Pause, Reflect and Share… and a note to publishers

Peter Stanley standing on the, left, holding his book. I am standing on the right.

Peter Stanley and I at his book launch earlier this month.

Tomorrow I am driving to Canberra and will be in Melbourne at the end of the week. I am looking forward to researching at the State Library of Victoria and the Public Records Office of Victoria as well as catching up with family and friends. I have identified some key soldiers for my book and will be doing further research into the lives of a couple of the Victorian soldiers.

While World War I will be the focus of my book, I want to write about some of the experiences of the soldiers in their families and schools before the war as well as looking at their lives after the War. Soldiers brought the culture and learning they had received as children to war with them. The War stayed with them for the rest of their lives.

As you can imagine I am reading a lot of books about World War I. Most are well written but the one I am reading at the moment is infuriating because of the lack of referencing. I have done a bit of my own research to try to substantiate some of the author’s claims but cannot find proof of major claim about a statistic of the War. Humph! If a history is not properly referenced unfounded claims can be passed as truths. For all we know these books can be a mix of fiction and history, a member of the ‘faction’ genre.  Poorly referenced histories are not good sources. I have found another book on the topic which I am hoping is properly referenced.

Publishers – if you want your history books to be taken seriously then allow your authors to publish their fully referenced work! Why should we believe unsubstantiated claims?

As my then seventeen-year old daughter observed several years ago, footnotes (or endnotes) are ‘sneakily important’. Read that post for more about the problems of lack of referencing and the rise of ‘faction’.

I will step off my soap box now. Continue reading

Write it Down!

Western side of the library building with two large banners advertising the Treasures Gallery. Small deciduous trees with no leaves are in the foreground.

National Library of Australia at sunset. I took this as I dragged myself away from interesting research to have dinner one night this week.

At times research is like pulling teeth but then there are the wonderful times when you race through the work, doors open one after another revealing hints that suggest that you might be close to a big break through. Over the last few months my research has been humming along. In the couple of weeks it has been particularly fruitful. This week I have been pursuing some fascinating stories in Canberra at the Australian War Memorial and the National Library of Australia.

I am immersed in the thoughts of some of the most reflective men in the Australian Army during World War I through their diaries. While these soldiers are among the most forthcoming soldiers to wield a pen in the AIF (Australian Imperial Force), they often stop writing when I find the subject most interesting. Over the last few months I have been working with other sources to reveal more about those tantalising stories.

The beliefs of the soldiers of the AIF were cloaked by the larrikinism of some soldiers and derisive comments about army chaplains. Their letters and diaries are dominated by accounts of the work of war but every now and then there will be a sentence or two which sheds light on the complex beliefs of the soldier. Surrounded by death every day and charged with the task of killing others, some Australian soldiers pondered the great spiritual questions of life and death as well as the moral questions which a war inevitably brings. I am now searching in other archival sources to find out more about the comments soldiers made in their diaries. In particular I am researching the stories of soldiers who may not have left any writing for us to research today.

Continue reading

Some Exciting News!

Stick in sand with footsteps sunk in sandYou may have noticed that my blog posts have been sporadic of late. This is because my life has been in turmoil.

I am writing this on the day that I am leaving Australia for Singapore. Hubble has a great new IT job and I am very happy to move to a new place and new cultures while still doing what I do online. An international move is complicated enough but then an unexpected thing happened.

The paper I delivered to the Australian Historical Association conference in Brisbane was received very well. Unexpectedly I have now landed myself the task of writing a book.

This all happened in the last month we were to be in Australia. So in the midst getting rid of a heap of stuff from our house via Gumtree, visiting four states to catch up with family and deliver stuff and more, I have been working out how to manage the research and writing of an Australian history. Continue reading

Pause, Reflect and Share – September 2013

History week banners

History Week banners along Macqurie Street in Sydney.

The last month has been about doing what I do, but differently.  For the first time I have participated in the annual NSW History Week, participated in a panel discussion at a symposium and used programming to aid my historical research.

History Week had many great events both for historians and for the general public.  I attended six events in four days.  Over the last month I have written about some of these events such as the discussion held at the Australian National Maritime Museum about sharing historic photos online and the History Walk in North Sydney.  There are two other History Week events that I want to briefly share with you here, the History and Media Symposium and the NSW Premier’s History Awards. I will finish with a quick introduction to the uses of programming in historical research. Continue reading

Pause, Reflect and Share: Frenetic July!

Beach

The day after THATCamp #OzHA2013 I walked around the harbour near the centre of Wollongong. This beach is just a couple of minutes walk from the harbour. Wollongong has a population of around 200,000 people yet there is no-one to be seen on this beach.

In last month’s ‘Pause, Reflect and Share’ I warned of a ‘frantic July’ coming up.  That sounds like I was rather anxious about July, but I wasn’t.  A better word for it is ‘frenetic’.  It was madly busy, but fulfilling.  I have now been spat out on the other side of frenetic July giving me a chance to pause, reflect and share. Continue reading