Equipping Myself for a Day in the Archives

Equipment I take into the archive

My archive kit.

Many people engage in historical research – family historians, local historians, authors, academic historians etc.  For all of us, the opportunities for visiting an archive can be fleeting and the cost in terms of time, travel, accommodation etc can be high.  Thorough preparation for a trip to the archives is the foundation for a fruitful day fossicking through historical records.

The photograph above shows the equipment I typically take with me into the archive.  This equipment helps me to abide by my ‘archival principles’:

  1. Save time;
  2. Minimise cost;
  3. Maximise quality and quantity of work;
  4. Backup, Backup, Backup! Continue reading

Blog Header – The People

The header for this blog reflects my view of history.  It reflects a world where people communicated and travelled beyond their national borders. I am attracted to the perspectives offered by ‘transnational history’ which challenges the traditional nationalist histories of the past.  Historians who take a transnational view understand that people, ideas and goods travelled extensively beyond national borders.  These transnational connections were already extensive by the time we noticed them in the late twentieth century and started talking about globalisation.  People have always been curious about what lay beyond their home and sought to understand the ideas and exchange the goods of others.

The Silk Road is a good example of interaction between peoples.  The European empires that emerged after the travels of Columbus are another obvious example albeit in the case of many indigenous peoples, an exchange forced upon them with devastating consequences.  The lives of the people in the header of my blog were significantly affected by people who lived beyond Britain’s shores.

John Cornelius Woolward

John Cornelius Woolward d. 1836

The first person that I would like you to meet is John Cornelius Woolward.  You can only see the bottom part of this silhouette in the header (at the top above the ‘s’ and ‘t’ at the end of the blog title).  In 1798 he fought in the Battle of the Nile at Aboukir Bay, a significant battle where Nelson routed the French fleet.  John Cornelius suffered a significant hearing loss from this battle.  He then became the harbourmaster at Ramsgate, England.  He served in this position for 26 years.  His interaction with the world outside Britain was through conflict.  As far as I am aware, opportunities for him to interact with people from other parts of the world outside battle were very limited.

Studio photo of Matilda Woolward seated, holding a book

Matilda Woolward d. 1907

The next person was the wife of the son of John Cornelius, Matilda (nee Barrett).  She married in 1845 on the island of Guernsey.  Her husband worked for the coastguard and I assume had been transferred from Kent to Guernsey as part of the service’s policy of transferring their employees in a bid to prevent collusion with smugglers.  Continue reading

The Ideal Place for Writing


A bed strewn with folders, books, papers, laptop and one leg

The best place to write - on my bed.


The latest post from Justin Bengry on History Compass Exchanges has got me thinking about my ideal writing environment.  Justin prefers writing in his apartment to the office and frankly I agree with him that writing under a fluorescent light is very uninspiring.

My ideal writing environment is our queen size bed.  I have found that it  is the perfect place to spread my folders, books and articles and sit all day writing on my  laptop.  Yes I do have a desk, two actually, but I have always preferred to work on the floor, on a bed or a couch.  There is nothing like being in a sea of articles and books, with the my legs up, back slightly reclined against a pillow or cushiony sofa in a sunny room.  This enables me to get me into that relaxed but focussed zone where words and ideas swish around ready to be caught and strung together.

While writing is something that is a solitary process, for many of us it is a solitary process that has to be conducted in a place we share with others.  The bed may be the ideal setup for me, but it is not so ideal for Hubble – my other half.  Over the last few months he has found that he cannot go to bed earlier than 10:30pm, sometimes later.  At least I don’t use the bed for all-night writing efforts.  I have also been patient if Hubble decides to sleep longer in the mornings.  Hubble’s body clock is not always synchronised with my writing schedule, but over the months we have been able to work a satisfactory solution.  And most importantly Hubble has been wonderfully patient with my rather odd writing habits. Continue reading


Lotus Temple - Delhi

Baha'i House of Worship - New Delhi

Tuesday 5th October was a significant day.  I handed in my honours thesis and my mother had her seventieth birthday.  Both of us were very busy on the day but we managed to talk to each other on the phone.  Technology helps to minimise the 700 odd kilometres that lie between us.

I have not written any posts in the last month because I needed to minimise distractions.  However, now I have finished I have loads of time to reflect on the last four years.  Given that I now have time to watch the Commonwealth Games, my thoughts have turned to Delhi. Continue reading