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.

Evergreen Falls

The story of Evergreen Falls is set in two time periods - 1926 and 2014. The prologue describes a tragedy that occurred during the winter at Evergreen Falls, a hotel in the Blue Mountains. We are then introduced to a waitress working in a cafe in the same area eighty-eight years later. The hotel is undergoing renovations and when Lauren gains access to the old building she discovers a collection of letters and papers that start her journey investigating life in the hotel in the 1920s.

Lauren's investigations are encouraged by Tomas who works on the  renovation project. Who wrote the letters and what was really happening at Evergreen Falls? The flashbacks introduce the reader to events leading up to the tragedy described in the prologue. We also meet many of the staff working at the hotel as well as a number of the guests. In between we learn of Lauren's progress in identifying the people mentioned in the letters.

This is a story of the burden and freedom of love. Class is ever present in the 1926 section of the book, so are people allowed to form serious relationships outside their class? To what extent should family expectations affect the choice of a marriage partner. The demands of family is also a theme ever present in the 2014 section of the book for, as her investigations progress, Lauren also discovers family secrets about her own family which had been hidden from her.

Relationships are the key to this historical romance by Kimberley Freeman as she describes how one location changed the lives of several characters living in different time zones. I would have liked to have more in the book about Lauren and her discoveries but all in all I enjoyed reading this book.