Saturday, March 18, 2017

True Girt: the unauthorised history of Australia - volume 2

The sequel to Girt: the unauthorised history of Australia by David Hunt has arrived providing readers with another chance to explore the alternative history of our country. This time topics examined include the European settlement of Tasmania, New South Wales after Macquarie (briefly), European settlement of Victoria, gold, bushrangers, explorers and the treatment of Aborigines.

David Hunt continues his irreverent investigation of events in Australian history with copious footnotes often referring to possibly parallel recent events. Like the first volume the book provides a usually humorous interpretation of history though some of the incidents described, particularly the treatment of indigenous Australians, may make the reader feel uncomfortable. However other sections make entertaining reading and may encourage readers to explore Australian history more thoroughly.

The Australian reviewed this book in November.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Botany Bay: the real story

In 2011 Alan Frost published his book, Botany Bay: the real story, based on a thirty-five year study of original documents relating to the establishment of a colony in New South Wales. In his research he discovered records that had not been explored thoroughly by other historians and consequently some of his findings differ from previous research.

The first two chapters are about crime and punishment in eighteenth century England. Dealing with convict problems via the use of hulks and enlistment 1776-1783 is followed by chapters on proposals to reintroduce transportation to a number of countries in various parts of the world. One chapter looks at the possibility of forthcoming war while another chapter examines investment and return resulting from having an overseas convict colony. In the final chapters Alan Frost examines the arguments made leading to the final decision of Botany Bay as the site for a convict colony including:

Botany Bay had been recommended by James Cook and Joseph Banks and Pitt respected their judgement.
This was not a hasty decision as it had taken seven years to develop between 1779 and 1786.
Sending the First Fleet was an expensive way of relocating convicts but it became more cost efficient by the time of the Third Fleet.
The new colony would be suitable for providing supplies for the navy, especially timber and flax from Norfolk Island.
There was a need to establish a colony in the region before the French did.

This book is useful for the information it provides on the background for the implementation of transportation to New South Wales.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The art of time travel: historians and their craft

In this work Tom Griffiths studies the work of fourteen historians who present different perspectives of Australian history. Beginning with the work of Eleanor Dark in her book, The timeless land, he moves on to the work of Keith Hancock, John Mulvaney, Geoffrey Blainey, Judith Wright, Greg Dening, Henry Reynolds, Eric Rolls, Stephen Murray-Smith, Donna Merwick, Graeme Davison, Inga Clendinnen, Grace Karskens and Mike Smith. As seen by this list 'historian' in this book is not just interpreted as an historian working in a university but can also be someone portraying history through literature or art.

The chapters are not necessarily confined to the person listed in the chapter title. The chapter, History and fiction: Inga Clendinnen, for example, includes several pages of discussion on the work of Kate Grenville, especially her books, The secret river and The making of the secret river. Tom Griffiths provides an interesting study of how writers have interpreted the past in Australia's story.

Writing family history

A number of books have been published about writing family history, a topic becoming increasingly popular with older Australians. Two titles I have recently looked at include Writing family history made very easy: a beginner's guide by Noeline Kyle and Writing your family history: a guide for family historians by Gill Blanchard.

Chapters in Noeline Kyle's book include Becoming a writer, Research and writing go together, Who are you writing for? Asking questions and finding ideas, Characters, Nostalgia, Historical context is what? as well as chapters on publishing your work. This Australian book provides useful clues to writing and publishing your family story. The section on publishing concentrates on producing a print publication which is probably not surprising as the text was completed in 2006. It is still, however a useful guide with ideas to consider when writing a family history.

British author, Gill Blanchard, published her book in December 2014. Chapters include Who, what, where, when, why and how, What kind of ancestral story, When to stop researching, Developing writing skills, Make it interesting - 'bringing the past to life', The nitty-gritty - from editing, proofreading and acknowledgements to copyright and Publishing. Useful tips and exercises are included in each chapter making this a practical step-by-step guide which is easy to follow. The section on publishing includes publishing online as well as publishing in book form. 

Both of these authors have published family histories as well as other material on writing family history. A Google search provides additional information about the authors and their publications.
I also found this link to lecture notes by Noeline Kyle on the topic.

Minding her own business

In 2015 Catherine Bishop's book, Minding her own business: Colonial businesswomen in Sydney, was published. In this work the author attempts to dismiss the theory that women were only background figures in Colonial Sydney with activities confined to minding the home and family. In fact, she has discovered that women ran many of the businesses in the colony, although this has become lost in history.

Women in business in Colonial Australia should not be a surprise. By just looking through lists of colonial publican licensees it is apparent that many publicans were female. Catherine Bishop looks at many businesses in early Sydney which were run and usually owned by women. Sometimes they worked in partnership with their husbands but often the businesses were run by females, sometimes for several generations. Creating fashionable clothes for the ladies of the colony was one industry where women excelled. However women also ran schools for girls, some ran boarding houses while some worked in retail and the food industry. Women were also entertainers and writers.

Sometimes women were forced to work to support their family when their husband died or if his business failed. It was not unusual for women to run their own business independent of their husband's business interests. However there are also cases of women taking over the family business after the death of their husband. The new colony had provided the opportunity for economic independence for a number of women.

Over time, however, the achievements of these women have been forgotten. Catherine Bishop 's study attempts to rectify this situation.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Vikings: raids.culture.legacy

For several years now SBS has been screening the television series, Vikings. Before screening the second part of series 4, SBS ran a series of documentaries about the lives of the Vikings demonstating the general interest in this topic. Marjolein Stern and Roderick Dale published the book, The Viking Experience, in 2014 (Carlton Books). In 2016 the book was republished by Hardie Grant Books as an SBS book.

The contents covered in the book include the origins of the Scandinavian nation, exploration, raiding and trading, settlement abroad, everyday life, the end of the Viking age and the Viking legacy. Both the authors have specialised in the history of the Viking age while Roderick Dale is also an anthropologist. The many illustrations in this book, together with the text, provide the reader with an understanding of how the peoples, now referred to as the Vikings,  really lived.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Wandering Whitehorse Road

In this book Marc Fiddian describes Whitehorse Road from the commencement of the road in Camberwell to its terminus in Healesville. In reality the road is only known as Whitehorse Road when it progresses through the suburbs that now form the City of Whitehorse. For much the time the road is called Maroondah Highway.

Throughout the book the author provides snippets of information about the history of the area through which he road winds.