How to Do Local History

How to Do Local History

Description A guide for historians and clients.
Author Gavin McLean
Publisher Otago Univerity Press
RRP $24.95
GT Issue 2007 T2
Reviewer Gwen Gawith

Gavin Mclean is senior historian at the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, and clearly knows his stuff. As the author of several local histories he is also extremely well versed in both Internet and conventional publishing. This book is particularly useful for starting at the beginning and going right through from getting the idea, researching and writing, to publishing and marketing the finished work.

Dividing local history into types (chronological, thematic, ‘slice’ illustrated, essays) and suggesting aspects to be covered (for example, environment, community, culture and recreation, education, local economy/ work, domestic/ family life, religion/ belief systems, transport and technology) makes it easy to focus student research.

Any of our commonly used research frameworks such as Action Learning or DART would integrate well with his research hints. There’s also an excellent chapter on resources for research, including archives, museums, library resources and online help and how to use these resources. I found the section on oral history particularly helpful.

The chapter on writing covers things like endnotes and footnotes, quotations and captions. The advice on structure and style would apply to any report or essay writing.

The chapter on publishing and marketing would be invaluable if a school were to consider researching and publishing a local history (or even the history of the school itself) as a fundraising project.

Level and language-wise it’s clear and interesting – highly recommended for all teachers. It provides valuable help for primary teachers whose students are doing local or oral history work. Secondary schools should also consider buying copies for senior students.

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