Stumbling Through the Past in 2012

Seals on rocks

Seals enjoying some end of 2012 warmth on Bruny Island, Tasmania.

This has been a busy year for Stumbling Through the Past.  My policy is to only write when I feel that I have something to share rather than sticking to a regimented timetable.  This year I have been inspired more times than in previous years to record my thoughts, writing thirty three posts in 2012.

I have introduced three new elements to Stumbling Through the Past this year. At the beginning of the year I followed the prolific twitter stream generated by attendees at the American Historical Association conference from my home in Sydney. At the end of the conference I wrote about my experience in the post, Nearly There: Experiencing a Conference Online.  I was chuffed that the American Historical Association included a link to it in one of their regular What We’re Reading This Week posts.  It bounced around twitter among historians and was then picked up by tweeps interested in public health.  Twitter certainly facilitates lateral thinking!

Blogging about and from conferences was one of three new elements I introduced into this blog during 2012. After experiencing a conference online I wanted to try live tweeting of conferences I attended.  The opportunity came up in Adelaide when a number of historians live tweeted the Australian Historical Association conference.  Tweeting only allows for brief observations and tweets are generally only read by people who use twitter themselves.  I wanted to share what I had learned at the conference in more depth and to a broader audience.  The obvious approach was to blog it.  I set myself a demanding schedule of attending as many conference sessions as I could and then coming writing about it for this blog into the wee hours of the morning. The tweets helped me to write these posts as I could draw on the observations of other people.  You can browse my series of posts here.

The Religious History Association’s conference was held at the same venue at the same time so I blogged and tweeted some of these sessions as well. I was pleased that the Religious History Association shared my reports of their conference on their website.

More recently I blogged about the Buildings, Books & Blackboards conference held earlier this month in Melbourne.  Work, Christmas and a couple of other posts interrupted this series.  I will share an interesting discussion about World War I sometime in the new year.

The second relatively new initiative I tried on my blog this year was to write more book reviews.  I had written a couple before but I saw them as only a minor element in my blog.  The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge changed my attitude to that. This challenge has helped me to understand the importance of reviewing history books by all historians, not just those written by women.  Australian historians are renowned internationally, particularly for their work on indigenous/settler relations.  Many of the books written by Australian historians are very readable but are not as widely read by the general public as they deserve.  A list of the books I have reviewed can be found here.  You can also find me on Good Reads.  There will be more reviewing and history book talk on this blog next year.

Through this blog I hope that readers will learn more about how historians work as well as hearing about the books that they have written. What better way to do this than to share my own work experience on a major project? The third major initiative on this blog during 2012 was a series of posts about the Teaching Reading in Australia project.  I have worked as a research assistant on this project for the last few years but had not blogged about it. Our team focussed on the teaching of reading to young children from the first settlement of Europeans in Australia until the outbreak of World War II.

This year we finalised the archival research and launched the Teaching Reading in Australia website.  On Stumbling Through the Past I have added a new page which summarises the project.  I have also written a series of blog posts about our research and I have started writing about the best archives in south-east Australia for education history.  I plan to write more posts about this work, particularly about some of the wonderful archives I have had the fortune to work with.

Yet in the end Stumbling Through the Past could not be what it has become without the encouragement of you, the reader.  You have all contributed, whether you silently read the blog, subscribed to it, favourited a post, retweeted one or written a comment.  The biggest threat to a thought or idea is a lack of response to it by others.  Your interaction with this blog keeps it alive. Thankyou!

Now it is over to you.  What would you like to see in this blog over the coming months?  What do you think of the state of history blogging generally? What could be improved on this blog and/or in history blogging generally?

5 thoughts on “Stumbling Through the Past in 2012

  1. Well it’s no good asking me because I’ve loved everything I’ve read on this blog, for me it’s like the History 101 that I (foolishly) never studied. I liked the considered opinions I’ve read about various issues explored at conferences I could never get to, I like the historian’s perspective in reviews both on histories I’ve read and those I haven’t, and I liked learning about how historians work especially in those tricky areas of voices which were silenced by the circumstances of the time. The rate of posting suits me just fine as well. Like expensive chocolate, your blog posts are worth waiting for!
    Happy new year, looking forward to seeing you soon in Melbourne:) Lisa


  2. My only comment is I’d like to see more posts as I too have enjoyed hearing from you this year BUT of course I’m happy with whatever you feel you can manage or are inspired to do. I only did two history courses at university (and one of those was a history of Israel in biblical times about which I remember little) so I’m not much ahead of Lisa in my knowledge of history. BUT I like to read well written history and so am interested in anything you write on the process of writing or researching, and of course in your reviews of histories.

    Great wrap-up, btw.


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