On Monday we heard from the lovely Bernice Barry author of Georgiana Molloy: the mind that shines, if you missed it do go here and have a look.
These are Bernice Barry’s top 3 tips for the amateur historian:
1. Keep a note of everything
Keep a note of everything, a passing record of sources. It doesn’t take a moment to put a scribbled list of document names into an ‘Old Stuff’ folder for safekeeping or to copy and paste a link from your browser into the notes you’re making for a particular chapter. Years later, a name or a place might finally surface in your research and you’ll realise you’ve seen it before, somewhere…
2. Retrace your steps occasionally
Retrace your steps occasionally. As you learn more, your knowledge of the subject or topic widens and deepens. At first, you’re sort of skating the surface of information, top level facts, but as time passes the small details and secondary characters become more relevant and interesting.
Digging deeper where you’ve already dug once before often reveals new things that you wouldn’t have recognised the first time around.
Even now, I sometimes re-read documents or online links I first saved twelve years ago and I notice something new just because I know so much more today than I did then. And more old sources are being digitised all the time so a repeat of an old search today can sometimes bring up information that wasn’t available online even a few months ago.
3. Spread your net wide
Spread your net wide. The key information you gather about what happened and when and where is the spine of a story but I think it’s the accumulated effect of tiny background details that fuels your own empathy with the people you’re writing about.
Reading contemporary texts gives you a feel for the sentence structures and vocabulary of the time, and adverts in newspapers tell you so much about people’s lives – what they desired, feared, laughed at and what they bought and used in their homes.
Find as much as you can that was written at the time and in the region you’re researching and read, read, read. Authentic images and words will find their way early into your writing in a more natural way than trying to inject background research later when you redraft.
This book is a must-read for anyone interested in Georgiana Molloy, the early settlement of Australia, the history of botany or for those who enjoy a good historical biography told with warmth and understanding.
- To buy her book Georgiana Molloy: the mind that shines, go here.
- To read more about Bernice Barry and her work visit her website: www.bernicebarry.com
- Or connect with her on Twitter: @MrsBlunderstone
Bernice Barry’s top on-line resources.
If you are doing historical research, especially for the UK and Australia try…
Thank you again, Bernice for sharing your experience in writing and researching Georgian Malloy: the mind that shines.