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

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