Monday, April 06, 2009

Train Reading - Elizabeth Wiedemanns' "World of its own: Inverell's early years"

My train reading has now shifted to Elizabeth Wiedemann's World of its own: Inverell's early years (Inverell Shire Council and Devill Publicity, Inverell 1981).

Inverell Court House For my many readers who do not know Inverell, the town lies in New England on the Western Slopes just over 800k (eight hours driving time) north west of Sydney.

The photo shows the Inverell Court House completed in 1886.

I hadn't read this book for many years. I bought it after first meeting Elizabeth. We were both doing post-graduate history at the University of New England.

This is a good history, one that I will write about about in more detail later. However, it also brings out a problem with local histories.

Elizabeth was writing for a local audience. She is a good historian, so the book contains a lot of interest even for a reader who does not know Inverell. Yet her focus makes the book less accessible to a broader audience.

This raises an issue that I am really conscious of just at present. How do I, as someone interested in the history of a region, make that history real and relevant to a person who does not know the area?

Let me try to illustrate with a quote from a diary entry, 23 March 1839:

One of McIntyre's men was killed by the blacks ... he was much bruised and cut.

He was probably killed by a war spear or spears, although he might have been hacked to death.

War spears took several forms but were designed to kill. In one form, microliths (sharp stone flakes) were embedded side-on along the head. They would rip the flesh as the head of the spear was pulled out.

In one reported case, the victim was found with no less than ten spears embedded in the body. Sort of a spear pin-cushion.

See what I mean? These comments were written from a settler perspective. The Aborigines would obviously have had a different perspective.

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