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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