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

Monday, April 25, 2011

How to manage the Wars in regional history

I am struggling to post here because of the pressures of my other writing. Today, just a brief post triggered by two other posts that I have written.

On my personal blog, ANZAC Day, national identity & the power of images is a general post on ANZAC Day. As always with my posts, I have tried to build in a little bit of history. Then at the other end of the spectrum on the New England, Australia blog, A New England family war story is a purely personal short piece on my own family's history.

From my viewpoint, these two posts raised a question in my mind: how best to handle global events and especially the First and Second World Wars in local or regional histories? I am not posing this as an especially complex question, simply the latest that I am considering.

The usual approach is to focus on the home front, the purely local reaction to the event. Sometimes that's okay, yet when you get an event like the wars that took so many people away, can you write a proper history without reflecting on their experiences?

I think that the answer's clearly no, but then you have a problem. How do you localise the event?

I found that when I was writing my biography of David Drummond's life up to 1942 I had to do a fair bit of research on both World Wars in order to define events and set a context. However, my focus on the man helped, because it determined what should be included.

New England is more complex, because now we are dealing with a much bigger area in geography and population. My feeling is that I need to identify and focus on those military forces that were especially recruited from Northern New South Wales. While I have some feel for the First World War, my overall knowledge is quite inadequate. I just don't know.

Something else to research. Sigh!             


Springwood Historians said...

Hi Jim, I share your plight. Springwood Historians (http://springwoodhistoriansblogspot.com) published 'Remembrance' a couple of years ago and it is difficult to know how to go about it. We took the men who were mentioned on the WW1 Honor Roll and researched them by looking at their service record and then placing them into the history of the area. However, our problem stemmed from a majority of them not being residents.........we couldn't even work out why some were even listed. Good luck and keep at it.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi there, SH. Nice blog. I have added it to my history blogs so that I can include it in my regular history blog round-ups!

Interestng case study, too.