On the 6th of March I learnt I’d been awarded a four-week fellowship by the Huntington Library in California to research the Black family papers. I immediately began planning a four-week stay in Pasadena in April 2021… but it soon became clear that Covid19 would prevent me travelling for some time. Happily, the Huntington has allowed fellowships to be deferred to the next academic year, so I hope to visit in late 2021. As well as the fabulous research opportunity and the amazing surroundings, I am so looking forward to the luxury of being an historian for a whole month with no interruptions.
I’m currently working on a book proposal based on my PhD thesis. There are some avenues of research that I’m keen to go down to ‘elevate’ my thesis, and one of those is exploring the Black family more broadly. John Black was a Belfast-born slave trader and plantation owner who lived in Grenada and then Trinidad. Rather than framing him as an isolated outpost in the Caribbean, the Huntington letters will enable me to better understand his venture to Grenada in the 1770s within the context of his well-connected Atlantic family. The letters might shed some light on his move to Spanish Trinidad in the 1780s too.
In the meantime, I need to get back to my book proposal. Wish me luck!
As I usually do in January, I read lots of articles about goal-setting, New Year’s Resolutions and productivity – and have since completely forgotten all of it. I read a lot about climate change and sustainability, desperately wanting to do more to help my poor burning country and this world we share. Less Stuff was interesting but I didn’t learn anything new, and I must admit I only dipped into Grit – I’ll return to it though, I’m sure. It’s been a busy month with holiday time, work, getting ready for the new school year – oh, and I took part in an online book proposal writing course. I will submit a proposal based on my PhD research to a couple of publishers soon – so watch this space!
I read Ophelia at my (12.5 year old) daughter’s insistence. I enjoyed it and it’s reminded me that one day I’d like to write for this age group/market – middle school readers interested in history.
While I’m ambivalent about Peter FitzSimons’ style of writing, I was interested to read The Catalpa Rescue as it covers John Boyle O’Reilly’s story, which I wrote about during my undergrad degree. I’m writing a short review of the book for the Rottnest Island Voluntary Guides newsletter, as some of the Catalpa drama took place off the coast of Rottnest, Western Australia. My Mum is a Guide and we both think this story would liven up one of the (already excellent!) free walking tours on the island.
I’m also writing a review of Mark Quintanilla’s An Irishman Life, which is an edited arrangement of the letter book of Michael Keane, the Irish-born Attorney-General of St Vincent in the 1780s. I’ve been waiting for the book for ages, as I drew extensively on Quintanilla’s scholarly articles about Keane and St Vincent in my PhD thesis.
In addition to reading during January, I enjoyed these podcasts:
- Dolly Parton’s America – I binged this, such a fun and uplifting podcast.
- History Watch– a few years old now, but there are some fascinating episodes for those interested in Caribbean history and the work of historians in the Caribbean.
- AML Talk Show – (AML = Anti-money laundering) This interview series is hosted by a former colleague of mine from London. I particularly enjoyed the interview with Bill Browder, the author of Red Notice and driving force behind the Magnitsky Act.
- Russia, If You’re Listening, series 3 from the ABC Australia. Fascinating and entertaining.