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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Round the history blogs 13 - diet, independence & Brideshead Revisited

It is almost six months since I did my last history blog round-up! That's too long. For the moment, just a taste.

Over on History Today, The Best of History Today in 2011 provides free access to some of the best articles published over 2011. It's worth a browse.

They synopsis to The English Diet: Roast Beef and.... Salad? reads:

The English diet has been mythologised as one of roasted meats and few vegetables but, as Anita Guerrini concludes from a survey of early modern writings on the subject, the nation’s approach to food has been rather more complicated than that.

My first reaction was simply that theology had something to answer for. Then I thought, what's changed? Just substitute health for religion!

In Canada as in Australia, there is debate about the question when Canada became truly independent. In Constitutional meat in the blogs, Christopher Moore reports that:

Andrew Smith... is shocked and saddened by the lack of attention given in Canada to the 80th anniversary of the passage of the Statute of Westminster in 1931 as it "marked the effective end of Canada's subordination to Britain." 

... But Janet Ajzenstat, almost simultaneously, puts forth 1848 as the significant moment that "sever[ed] the colonies' formal connection with the mother country."  By that reading, the 1931 Statute would dwindle to a formality -- the Empire's belated recognition of what had transpired a century earlier.

I wonder how many Australians have even heard of the Statute of Westminster? I suspect that it - the question of independence - doesn't matter a great deal. It just evolved!

Over on the Resident Judge of Port Philip, Janine remembers Christmas' past in An Australian Christmas c.1963. I have written a little on this topic myself, for most Australians have similar types of memories. From an historians viewpoint, these types of memories are actually valuable raw material. I talked a little about this in Personal memories & the writing of history.

Over on my personal blog I have begun the process of digitising and publishing personal and family photos.This is partly self-indulgence, but history is never far from my writing. For those that are interested, I have created a new label, musings on photos past.

Belle's Casus Belle Époque is arguably not a history blog, but then again it is, at least in the way that I broadly define them. If you haven't yet come across Belle's blog, do have a browse. To my mind, this is a remarkably good blog.

Belle's most recent posts (here one, here two) review Brideshead Revisited.  I watched the original series while I was back studying in Armidale in 1982 and became addicted, although it started to lose me towards the end.

From my own perspective as a sometimes historian, I am interested in the relationships between novels, novelists and history. I have never really liked Evelyn Waugh, but to my mind his life does reflect changing aspects of English life.

Livius' The History Blog continues to provide interesting material. From a purely local viewpoint, the most recent post Australian museum buys 1 holey dollar for $130,000 provides a useful summary of an early element in Australia's economic history.

I have barely scratched the surface today, yet I am already out of time! Maybe another dose tomorrow. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Introducing Lismore's Greek community

My thanks to Mark Bellamy from  Clarence Valley Today for introducing me to this site, A Gourmet's Guide to Lismore & District (or how the Greeks colluded with Col Esterol to concoct the Richmond diet). A related site is Aliens of the Tweed & Brunswick - An account of the fun and games of the Indogreeketceteras in the cafes and banana plantations around Murwillumbah and Mullumbimby.

I am looking forward to a proper browse. At some stage I must pull together the limited material I have so far written and the links on New England's Greek community. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Personal memories & the writing of history

Over on the New England Australia blog, I wrote a short piece Remembering the Tamworth Boys Home and then followed it up with Wednesday Forum - memories of holiday's past. In this post I want to follow up with brief comments on linked historical and historiographical aspects.

Tamworth Boys Home

The Tamworth Boys Home was established under the 1939 Child Welfare Act. This was a Drummond Act. As I read the details of the story, I wondered how Drummond would have felt. I have written a number of pieces on child welfare, including Drummond's life as a ward of the state and then his experiences as  minister in this area. I will pull all this together at some point to provide a consolidated perspective.

I also wondered, and this is a hypothesis, about the relationship between the Tamworth Boys Home and social change. The regime there seems to have been much harsher than in previous juvenile institutions.

The war seems to have relaxed social conventions. When I was looking at the history of TAS (The Armidale School), the war years seem to have been something of a bear garden because all the boys expected to join the Army. I don't think that that was unique to TAS. Later, social order was re-established as society sought to achieve normality after the turmoil of war. I wonder whether this was linked to the apparent harshness at Tamworth. 

In a way all this is only a small sub-text in the history I am writing, but it is still interesting

Memories of holiday's past

One of the wonderful things I have found about blogging is the way that it attracts stories and personal reminisces. This provides personalised material that can be used to bring aspects of past life alive.

I have been conscious of this for some time, but I am now wondering how best to consolidate and use the material. My aim in the Wednesday Forum is to try to attract more!

More broadly, I find that personal memories become more important as my understanding of New England's history grows. By its nature, history is in part about broader patterns. But in this, history is still about people.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Too much Armidale, not enough other in New England history

Yesterday's post on New England Australia, Discovering a New England treasure trove, recorded my excitement at finding some of my boxes of New England books. I spent much of yesterday evening and a fair bit of this morning sorting them.

One of my general complaints about New England history as a field is the absence of material especially in recent decades as historiographical fancies took writers elsewhere. Yet New England is well served compared to many Australian areas outside the metros.

As I went through the hundreds of books, I came up with a new complaint, there is just too much Armidale and, to a lesser extent, Northern Tablelands in writing as compared to other areas.

New England historiography since the Second World War has been largely driven by the University of New England until very recently. The body of work, and this includes family and local histories, has been strongly affected by UNE people and their changing interests.

UNE was established to be the Sydney University of the North, to preserve and present the history and culture of the area. In many ways, it's done a bloody good job. From the Northern Rivers to the Upper Hunter, UNE people have written histories or trained and supported  those writing histories.

From the beginning, penetration in Newcastle and the Lower Hunter was weak, accurately reflecting the psychological disconnect between those areas and the rest of the North. As a consequence, historiography in Newcastle and the Lower Hunter was driven by other factors, with limited specific local or regional writing. Only recently has the University of Newcastle begun to take up the slack.

Elsewhere, the contraction of the sense of New England, of the North, after the 1967 plebiscite loss affected UNE historical research and writing. It was always going to be the case that Armidale and the Tablelands would have a greater focus because that was where the academics lived. However, as UNE's regional view narrowed, so did historical research and writing.

The practical effect was the creation of a research and publication bias that was not compensated for by anyone else. Now when I come to write and go to my shelves, I have a double barreled problem. Not only are there large geographic gaps, but the publications are geography biased.

Armidale is my family home and I love the Tablelands, but we do need more balance.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

New England's history reader interests November 2011

I have been neglecting this blog. It's not that I've lost interest. It's just that that there have been other pressures that have interfered with all my historical research and writing. stats Nov 11 2

The graphic shows visits (yellow) plus page views (yellow plus red) to this blog over the last twelve months. You can see how traffic increased, but the flattened as my posting dropped off.

In terms of reader interests, the most popular posts in November 2011 were: