better to present something that is interesting, if imperfect, rather than aiming for anything approaching perfection.

I need responses, for responses drive further work.

The second theme was the study itself, something that I spoke about in my March seminar paper, Unrecognised and now almost unknown: explorations through the history of the broader New England[1]. 

From July, my focus shifted to new issues, and especially my concern with social change in New England over the second half of the twentieth century. Here, too, I want to say something new and believe I can. New England was at the cutting edge of the changes that took place, yet this is barely recognised.

I will be presenting my final results here at a another seminar paper in Armidale in April. Yet already I am impatient to move on, to start on the next building block I need for my general history. After all, I had wanted to finish a first draft of the book in April 2010. Now I am well behind schedule.

My fellow History bloggers

I do not pretend to follow all history blogs. There are just too many! But to those I do follow, you constantly deepen my knowledge. I value you.

May 2011 be a good year for all of us!                 

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