Jim Belshaw’s new project

28 May

I was fascinated by Jim’s post today.

Yesterday morning I finished my target 300 words on the current book. This was written between the time I left the house and my arrival at Parramatta.

I was trying to think through the the impact of the arrival of Europeans on Aboriginal thought. To start getting my mind around this, I took the device of a young man of the Daingatti Aboriginal language group. This group occupied the Macleay Valley.

Sounds like a worthwhile exercise to me. I’d buy one…

The exercise in empathy is also producing a rethink. I can recall wandering around the city trying to visualise what it must have been like for my convict ancestor Jacob in 1821 to around 1840, as follower’s of Ninglun’s Specials may recall. It’s good to do. Except I wasn’t writing a book.


One response to “Jim Belshaw’s new project

  1. Jim Belshaw

    May 28, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Thanks for this, Neil.

    I am not sure that my own views have changed, although researching a subject in any genuine fashion will lead to changes over time.

    If you look at what I have argued over time, one theme has been the way that the Aborigines as people have become lost in causes. I want to tell the story in a new way based on the evidence.

    The better I am at doing this, perhaps the more (as with you and Jacob) my views will shift. Hopefully, other peoples will too, although we all take material selectively to support our positions.

    I tried to spell a little of my approach out when I did that post on a curriculum for New England history during the colonial period.

    Since then, my own knowledge has increased, as has my confidence that I can tell the story in new ways.

    Still focusing on the Aborigines, I suppose that the thing that is most exciting is the way in which I think that I can, however imperfectly, talk about the long pre-historic period bringing it through to the European arrival period where we have ethnohistorical data. Here i can talk about language groups as they were at the time, a little about friends and enemies and their views of the world. Not the Aborigines as abstracts or causes, the Aborigines as people.

    If i can do this properly so that people have a picture in their minds, then the disruption cause by European settlement will become clearer and more powerful. Further, when I talk about later Aboriginal history, I will be talking not about generalised concepts but about the way that specific already identified groups were affected. If I can do it really well, then readers will follow through the story of particular peoples.

    Coming home on the train today I was jotting down notes about the best way to present patterns. I suspect that maps and charts with dates are best. So much comes back to geography.

    I am in the middle of cooking tea, so I need to stop. I may continue our dialogue in a post, pointing in fact to one of your family posts that had a poweful influence on my thinking!


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