Using WordPress for research

18 Jul

A couple of years ago now I went to a training day about the use of NVivo software as a possible research tool. I wanted something that would allow me to store a big and diverse range of material that would be easy to search and could be stored simultaneously under multiple categories.

Apart from the fact that NVivo is really expensive (I think at the time my Centre would have had to pay about $2000 for me to use it), I soon realised that it was far too clunky and complicated for my purposes. What I’ve done instead is used free WordPress software to create a private research blog. And it works a treat.

Anytime I take notes about material or cut-and-paste from online text, I throw it into a post on my research blog. I then tag it accordingly and put it into multiple research categories as I please. I have the lion’s share of my research for my book on the rowdy late nineteenth-century youth called larrikins (due to be published by the University of Queensland press in Jan 2012) in an easily-accessible online repository.

Does anyone else use blogging software like this? If so, I’d be interested to hear how you find it.

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Dead crook and running the rabbit: the larrikin vernacular

21 Jun

Trawling through local Melbourne newspapers from the early 1900s these past few days, I’ve come across a few suggestibve examples of larrikin slang:

Two teenage girls, Ivy Maine and a friend, were arrested for being drunk with a couple of so-called ‘buck larrikins’ in Yarra Park. A constable approaches them and asks if they’ve been drinking. The girls admit to quaffing some shandygaff, and that the boys have been ‘running the rabbit’. What does that mean, the magistrate asks? It means the boys have been bringing the girls beer in a bottle, Your Worship.

A young man called James Newbold comes into the Railway Hotel in Swan Street, Richmond, with a male friend. They’re barred from ordering drinks because Newbold’s friend has previously caused a rumpus in that same pub. ‘What sort of dead crook hotel is this?’ Newbold asks. ‘Come outside in the yard for five minutes, and I will put you in your place’.

Henry Mosley, an illiterate 17 year-old youth, is seen skylarking with a crowd of others his age in Green Street, Richmond, one Sunday night in 1910. A policeman once more approaches. ‘Cold pig to you!’ Mosley calls to him insultingly.

Source

Richmond Guardian (Melbourne), 1 June 1912, 1; 1 April 1910, 2; 16 July 1910, 2.

Larry Foley, predecessor of ‘The Rock’

30 May

Australian bare knuckle-champion-turned-boxer, Larry Foley, was the late Victorian-era equivalent of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. During the last three decades of the nineteenth century, he had a stellar profile as a sporting star. And from time to time, he used this to put in cameo appearances in big theatrical productions in Sydney.

Foley first came to fame in Australia when he fought a gruelling bare knuckle prize match against Sandy Ross on 18 March 1871. He also won the Australian bare knuckle championship against Abe Hicken at Echuca in 1878 – a match he said was brazenly attended by the Ned Kelly while the bushranger was still at large. Soon afterwards, Foley became a key figure in Australia’s transition from bare-knuckle fights to gloved boxing matches, following the Marquis of Queensbury’s rules.

Foley loved the stage as well as the prize-ring. Just as the innate theatricality of professional wrestling and the WWF made it easy for The Rock to segue into bit film-parts today, Foley found it a cinch to appear in big theatrical productions in the late nineteenth century.

In 1880, for example, he appeared as Charles the Wrestler in a production of As You Like It at Queen’s Theatre in Sydney. The production starred a touring American actress, Louise Pomeroy, as Rosalind. The audience who turned up for the opening night were more interested in Foley’s performance, however – or at least it seems so from the review that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald the next day. ‘The majority of those present were very noisy’, the Herald reported. ‘Besides interfering with the comfort of the remainder, their boisterousness seriously militated against the success of the entertainment’. The paper added that Foley was much to be commended on his appearance, especially for his ‘well-considered fall in the wrestling scene’.

Larry Foley evidently enjoyed playing Charles the Wrestler, because he ended up reprising it in several later Sydney productions of As You Like It, including one starring Ada Ward as Rosalind in 1882 and others starring Lily Dampier in 1886-87. He also made attempts to become a theatre manager for a time, but went back to managing exhibition boxing matches when it proved financially unviable.

Foley is a perfect example of the interconnections between sport and theatre that I have talked about in a previous post. This overlap between theatre and sport was apparent all over the English-speaking Western world, including Australia. It was at its most acute pre-1930 – but of course, it still lives on in the tradition of sporting dramas on the screen and in the person of sporting celebrities-cum-actors such as Dwayne Johnson.

References

Sydney Morning Herald, 4 October 1880, 6; 8 March 1882, 2; 29 October 1886, 2; 29 July 1887, 6.

W. M. Horton, ‘Foley, Laurence (Larry) (1849 – 1917)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, Melbourne University Press, 1972, p. 193.

Image of Laurence (‘Larry’) Foley from www.cyberboxingzone.com.

See my other post on Larry Foley here.

Around the Maypole at the History Carnival

4 May

Welcome all to a giddy trip about the maypole at the History Carnival May 2010. What follows is a precis of good and zany posts on historical topics over the previous month.

Things topical

I begin with two  topical posts. The first is a discussion of the current and deliberate misuse of American history by the conservative Tea Party Movement. It appears on Inside Higher Ed and is a must-read for anyone interested in the politicisation of national histories.

Since the month of May marks the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the contraceptive pill to the US, I also begin with a post on that topic at Knitting Clio. In a fascinating (if longwinded) piece, Heather Munro Prescott argues that in spite of what Gloria Steinem might have said, a ‘contraceptive revolution’ didn’t just magically happen on US college campuses once the pill first appeared. It only started to happen after students campaigned hard for doctors to make it available.

Things Turn-of-the-Century

The swoony image below is from the turn-of-the-twentieth-century Munich magazine, Jugend, meaning ‘youth’. Over the past month, I’ve been loving the series of posts about this sumptuous Art Nouveau mag on the classy arts-journalism blog, The Blue Lantern. Lovers of Art Nouveau and fin de siecle German history, feast your eyes here and here and here and here.

For those interested in the same period in America, Edwardian Promenade‘s Evangeline Holland comes up with her usual goods in a piece on the origins of the tuxedo at Tuxedo Park. Love the pics and the detail as always, Evangeline.

On Suite101.com, lovers of this era can sate themselves on a post about the French singer, Mistinguett. She was nick-named ‘The Queen of the Music Hall’ in France in the era of such English music-hall greats as Maria Lloyd and Lottie Collins.

Far more seriously, Greenman Tim gives us the back-story to the attempted lynching of Edgar Freeman in Connecticut in 1878. Edgar Freeman was an African-American man accused of raping a 7 year-old white girl that year. As Greenman Tim argues, it was not in fact clear that Freeman was guilty of the crime.

At The Chicago History Journal, Joe Matthewson also discusses legal injustice towards black Americans in a pull-no-punches piece on the turn-of-the-century Supreme Court Chief Justice, Melville Weston Fuller.

Things Nineteenth Century

For those interested in heading back further into the nineteenth century, check out Karen Linkletter’s thoughtful piece on Abraham Lincoln’s legacy, and differing interpretations of his ‘House Divided’ Speech, at Milestone Documents.

You can also read the Wellcome Library blog’s brilliant excursus on ‘Siamese Twins‘, so-called after a famous conjoined duo hit European freak shows in the 1830s.

At the Virtual Dime Museum, readers will be charmed by a post on a newspaper begun by a prisoner at Brooklyn’s Raymond-St Jail in the 1870s. Read some great excerpts from the jailbird’s paper if you please.

The Virtual Victorian treats us to an exploration of Uncle Tom’s Cabin mania in the mid-century US. And what about Trish Short Lewis’ too-enigmatic piece on a female sex researcher from the Victorian era? (More information craved, Trish).

The Long View

At Zenobia: Empress of the East, Judith Weingarten introduces us to Eti, a strangely deformed female figure who appears as an image in Egypt’s Deir-el-Bahri temple. Eti is described in ancient texts as the ‘Queen of Punt’. For decades, scholars have argued about where this mysterious Punt might be. As Weingarten says, however, archeologists have now finally discovered its location. Go to the post for the breaking news.

If you can bear the ugly ads littering The Web Urbanist, Steve writes there about 10 ancient cities still inhabited today. The list includes Susa (Iran), Cholula (Mexico) and Damascus (Syria) – but to find out the rest, you’ll have to read on.

Finally, you can read about the Ice Age and view putative maps of the era at History Moments care of Jack le Moine.

That’s it for me for this month, history friends. Keep an eye out for the next host of the Carnival on the History Carnival site – or better still, offer to host it yourself!

History Carnival May 2010: It’s Coming Soon

2 May

For those of you awaiting the latest History Carnival: my apologies that it hasn’t appeared here yet. It will be up late this Tuesday, 4 May.

For those of you unclear about what the History Carnival is: it’s a monthly showcase of blog writing about history, usually held on the 1st day of the month. It’s hosted at a different blog each month to provide a variety of approaches and perspectives. This month it’s my turn.

Sorry about the delay, folks, but watch this space…

Captain of the Push, and other embroideries

23 Apr

In the mid-1900s, any number of romanticised accounts of old Sydney were written by novelists or journalists trading in nostalgia for late nineteeth-century life. Isadore Brodsky, Ruth Park and Frank Clune were among the most popular of these writers, while the Saturday supplements of the papers were rife with lesser offerings.

A standard trope in these nostalgic accounts was the remembrance of the larrikin push (Australian for ‘hooligan gang’) back in the ‘bad old days’. Brodsky’s Heart of the Rocks of Old Sydney, Ruth Park’s Sydney, Kenneth Roberts’ Captain of the Push and other works all tell us that the inner suburbs and city-fringe neighbourhoods of Sydney were made into the fiefdoms of ruffian pushes, many of them ruled by larrikin ‘kings’.

In his more recent history of Sydney, for example, Geoffrey Moorhouse draws on this oeuvre to tell us that ‘the so-called Forty Thieves had the suzerainty of the Rocks, the Iron House Mob ruled Woolloomooloo, while Bristley’s Mob ran the show between George Street and Darling Harbour’.

Now it is the case that there were larrikin pushes in late nineteenth-century Sydney who got involved in street fights and were prosecuted for numerous other crimes. But there is also a great deal of exaggeration and in some cases downright nonsense about them in these histories. 

The idea that larrikin pushes made whole suburbs into their ‘peculiar kingdoms’ (to quote Ruth Park’s Sydney) is an obvious example. Even if unruly groups of adolescents and older rowdies were a routine feature of life in a particular neighbourhood, the use of an overblown imperial language to describe them is absurd.

Larry Foley

A case of outright misinformation also appears in Captain of the Push. Its author Kenneth Roberts claims that the bare-knuckle champion-turned-boxer Larry Foley was the leader of an all-Catholic larrikin push called Larry’s Mob in inner Sydney at the start of the 1870s. He says that Larry’s Mob did battle with the all-Protestant Rocks Push led by Sandy Ross at the time. On the basis of this, accounts in the Australian Dictionary of Biography and numerous other online sites erroneously claim that there were two larrikin gangs called the Green and the Orange which were once fought for supremacy of the Rocks.

No evidence I have seen supports these claims. For a start, the timing is wrong: there weren’t well-defined larrikin pushes in Sydney at the beginning of the 1870s. And the obituaries for Larry Foley that Roberts seems to have relied upon only suggest that there were loose Protestant and Catholic factions within Sydney’s bare-knuckle fighting fraternity, each of which urged Larry Foley and Sandy Ross to hold a prize fight in March 1871. The rest of Roberts’ story about the pair being the captains of rival street gangs seems to have been embroidered from poetry such as Henry Lawson’s ‘The Bastard From the Bush’ (in which the phrase ‘Captain of the Push’ appears) and other accounts of larrikin pushes from a period later than the 1870s.

The moral to this story is: beware accounts of a larrikin street gangs big on talk of kings and suzerainities and short of evidence to back up their claims. They tell us more about twentieth-century nostaligia for hard masculinity and the mean streets than they do about Sydney’s inner-suburban life in the late-Victorian years.

Sources

Isadore Brodsky, Sydney Looks Back (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1957).

Isadore Brodsky, Heart of the Rocks of Old Sydney (Sydney: Old Sydney Free Press, 1965).

W. M. Horton, ‘Foley, Laurence (Larry) (1849 – 1917)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, Melbourne University Press, 1972, p. 193.

Geoffrey Moorhouse, Sydney (St Leonards, Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1999).

Ruth Park, Ruth Park’s Sydney, rev. ed. (Potts Point, Sydney: Duffy & Snellgrove, 1999, first published 1973).

Kenneth Roberts, Captain of the Push (Melbourne: Lansdowne, 1963).

Image of Larry Foley from www.cyberboxingzone.com.

Trained on rashers & ice-pudding: The Victorian skirt dance

27 Mar

In the two decades before 1892, when Lottie Collins danced ‘Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay’ in London, the skirt dance was à la mode. With its ‘swift rushes and billowy undulations’, its romantic use of drapery and rapid swerves across the stage, it struck a balance between the classical ballet and the athletic step-dances beloved of the music-hall crowds.

The skirt dance was first performed by the dark-haired Kate Vaughan in a performance of The Ballet of the Furies at the Holborn Ampitheatre in 1873. She played the part of the Spirit of Darkness, swathed in a long black skirt much embellished in gold and palely lit from the front, as if by moonlight.

Shortly afterwards, she was performing other versions of this dance in gauzy skirts at John Hollingshead’s Gaiety Theatre on the West End. The popularity of her sweeping skirts there attracted hordes of imitators, the best-known being Alice Lethbridge and Letty Lind (another Gaiety performer).

Letty Lind

In spite of its popularity, not everyone was enamoured of the skirt dance. According to George Bernard Shaw, the long dress worn by skirt dancers covered a multitude of sins. Due to the vogue for this terpsechorean mode, he wrote, ‘we soon had young ladies carefully trained on an athletic diet of tea, soda-water, rashers, brandy, ice-pudding, champagne, and sponge-cake, laboriously hopping and flopping, twirling and staggering, as a nuclei for a sort of bouquet of petticoats of many colours’. How could one appreciate the dancer’s training and willowy thighs while wrapped in half the haberdashery from Marshall & Snelgroves?

Note

Where would we be without the images available on Wikipedia Commons, the source of that photograph of Letty Lind above? A gorgeous carte de visite of Alice Lethbridge performing the skirt dance is held by the National Portrait Gallery, London, and can be viewed here. I can’t show it to you, though, because correspondence with the Gallery staff revealed that it would cost me £135.

Source

J. E. Crawford Flitch, Modern Dancing and Dancers (London: Grant Richards, 1911), 72-8.