Category Archives: History

History Week 2018: Melbourne Footballers and the Great Depression


Remember the three old blokes who sat on the bar stools in the Prince of Prussia in the Jack Irish books and television series? They’d sit there, mentally replaying and commentating football matches concluded decades ago, yarning about footballers long gone with names like “Chicken Smallhorn” and “Captain Blood”.  I must confess that I felt a little bit as if I were sitting on the middle stool in this presentation by Timothy Lambert at Ivanhoe Library today.  But there were plenty in the audience who were  obviously just as familiar with statistics and personalities from Melbourne footy history.

Lambert took his time frame from 1929 to 1939, at a time when Richmond, Collingwood and South Melbourne dominated the VFL competition, while Hawthorn and North Melbourne almost folded. At a time of high unemployment, VFL Firsts players received £2 per match, although the seconds  didn’t receive any payment at all. As a result, there was huge competition within a team to be selected to play.  Under the Coulter Law, passed in 1930, no player could receive more than three pounds per match, but the wealthier clubs found ways to get around this e.g. John Wren’s famous ‘five pound’ handshake for the Collingwood boys after a match, or enticing players with the prospect of secure employment as South Melbourne president Archie Croft was able to do through his chain of grocery stores. He also lured so many interstate players that South Melbourne would be dubbed “The Foreign Legion”, with so many from Western Australia that it was suggested that they should be known as “The Swans”. The name stuck.

Lambert also emphasized that the VFL and the VFA were still direct competitors at this time, with both League and Association games played on a Saturday afternoon, and with the VFA untrammeled in how much they could offer a player.  Although this might suggest that the VFA would have been stronger, it was common for a player to play in the league for several years until they were picked up by a country club as a player/coach where he could earn £10 a game.

Football was tremendously popular during the Depression. Entry was 6d. It has been estimated that during the Depression years, 1:10 Melburnians attended a football match on any given Saturday.  In spite of 2018’s turnouts of more than 300,000 to a round, the ratio to population today would not be anything like that.

So all in all, a real session for footy tragics!

RHSV Conference: The Other Face of War: Victorians and the Home Front

[A personal reflection]

A good  conference has a scope broad enough to bring multiple perspectives to the topic, but it is also defined closely enough for the threads and themes that emerge out of individual papers to weave something larger.  The Royal Historical Society of Victoria (RHSV) conference on Friday 8th August and Saturday 9th August 2014 succeeded on both counts. Continue reading

‘The Commonwealth of Speech’ by Alan Atkinson

2002, 136 p & notes.

The full title of this book is The Commonwealth of Speech: An Argument about Australia’s Past, Present and Future . The extended title gives a better indication of the book’s flavour because it is a wide-ranging publication that meanders between history, politics, rhetoric and methodology.  Many of the chapters were originally presented as speeches or lectures in their own right, thereby complicating for us the relationship between speech and writing from the start.

Talking and writing were fundamental in the founding of Australia, Atkinson argues, and indeed the first chapter of Atkinson’s intended-trilogy The Europeans in Australia is titled “Talk”.  When the Aborigines came across from Timor or Sulewesi, they must have used language to plan their trip, and by the time the English made their own journey in 1788  the logistics and implementation of the First Fleet was a product of detailed bureaucratic talk and writing.  Unlike any other people in the world, the convicts and soldiers of the New South Wales penal settlement were recorded in writing from the very inception of the colony,  in convict indents and admiralty documentation.  Frontier life demanded writing, in the form of overseers’ orders, information from agents’ letters and the provincial newspapers that quickly emerged. When the early forms of democracy arrived,  their introduction was largely unproblematic because of this underlying basis of literacy.

Early white  settlers recognized that Aboriginal people were highly attuned to speech.  They noticed, even if they didn’t fully understand,  that when aboriginal people spoke among themselves, there were nuances of affability, tact, respect and authority. This is something that white Australians are still learning today.   Despite the ubiquity of text, talk is still important in both black and white communities.  Atkinson spends quite a bit of time on Australia’s bi-centenary in 1988, examining the speeches given by Bob Hawke, Prince Charles and Galarrwuy Yunupingu for the occasion, and notes the power-plays jostling amongst the three speeches and the paradoxical symmetry between the speeches given by Charles and Yunupingu.

In another chapter, Atkinson discusses what he calls “vernacular history”.

Vernacular History rests on a body of assumptions about the ethnic or national past which exists, mostly unquestioned, as part of common conversation and common judgement….They regularly seep into popular, everyday writing.  And the more familiar they become on the printed page, the more they belong to everyday talk. (p. 27) …..Vernacular History always throws up moral themes.  It establishes, or it tries to establish, a uniform moral message.  It offers moral contrast, sometimes even melodrama, with the evocation of heroes and villains, of golden ages and dark days. (p. 31)

I’m still not sure whether he approves of vernacular history or not:  he describes it as a

peculiarly powerful combination of formulas, old and new, a vivid mix of subtle tones and heavy patterning. (p.33)

He proposes three examples of Vernacular Historians: Manning Clarke, Robert Hughes and Henry Reynolds.  All three, he says, presented themselves as unique figures, somehow independent of the community of scholars.  Their histories burst off the page and broke out of the academy to become integrated into the talk of ‘ordinary’ Australians (albeit often at a fairly simplistic level).  He spends quite a bit of time on Henry Reynolds in particular, whose history, Atkinson argues, is a history told from the perspective of “we” whites that relies on the tension borne of the moral relationship between current-day blacks and whites.

I enjoyed reading this book, and I can see that I’ll be using it later in my thesis.  I’ve been aware, in my work on Judge Willis, of the importance of talk-  the talk of power in the courts, the middle-class respectable talk of men’s debating societies, and the gossip of the streets.  I enjoyed spectating while Atkinson joustedwith other historians (an acquired taste, I admit) and his discussion of the use of history by politicians.

Uplifting Quotes for the Uninspired Historian #1

From J. G. A. Pocock ‘Tangata Whenua and Enlightenment Anthropology’ in The Discovery of Islands: Essays in British History p. 201

…the historian is not concerned to show that belief systems are ridiculous, but to discover why they were not ridiculous once.

Memory and history

Collective memory? No. Myth and memory? Nup. It’s all about me- it’s the historian’s memory- or lack thereof.

I’ve been writing away for the past couple of weeks on a little topic in my thesis that has me all excited and flustered.  I’m not going to go into specifics- not that I want to keep it from you, of course, but I must be a little circumspect and besides, who will buy “Judge Willis the Soap Opera” if I divulge all here?  But I’ve been quietly rubbing my hands in glee, anticipating interest from well, all of about twenty people in a particular thing I’ve found.  It was, as my earlier supervisor John Hirst would have said “a knock-down argument”.

Except that I found it. And lost it. And now I can’t find it again.

It’s a letter that I’m looking for.  I thought that I remembered seeing it typed up amongst a collection of other letters.  I think I can remember a rush of excitement seeing it- AH HA! There it IS- in writing! And can I find it now?? No…

I’m rather obsessive about my record keeping. I could pretend that it’s because I’m a methodical person, but the truth of the matter is that, commencing this thesis at a relatively advanced age, I’m frightened that my memory is going to go before I get it written.  I know that I sound like a hypochondriac, but perhaps you should consider my mother’s strong family history (five of seven siblings) who have suffered neurological illnesses of one type or another.  I’m watching my mother’s brain slowly turn to cement, and I’m losing the Mum I love bit by bit.  So my fears are not completely groundless.

So, I turn to technology. In my research mainly I’ve been working on letters, dispatches and newspaper articles.  I have an Access database that lists them chronologically by writer, recipient, topic, location 1, location 2 (because many of these letters are found it several locations). There are literally thousands of them – 1444 the last time I looked.

Books and journals go into Endnote.

I’m a fairly quick touch typist (faster than I could write by hand) so it’s no hardship to type up documents and I code them in NVivo.  N Vivo is intended as a qualitative research software program, but you can use it to code the themes in any sort of document or artifact.  I use it at a fairly basic level for data recovery only.  When you want to find all the material you have coded on a particular theme, it collates it into one document.  When I type up notes on a book or journal, it goes into NVivo as well.  Of course, this is the weak spot- if I don’t code the document, then I won’t find it in NVivo.  But I usually print out a hard copy and tick off on the top once I’ve put it into Access (if applicable), Endnote and N Vivo.

So how have I lost this letter?  I just don’t know.  I have a fairly vivid dream life- did I just DREAM that I read it?  I can’t work out why I didn’t make a note of it somewhere; why I just put it back into its plastic sleeve. And yet I have my chapter plan written a couple of weeks ago where I can see that I thought then that I had read it.  I must have read it in-between entries on my other ‘secret’ blog that I write about my thesis-writing because I don’t mention it there.  I’ve found one small reference, and another letter that perhaps I had misinterpreted.  Did I just misread it? Did I conflate the two?  I’m distrusting myself, and that’s not a good thing.

For those of you writing history, how do you keep a track of everything you have?

Letters of a Nation Archive

Want to spend hours and hours and hours fiddling round on a website? [ahem, as if I don’t already]. Well, you might want to check out Australia Post’s “Letters of a Nation” website.  The project was part of Australia Post’s 200th anniversary.  They invited contributors to send in letters held in their personal collections which were scanned, indexed and transcribed and are all there on the website.

In fact I even had a little weep over the letters sent by the POW returning to Australia to his four year old son.


‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher’ by Kate Summerscale

304 p. 2008

It seems that after reading Curthoy and McGrath’s How to Write Histories that People Want to Read, I have picked up, one after the other, two books that would qualify-  Nicholas Shakespeare’s In Tasmania and now this one,  The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale.   This book won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction in 2008, and also bears the designation “New York Times Bestseller” on the front cover.

The book describes the true-life murder of a three year child in 1860, taken from his bed in the nursery outside the bedroom of his parents Samuel and Mary Kent, and found with his neck slashed and body wrapped in a blanket in the outside privy. The family that lived in this three-storey Georgian house was not a happy one.  It was a second marriage for Samuel Kent; the older children of the first marriage had been relegated for the second family; the new Mrs Kent was not all she seemed at first.  Suspicions mounted about the relationship between Mr Kent and the nursemaid who slept in the bed beside the murdered child, the sanity of the daughters of the house, the probity of the servants: the case opened the lid on the fug of family relationships amongst what otherwise appeared to be a respectable, prosperous middle class Victorian family.

The book takes a careful chronological approach with only what I marked as one example of foreshadowing that suggested that the outcome was known to the narrator.  Instead, events and evidence unfold bit by bit, complete with the false-starts and false-leads of any investigation,  and the narrative closely follows the newspaper articles and legal documentation generated by such a notorious case.  I hadn’t heard of the case at all but I assume, given that the murderer ended up depicted in Mdme Tussuad’s waxworks, that the case has more notoriety in England even today.  For someone completely unfamiliar with it, I wasn’t sure right to the end- and even then….?

But this is more than just a country-house murder story: instead it is a closely-grained and grounded study of domestic Victorian life and sexuality, the development of “the detective” as a profession and the relationship between the press and Victorian fiction.  The detective, Mr Whicher, is a lower-class employee in a newly-developing profession, and class sensitivities emerge over what is perceived as  his puerile probing of domestic relationships and middle-class respectability, and the derisive sneering of the popular periodical press.  Summerscale embeds this true-crime story within a broader study of the detective-novel as a literary phenomenon, both at the time in the work of Wilkie Collins and Dickens, and later as a literary genre much loved of BBC Friday night dramas.

The book is carefully footnoted and researched; there are maps and photographs, and an extensive bibliography.   Its chronological structure makes you feel as if it is unfolding before your eyes and it’s quite a page-turner.  And surely that qualifies it as “History That People Want to Read”.

‘How to Write History that People Want to Read’ by Ann Curthoys and Ann McGrath

2009, 238 p.

This book is exactly what the title says it is: a how to book on writing history.  This no-nonsense approach pervades the book- it’s a real [clap] “Come on! Get stuck into it!” sort of book.  It could have, but wisely has not, been called “History Writing for Dummies” because it shares features of those little yellow books- the cheery, confident tone, the jokes that make you groan, the dot points,  the anecdotes and the bubbling optimism that of COURSE you can write history that people want to read!  I must admit that there’s something about all this bustling, practical advice that brings out the long-lost teenager in me.  I want to roll my eyes, toss my head, and mutter “der–” (the ultimate expression of nonchalance and superciliousness in my adolescence- I warned you that it was some time ago).

Except that it is so damned practical and, yes, good advice.  The book is aimed at a wider readership than just  PhD student- it also has family historians and local historians in its sights.  It is very simply written, with short sentences which at times seemed  just a little patronizing.  But of course, this is a book of advice and it does not pretend to be other than this. Clarity and  a certain amount of  firm direction is fundamental to the act of giving advice: I must remember that a bit of humility and preparedness to listen is fundamental to gaining from it.

This book starts from the beginning, right from conceptualizing your history project and your projected audience.  It has good, practical advice about archives  and the how-to of working with sources , then moves on to the writing.  It was at this point that I stopped my eye-rolling and read more carefully because writing, and thinking about narrative and action, character and the emotions  is right where I am at the moment.  And this is probably the real strength of this book; at some stage it is going to connect with you as history-writer at some point in the cycle.  In this regard, you could buy it at the start of your thesis or project, and dip into it usefully for a bit of a kick up the backside or a dust-off after a setback when you need it. The examples they used from a range of histories were well-chosen; you didn’t need to know anything about the content, and the text guided you to look through the content to the technique.  The discussion of footnotes, grammar and punctuation again had me tossing my head with impatience -until I’d come across something that I thought “oh really? Is THAT the difference between a colon and semicolon?” and “You mean that my examiners won’t even READ my quotations?”.  At times I bridled at the decisiveness of their approach but when I came to areas that for me are foggy and ill-defined, the clarity was reassuring.  I suspect that  I am very bad at taking advice.

The trouble with aiming at a broad audience is that sometimes, in order to avoid alienating one audience, the needs of another audience are put onto the backburner.  As a postgraduate student, I yearned for a chapter about analysis.  They do mention analysis, but its difficulty is downplayed by giving it equal billing with themes and chronology as a narrative problem.  I think that analysis is more than this: it goes to the heart of the endeavour; it is what makes history more than just a good story.  It might be stripped out of histories for publication so as to attract a wider audience; it might be over-kill for a local or family history, but for an academic thesis there  is a fundamental assumption that your thesis says something, means something beyond just the narrative at hand.  This is the real work of history,- it’s the part that makes your head hurt- and it’s hard.

I almost didn’t read this book when I first heard about it because I thought that I had read it before. But no- that was an earlier book (2000)  by the same authors that has been recently re-released: Writing Histories: Imagination and Narration.  It  is an edited collection of papers by contributors to a Visiting Scholars Program workshop for fifteen very lucky post-graduates, and is a who’s who of Australian historians who I admire deeply:  Tom Griffiths, Bill Gammage, Donna Merwick, Greg Dening, John Docker, Deborah Bird Rose, Peter Read and of course Ann Curthoys and Ann McGrath themselves.  This book, in many ways, supplied my “missing” chapter, even though I found it rather daunting.  In my reading journal after reading this book I wrote:

I can’t say that I feel empowered- intimidated more like it; overwhelmed by other people’s erudition and breadth, and feeling stodgy and constipated!

It’s a pity that the two books aren’t released by the same publisher, because they would be a wonderful combination within the same volume.  The prose and vision doesn’t exactly soar in “How to Write History” but it is warm, encouraging and empowering.  The virtuosity and incisiveness of the historians talking about their craft in “Writing Histories”  while inspirational, can be almost paralysing.  As an aspiring history writer, I need both.  I need to be beckoned onwards by those up ahead of me;  I need the grip of a confident, more experienced friend at my arm, and  a damned good shove from behind as well!

Peter Cochrane and the writing of narrative history

I’d only read about three pages of Peter Cochrane’s Colonial Ambition before I realized that I was reading a very different Australian colonial history than I am accustomed to reading.  Why is this? I wonder.  It’s not that I eschew narrative history: in fact, I seek it out when I’m reading in an area that is not particularly familiar to me, and I enjoy it.  I’ve read quite a few Simon Schama books:  his History of Britain series to support the television documentary, Rough Crossings and Rembrandt’s Eyes.   I loved Orlando Figes’ works on Russia  Natasha’s Dance and A People’s Tragedy ,   or Nathanial Philbrick’s Mayflower.  I’m drawn to biographies ,and especially group biographies which have a strong narrative thread, for example Louis Menard’s The Metaphysical Club or Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder.  I enjoy Peter Ackroyd’s border-crossing as, for example, in London: The Biography.   I encountered most of these books through online book clubs that I belong to ( for example Yahoo’s All NonFiction group) and I guess there’s part of my answer:  such groups gravitate towards best-sellers, and best-sellers tend to be narrative histories.

And yet, for Australian history, I tend to steer clear.  I have four Manning Clark volumes on my shelf and am daunted by them.  I have Michael Cathcart’s abridgement but, perversely,  haven’t read it because I feel I would be cheating.  I am wary (perhaps without justification?) of Thomas Keneally’s Commonwealth of Thieves or Australians: Origins to Eureka, even though I’ve enjoyed several of his fictional works set in colonial times.   Alan Atkinson’s The Europeans in Australia is right at the top of the list- particularly because am I grappling with another library patron with holds and recalls over Volume 2 which is nigh on impossible to buy-  but I haven’t started it yet.  I notice that these are all very long works: perhaps narrative history requires length in order to unspool character and chronology?

As Peter Cochrane himself explains in his essay Peter Cochrane “Stories from the dustbinGriffith Review, 19, Autumn 2008 (Full text available here), academic historians tend to distance themselves from narrative history, characterizing it as “dumbed down, simple storytelling, the business of amateurs, a trick, sub-history- myth even.” (p. 71).  He cites John Hirst (who contributed a blurb to the back cover) who, in an essay about his own attempt to write an “official history” of Australia for John Howard’s government, described narrative histories as ” a standing temptation to evasion” that avoids big questions. And yet, as Don Watson has noted “history is nothing less than the whole human drama and it is pretty well anything we want it to be” (cited in Griffith Article on p. 71)

Cochrane picks up on the theme of “human drama” and in his essay explains his choice of Wentworth as “leading man”.   And yet, as he explains:

Colonial Ambition is not a biography. It is political history written as narrative.  The story turns like a double helix winding through the book, political history curving into and around the biographical thread of Wentworth and his family, a thread that gets thicker as we go, knitting in other key players in Sydney and London: Henry Parkes, Sir George Gipps, Earl Grey, Robert Lowe, Charles Cowper, Herman Merivale, Lord John Russell at the Colonial Office, and numerous others including the women whose political influence was a much neglected and elusive part of the story (Griffith article p. 74)

I was interested in the way that, structurally, he used the Wentworth character.  The book Colonial Ambitions starts and ends with him.  In the opening pages we have Wentworth in an uncharacteristically humble speech, apologizing to the Legislative Council for his bad language and the “flood of lava” that bubbles up out of him him,   and intimating that he would soon be leaving Australia.  This speech re-appears much later, on p392, and as a reader I experienced that deeply-satisfying ‘aha’ moment when, like a kaleidescope, a pattern falls into place.  The book closes with Wentworth too, but in juxtaposition to the very public opening speech, we end with an intimate family communication between the father and his physically close but unwillingly estranged daughter.  My favourite part of the book- the section that made me think “Gee, he’s doing this well” – was when he reported on political changes taking part in Australia from the distant perspective of Wentworth over in England.  This view with the telescope, instead of the magnifying glass, allowed Cochrane to maintain the metropolitan and colonial perspectives at the same time and enabled him to stride quickly over events that would have bogged him down had he located the narrative back in New South Wales.

From a writer’s perspective, it’s movement in the narrative that is the problem, and Cochrane has obviously worked hard on achieving this:

The emphasis here is on the movement of the story.  How should it- how can it- move? Narrative movement is a bit like tacking on a yacht- the line is constantly shifting while moving forward, zigzagging from one location to another, from one debate to another, from drama here and drama there.” (p. 77)

I enjoyed the shift from location to location, but at times felt a little uncomfortable with the heightened sense of drama that pervaded the book.  In examining the various sides of a debate, Cochrane took pains to describe the motivations and passions lying behind the individuals’ differing stances, but such an approach intimated that titanic political and personal struggles underpinned all such debates.  This fevered atmosphere can become breathless, particularly when sustained over such a long book.  I found myself yearning for the prosaic and everyday, half-hearted politicking just for the sake of it, without such crucial issues at stake.  And after arousing and keeping the reader at such a pitch of expectation for over 500 pages, the denouement, when it comes, is drawn-out and rather disappointing in comparison.

But movement also occurs, Cochrane writes, through the dialogue between historian and historical documents.

The narrative historian has to wrestle with the literary dimension as well as the problem of how the past has been defined, interpreted, ignored or mischaracterized by other historians.  And that engagement has to be immersed or infiltrated into the story without getting in the way of the story.  In narrative it is argument by stealth… Analysis may be unobtrusive but it is, or should be, present at all levels. ..But this does not mean that historiographic concerns are neglected.  On the contrary, they become part of the story only occasionally removed to a footnote- the manuscript that routinely exiles historiographical concerns to the footnotes is likely to be a vacuous and probably a tortured text.” (p. 79, 80)

Cochrane does engage with other historians- in particular John Hirst and Ged Martin- but much of the detailed by-play takes place in the footnotes.  However, in the text itself, as a reader you are aware when Cochrane is planting his feet in the narrative as a historian and taking a stand.  It’s not a combative or dismissive stance,  but you’re aware that you’re reading a historian with his work-apron on.

Historian, and writer too.  There’s some crystalline phrases here: the “dialogue of echoes” in the months-long communication lag between the Colonial Office and New South Wales (Colonial Ambition p.204); his description of Parker’s impotent ministry shuffling on “like a man who could not get out of his slippers” (Colonial Ambition p. 459).

There’s much here that appeals to me: the emphasis on personality; the concept of life trajectory with its own timelines and chronology; the dual focus of empire-wide events and perceptions and the grounding in physical and social locations.  Ah- but he’s been given the luxury of 500 pages: I have 70,000- 100,00 words.  He has Melbourne University Press: I have a couple of thesis examiners.  Sigh.

‘The Uses and Abuses of History’ by Margaret MacMillan

This is only a slim book, based on a series of lectures.  The lecture-hall origins still show- the chapters are all pretty much the same length; the sentences are short, and there’s a sparseness about the writing that would probably aid comprehension if you were listening, but comes over as rather bald and workmanlike on the page.

I’ve only read one of Margaret MacMillan’s works- Paris 1919. I thought that it was wonderful- an engagingly written analysis of the multiple perspectives being brought to the conference that culminated in the Treaty of Versailles, and the intractability for the participants of disentangling historical, cultural and national borders in the wake of  what had been a truly global war.

She brings this wide-ranging perspective to this book but I’m not really sure what the overall point is that she is making here.  Yes- history can be used to make ourselves feel relaxed and comfortable about ourselves; it can be used to justify actions in the present; it can be used to predict rightly or wrongly what is about to happen on the basis of earlier precedents; it can be used to create and bolster national identity for good and for ill etc. etc.   Each of these cautionary tales is supported by examples from all over the world; little cut-and-dried vignettes   to support the contention of that particular lecture.  But put them all together, and what are we left with?  That history should be used carefully and with humility- good advice no doubt, but I felt paralysed, rather than empowered, by such observations.  Given that “good” history can be used for “evil” purposes, that those purposes can change naturally or be subverted deliberately, well- perhaps we should just immerse ourselves within an event, culture or timespan and just stay there, in a rather antiquarian sense, resolutely mute in the face of current events.

If I had attended these lectures, I don’t think that I would have come out from the lecture theatre walking on air.  There’s an abstractness about the examples she uses and no real people. There’s no human story that you come away with; no image etched onto your consciousness that you’ll remember the next day. Other historians have done similar things- Inga Clendinnen in her Quarterly Essay “The History Question”  or in her Boyer Lectures, for example, but she leaves you fizzing with ideas after an encounter with a person or situation that  embodies the questions she has raised.

Perhaps, though, her global orientation and  rather jaundiced views emerge from the work she has done on the aftermath of World War I.  I’ve just been listening again to her speaking on a RN radio documentary about the Paris Peace Conference and this is big, policy-driven, grubby, idealistic, complex history that exemplifies all the human failings that she discusses in this book.   Abuse of history at its worst.


I’ve just been listening to a podcast of  Margaret MacMillan talking about this book on Radio National’s Hindsight program in a broadcast called “Dangerous Games- the Uses and Abuses of History”.  You can download it or read a transcript here.  It’s well worth listening to, and has caused me to re-think my response to the book somewhat.

It’s very similar to the book – no doubt it has been delivered countless times previously.  But listening to her, as distinct from reading the book, there’s a flow in her spoken presentation that to me seemed to be missing when chopped up into separate, longer written chapters- indeed I now start to wonder whether the speech or the writing came first!  And I didn’t feel quite so hamstrung as an historian- instead, her oral presentation seemed to emphasize the importance of history (and historians)  in asking the right questions and drawing on the right analogies.  I came away with a stronger sense of her statement in the book about the importance of humility and acknowledging the boundedness of our own perceptions of the past.