Sunday, June 28, 2009

Just back - and another book to complete!

The plane from LA was much delayed. We did not board until 2.50am. Helen got very worried when I did not return. There was another LA flight that did get in at the time of the the original LA flight, and she could not find out what had happened!

I am terribly tired, need a shower and a shave. But I also have another book to go, this one on the Pacific Belshaws. I will write properly when I am less exhausted. But I did try a few intro paras while away. For example:
This is the story of the Pacific Belshaws. Divided by time and space across
three continents and five countries and yet linked by genes and a common
ancestry forged in working class Lancashire of the 19th century, the striking
thing about the Belshaws is the way patterns have carried across

It's actually a very good story, but also one that is very hard to write.

My current boss recently described me as an egg-head. There is some truth in that because the Belshaws have been concerned with ideas. In this context, the story of the Belshaws is partially a story of the evolution of ideas, of thought, in four countries.

It is also an Empire and Commonwealth story. With the end of Empire, the previous unity has dissolved into a series of national stories. Yet the Empire was more than England or its other constituent parts. The Empire and Commonwealth was itself an entity, with its own linkages and ways of thinking.

I have just been reading a history of Canada. It's a very good book, but it suffers in the way that equivalent Australian works do because of its narrow national focus. Coming to it from an Australian perspective, I kept on wanting to ask where is your context?

Canadian history is very different from that of Australia or New Zealand. That said, there are very many commonalities. I felt that the book suffered badly because it it was so dominated by the relationship with the US on one side, the colonial authorities on the other, that other things were lost.

I will pick some of this up in another post.

A full list of posts in the visiting Vancouver series can be found here.


Hels said...

I love Canada and go there as often as I can. We share every thing, except the snow. But (white) Australian history seems to have been one of slowly moving away from colonial control by Britain towards Federation and, eventually, towards true independence. It may not have been linear, but it wasn't messy.

In Canada, I cannot follow the historical movements AT ALL. Just taking one tiny example, the Calvinist Huguenots from France.

a] the Huguenots settled in Acadia, but the Catholic church at home in France banned their religious practices, even in the diaspora. Clearly Acadia and Canada were viewed as separate entities.

b] Most Acadians (Catholics) seemed to get along well with the Indians, ignored the English colonial power and took their moral guidance from France.

c] The English wanted all French speakers expelled from Acadia. Conditions must have been horrific. But were the Francophone Huguenots expelled or just the Catholics in the 1750s?

d] Those who stayed in the USA eventually became a large portion of the American Francophone community. What happened to those who stayed in Canada or to those who returned to Canada?

e] How and when were the borders between New France, Acadia and Maine decided?

The relationships between French Protestant and Catholic Canadians with each other were difficult enough. Their relationships with the Indians, the British govern-ment, the French authorities and growing USA power leave me breathless.

Jim Belshaw said...

Good morning, Hel. While I knew highlights of the Canadian story, I had no idea myself of its complexity. I will try to pick some of this up whem I write.

Hels said...

I think I will add yet another element to make your jet lagged life a bit foggier :)

Naomi Griffiths in From Migrant to Acadian said "It helped that Samuel Vetch’s heritage was Lowland Scot and his ideas offered the possibility of another Scottish colony. Further the recent union of England and Scotland had sharpened Scottish interest in overseas expansion while, at the same time, making powerful representatives of Scottish interests in London well disposed to the idea of resurrecting Nova Scotia".

I can quite understand the Scots having separate interests from the English, but now we have to consider whether the Scots were: highlanders or lowlanders,
royals or parliamentarians,
stout Scottish Protestants or Jacobite supporters.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hels, Hels, Hels, you make my head spin! I will write on Acadia just for you!