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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ending a Never Ending Story

It was in 2007 or early 2008 that I set myself the target of completing my history of New England as soon as possible. If I could complete just 300 words per day, I told myself, I can have my first draft completed in a year. Now, five years later, I seem to have made little progress!

It's not that I haven't written a lot on New England history. I have, several hundred thousand words including my weekly Express column, two book chapters, three major seminar papers plus multiple blog posts.

It's not that my knowledge hasn't deepened. It has. It's deepening all the time to the point that I can genuinely claim to be an expert in knowledge terms. However, herein lies the first of my problems, my increasing knowledge of the gaps in my knowledge.

The history I am writing now is very different from that I would have written in 2008. The basic structure is the same, but the texture and depth is far greater. New topics have emerged, older ones shrunk in importance. The political dimension has shrunk, for example, although it retains its role as a basic framework. By contrast, economic, social and cultural topics have expanded.

Five years ago, for example, I wondered whether we could speak of a New England literary tradition despite the many books written by New Englanders or about New England. Now I know that there is not just one but several New England literary traditions. Unseen, they still exert influence. They are a story in themselves.

Five years ago I considered that the history was important to provide a picture to New Englanders of their own history and life. Based on feedback through comments and emails as well as discussion, I am convinced that this is even more important than I realised, especially for New England's Aboriginal peoples who often lack access to basic details about their past.

I am not good at setting targets. More precisely, at personal level I set many that I then fail to achieve. I get distracted. Still, I have set 2014 as the year of the book, My aim is to have a full draft completed by year's end. This time, and like my weekly column, I will write to time and not to perfection. After all, once its done I can get on with other things, including bringing out a second edition if that seems sensible.

The book is broken into three parts, Aboriginal New England, Colonial New England, New England in the Twentieth  Century. I will allocate three months to each section, leaving three months for introduction, follow up and polishing.

Do I have the discipline to stick to this in the face of other pressures? We will see. I'm not sure. But to impose an external public discipline, I will report progress here.     

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