The Hou Wang Temple on the outskirts of Atherton, Qld.
Through a gap in our back fence we could see the lone building in the middle of a paddock. Surrounded by grass it stood solidly and silently. The building received few visitors but we knew it was significant and deserving of care.
The building was a Chinese Temple and was all that remained of a vibrant Chinese settlement in the town of Atherton in Far North Queensland. When we were living there at the end of the century the sound of voices were rarely heard around the Temple.
The grass had grown long. Continue reading
My mother as a child with her family in the boat her father made – country Victoria at the end of WWII.
“The kernel of all history is family history.” I wrote that comment this morning in response to a thought-provoking post by Emeritus Professor David Carment about the importance of historians exploring and writing about their own family histories. The post picks up on a theme from a conference held in honour of highly regarded historian, Alan Atkinson.
Every one of us is part of a family. Hence all history in its essence is family history. Stumbling Through the Past is a history blog. It is also a family history blog. The blog header which I created when I started this blog back in August 2010 includes pictures of members of my family from the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It reflects the fact that it was the way my family retold and researched our own history which attracted me to further study of history. Continue reading
“If therefore, we are going to sin, we must sin quietly”. The British Attorney-General for Kenya, Eric Griffith-Jones wrote in June 1957 to the Governor of Kenya. In the letter the Attorney-General shared how the policy over the use of physical violence on imprisoned Kenyans was being altered so that the beatings would be ‘legal’. (‘Sins of colonialists lay concealed for decades in secret archive‘, 18/4/2012).
In my last post I described how the quest for compensation by a small group of now-elderly victims started a process which led to the discovery of over one million historic documents that were illegally hidden from the inquiring eyes of the public. Some of these documents provide evidence of horrible crimes perpetrated by British personnel against colonial subjects in the dying days of the British Empire.
This raises many issues. The issue that I want to explore here is what we can learn about the construction of archives from this issue. This has then led me to wonder why horrendous crimes can be ignored for so long. Continue reading
We all rely on archives. The moment that we first drew breath in this world is registered in an archive. Our education records, driving records, legal records, marriage and death are all recorded in an archive somewhere. We go about our lives assuming that vital information about our lives is automatically and adequately stored by our governments. We assume that important records about the workings of government and businesses are held. Our justice system depends on well-maintained archives and strong archival procedures.
Yet it doesn’t always work like that.
This particular story concerns the Mau Mau uprising in the British colony, Kenya during the 1950s.It is about a civil war, the messiest kind of war where right and wrong are obscured in viscious blood-letting that involves too many willing and unwilling participants. Very few people emerge from such wars without harbouring personal shame, bitter regrets and a sense of loss that lives with them for the rest of their lives. Continue reading
I’ve used the 2012 logo throughout 2013, so why not use it one more time?
During 2013 I participated in the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge. This Challenge encourages people to read and review books written by Australian women. It is a response to the lack of attention women writers receive from major reviewing publications both in Australia and elsewhere in the western world.
I like the fact that instead of whinging about yet another example of how women tend to suffer second-rate treatment, we can do something positive to bring attention to the extent and quality of women’s writing through this Challenge.
This year I challenged myself to the Franklin level – reading ten books by Australian women and reviewing six. These are the books I reviewed in 2013: Continue reading
The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright, (Text Publishing: Melbourne, 2013).
This book is bold. A bed-time story this ain’t. Its prose slaps you around the face to make sure you are paying attention. It is assertive and provocative. It sucks you into the time that was, on the Ballarat goldfields of the mid-nineteenth century.
The history of Victoria’s gold rushes and the Eureka Stockade is one of Australia’s well-worn foundational stories. Each year the story is told in school classrooms throughout Australia and children dutifully do their Gold Rush project with varying degrees of interest. Students are told about the flood of people from all over the world rushing to Australia to find gold. They learn about the crowded diggings, about the mass communities of tents which suddenly appeared only to be taken down in great haste when rumour told of a find of gold somewhere else. The lessons go on to tell the story of the miners’ grievances about the compulsory miners’ licence and their complaints about their treatment by authorities on the gold field. They culminate in the rebellion known as Eureka Stockade and the deaths of miners and soldiers after a raid on the Stockade by government forces.
This story could be interesting but the only memory I have of my grade five Gold Rush lessons is how deadly dull they were. One of my daughters didn’t see the point of the project at all. Yet to my surprise a few months ago the same child, now an adult, told me how much she enjoyed reading an academic article about the Gold Rush for her first year university history course. The article was by Clare Wright, the author of The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka. I was aware of the impending release of her book but the fact that Wright’s academic writing had excited a student who had a personal history of thorough disinterest in Gold Rush history made me eager to read the book.
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The State Library of New South Wales holds the diaries and letters of over five hundred people who served in World War I. Today they launched a new section of their website to make these more accessible to the public and to seek more information about the diarists from family members.
A few months ago I wrote some posts about this collection and added a page on this blog to help people find the transcriptions of the diaries on the State Library website. As I said at the time volunteers are still transcribing diaries. Currently the diaries of 238 people have been transcribed but this will increase until the transcription process is completed in the middle of 2014.
Today I have taken down the page on this site where I listed the diaries that had been transcribed as at the beginning of September. The State Library now has an easily searchable list which will be continually updated. This will be a more reliable source than my page.
I encourage you to explore the Library’s WWI commemoration pages. There is a wealth of material there. Here are some of what I think are the highlights of the website: Continue reading