Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Emotions and historical research

As an academic I was never able to immerse myself in a project unless I had some emotional connection to it. The most painful and difficult research done and papers written, were those that were purely functional. This project is anything but functional. It is about discovering more about the history of a place that has become home and a landscape that I love. It is about other loves such as research, writing and thinking. It is about imagination – gathering together enough information to be able to get into the heads of my characters. It is about giving something to my children. Not just a book that they can read but also an awareness of the past.

My immersion seems successful. I find myself viewing the landscape differently. I wonder if I would have selected the property on which we live. I suspect not unless nothing else was available. It is rich in food for the soul (hills, trees, wind and sky) but it would be very difficult to farm because of its topography and lack of water. We are not economically dependant on the land, for which I am grateful.

In fact we are trying to reverse the efforts of those settlers by planting trees and not grazing the paddocks. Instead we slash occasionally or borrow a friend’s horse for a week if anything is needed.

I look at the valley flats and see that the farms there are much more successful. I wonder how much resentment there was over land and water. Today, frictions arise between neighbours over marauding cattle or strategically placed dams. This must have been the case then too. What did neighbours fight over in 19th century Prussia I wonder?

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