Pause, Reflect and Share on Book Giveaway Entries

The 200th post book giveaway has been run and won. Congratulations to the winners James, Jo, Robyn and Helen! Thank you to everyone for your entries and a big thank you to the publishers – Magabala Books, NewSouth Press, Text Publishing and UQP Books for supporting the competition. These and many other publishers are great supporters of historical writing in Australia.

As a requirement of entry for the book giveaway, readers were asked to answer one of three questions. This blog is made all the better because of feedback from readers via comments, but here was a chance for me to get some specific feedback and ideas from you. I appreciate the thoughtful responses you gave. Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing some posts in response to this feedback, but I can quickly respond to some comments in this post. Continue reading

Book Give Away to Celebrate 200 Posts!

I am celebrating my 200th post on Stumbling Through the Past and five years of blogging. As I said in my last post, the readers of this blog have contributed to these milestones through your comments and encouragement over the years. I

I deeply appreciate of all the support you have shown over the years. To say thank you to you I am giving you the chance to win one of my favourite Australian history books that I have reviewed over the last few years. It was hard to choose and there were many more worthy books I could have chosen. I chose these because they are beautifully written, deeply researched and for one reason or another have had quite an impact on my life.  This is a celebration of Australian writing and publishing. Continue reading

200 Posts and Five Years of Blogging!

DSC_6271My last post was my 200th post on this blog. Wow! This milestone crept up on me, as did the fifth anniversary of this blog last August but now it is definitely time to reflect on these milestones.

Some posts have stood out for me. Sometimes I finish a post knowing that the writing is particularly strong. Generally this is when I have been particularly moved by the subject matter, whether it was a well-written book or an episode of history which has stuck an emotional chord within me.

It is the humble archive that has been the source of much of many of my posts. Archives are a crucial bulwark of human rights. The story over the last five years which demonstrated this with crystal clarity was the case of four elderly Kenyans who sued the British government for human rights abuses during the Mau Mau uprising of the 1950s. For years the British government had denied their complaints and told historians and lawyers that no relevant documents existed about this issue. But the Kenyan’s legal team pushed and as I explained in ‘Archives are important, very important’, millions of colonial documents were found to have been illegally hidden from public view.

‘If… we are going to sin, we must sin quietly’, wrote the British Attorney-General to the Kenyan colonial authorities. This was the title of my second post about the issue in which I explored the troubling question of how such horrific crimes could have been ignored for so long. If you only have limited time to read this blog this is the one post I would like you to read. It demonstrates why historians and archivists are vital professions for any society professing to uphold human rights and democratic values, but it also shows how flawed archives can be and how historians sometimes fall short in their over-reliance on government archives. This post also seeks to understand why so many people do nothing when people in authority commit crime as part of their job. Continue reading

Launching ‘Stumbling Through History Links’

Elm CStumbling Through History Links is a new page on this blog with over one hundred links to useful Australian history resources. I hope that these will assist you with whatever historical research you are doing, whether you are researching family history or local history, school or academic work. Nearly all the resources listed are free to anyone with an internet connection.

These links used to appear on the right-hand-side of my blog but your responses to my last post were clear. Those who commented said that the links were valuable but most people had not noticed them.  Even when I drew attention to them in my last post, some still found them hard to find. Fair enough. Even I was not using these resources enough.

Over the last day I have copied all the links into the page. By categorising them by topic and by region some gaps became evident. I have added some new links to resources which I have found useful in my research over the years. Continue reading

Australian History Links on Stumbling Through the Past

I have been writing Stumbling Through the Past for over five years now. When I started this blog I thought that the right hand side column would be a great place for me to stow links to websites, libraries and archives that I have found useful in my research. I usually just add one or two links at a time, then move on with other things. This week I needed to go back over old work so I looked through the links.

I was surprised at what a useful Australian history resource I have gradually amassed. However, it is rather hidden on my blog as you have to scroll down to find it and look at the column. I wondered if anyone uses it, or whether I should place it elsewhere on my blog.

Australia’s Media History

Book cover

Bridget Griffen-Foley, ed. A Companion to the Australian Media, (North Melbourne, Vic: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2014).

While pondering these questions I added nine new links. These links are for websites and archives about Australian business and media history. Many of these links have been plumbed from the wonderful Australian Media History Database. This website and the Media Archives Project are provided by Macquarie University’s Centre for Media History. The Centre’s director, Professor Bridget Griffen-Foley has also edited an invaluable encyclopaedia on Australia’s media history. This week I consulted A Companion to the Australian Media while researching at the State Library of Victoria. It is the first place to go to when embarking on research into any aspect of Australia’s media history. I am also impressed by the work the Centre’s Media Archives Project has done to identify important records in Australia’s media history and work to ensure that these collections are secured for researchers to access in perpetuity.

The web resources of the Centre for Media History are extensive. While writing this I found the Centre’s Colonial Australian Literary Journalism website which currently covers literary journalism in Australia from the first European settlement until Federation (1901).

The internet is built by links. It is a collaborative exercise built on an ethos of generosity. Everyone benefits the more they share their own work and that of others. The Centre for Media History is just one of thousands of organisations and historians online who understand this.

(While writing this I digressed and added another link which I should have added a while ago. Check out Jennifer McLaren’s history blog) Continue reading

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. Continue reading

The Desk

Old wooden desk

My great-grandfather's desk,

My mother gave me my great-grandfather’s writing desk.  It had stood for many years in my grandmother’s spare bedroom.  I recall her sitting at it doing her bills.  But mostly it rested in the corner, its compact form locking away those personal details which were not my concern.

The story of the desk when my great-grandfather owned it is hazy.  Perhaps it used to sit in their music room with the piano and small organ?  My mother, who was about ten when he died, recalls a table in this room with the horns of a Jersey bull and some Aboriginal tools that might have been found on their farm, near Camperdown in Victoria.  The blotches of ink on the writing surface show it was used but reveal nothing more.

What is this desk?  Its type goes by different names – a bureau, a slant top desk or a drop front desk.  When not in use the hinged writing surface is lifted up and locked in place.  It fits snugly in our bedroom and is the perfect accompaniment to my favourite writing place – our bed.  The desk is a place where early 20th century meets early 21st century.  Adding references to Endnote is not something to be done on a bed.  For this I sit at my desk with the references scattered on the floor around me. It is the place where my laptop resides. Continue reading