Though there isn’t a set topic or required readings for this week, I have been thinking on the previous discussions and how I would apply this to my own interests and potential project proposals. I have found the prospect daunting for many of the reasons discussed in previous weeks readings. The potential to “bite off more than I can chew” with a broad topic or becoming so locked in with a theme that it loses relevance in the broader picture. last week’s contrasting between micro and macro history and the respective problems therein have inspired me somewhat to pursue a larger topic.

Particularly of interest the Linden reading on Labour History encourages me to think that it is possible to explore a large topic, in my case I am considering doing the history of freedom to information, in the form of encyclopaedias, Wikipedia, museums etc. My question remains on how to do this, and where to draw the parameters. Is it so broad that it is too ambitious to fit into 4000 words, even once condensed to a few key features? Would the focus on encyclopaedias be too Eurocentric? The element of selection in methodology and indeed topic itself is still a persisting challenge.

Andrade’s biographical approach was indeed a fascinating and enjoyable read and would provide a much-needed context to intention behind resources and ideas – eg the individuals who write Wikipedia articles and what motivates them. There is a series of interviews with a man behind thousands (mainly biographical articles ironically) who speaks about his mother living in Soviet Russia and what it meant to her to be able to access information without restriction.

I would deem this as transnational/global history, just given the nature of information and books and often the intention behind them. There is an example I learned of in my course last semester of a library on Minecraft that was made to help people in nations with heavy censorship access restricted and banned information and books. I think these examples build a fascinating image of access to knowledge and information especially beyond the nation, which often as a system seeks to limit it. The nation would still exist in the research, but insofar as the topic itself is not restricted to the barriers.  

Or perhaps a better approach would be to take one thing and explore the full reaches of that, much like Linden’s analogy of the tree branches spreading throughout history. For example, following the path of the encyclopaedia, both as concept and development throughout time. This would show the intentions behind it in both its origin, construction and continuation.

There will always be a concern that something important or interesting is being overlooked in any mode of exploration or methodology, but from the reading and discussion thus far it would appear that that is a side effect of transnational history and indeed what makes it so worthwhile. There is always another avenue to explore and another connection to be drawn.

Selective History

2 thoughts on “Selective History

  • February 23, 2021 at 7:30 am

    Hi Catriona!

    I think your idea is great! However, following Melinda’s advice on thinking narrow and then wide. I think your encyclopaedia route sounds great; however, I think your focus is still too broad. Maybe you could focus on one specific individual on the creation of Wikipedia, for example, and then talk about its transnational reach and how they helped provide education to different types of people across the world. You could look at how access to Wikipedia affected different races/class/genders, was it more or less useful to underprivileged communities?

    If you follow Andrade’s approach, I think the story of the man creating information for his mother living in the USSR is a great Segway into your essay. I just think the generality of exploring encyclopaedia’s transnational reach may be a bit too broad.

    Furthermore, I think Linden’s approach is also great because you can follow its reach globally or transnationally. However, maybe be more specific and choose either to follow it as a concept OR as a development throughout time. Personally, I think if you research the development of encyclopaedias throughout time, it would be far more interesting, especially if you link it to Wikipedia!

    So, for example, if you primarily focus on Wikipedia (and how schools use this source), your introduction or a part of your essay could be the history of encyclopaedia’s and how it developed over time and adapted to the digital age. From there, you can discuss how and why Wikipedia affected many communities across the world and how schools interpret the information presented. You can come up with an argument on Wikipedia’s usefulness (or uselessness) in teaching across underprivileged communities across the globe!

    Obviously, you don’t have to take these suggestions at all, but I love your idea so much and I really think this could be a great project!

    Hope this helps you even a little bit!

  • March 7, 2021 at 3:34 pm

    Hi Catriona, I have been reviewing past blogs and completely understand your mindset.

    The fear of “biting off more than one can chew” is definitely ever present and especially prevalent in mine and yours chosen topics. I think that your topic is very interesting and so it is 100% worth attempting to select more specific foci within the broader area.
    I know what you mean with regards to whether or not, even after such specialisations, it is possible to fit into 4000 words. What seemed like a big essay at the start of the year now seems like a crazily small number of words! I think the most appealing aspect of your project is that your topic selection is so apt that the question of straying from transnational history is not something that is on your mind.

    You clearly have begun looking for specific material within your subject, your mention of a library made on Minecraft that was made to help people in nations with heavy censorship access restricted and banned information and books shows the interesting features that your project has the ability to uncover! Your suggestion of taking ‘one thing’ and exploring that fully also has its appeals, but I believe that with careful selection, your project could use several specialised case studies that uncover the greater transnational framework at work. I share your concern that something exciting or interesting will be overlooked but I believe this is somewhat irrelevant, as long as everything that is included within your own project is interesting and contributes to your end goal. My final comment would be perhaps if you outline an overarching aim of your project, it may serve to assist you in the selection process.

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