What my dissertation project would say about the year 2021 (2/2)

July to September 2021 – vacation, vaccination, and preparation

In July 2021, I planned to take some weeks free from work, free from writing, free from reading articles and take a break of constantly thinking of my research project. Apart from visiting friends, applying for an UK visa, I used also the opportunity to attend together with some other doctoral researchers a “Schreibwerkstatt”, kindly organized by PD Dr. Simon Karstens from Trier University. Within two very intensive and productive days, we talked, discussed and analyzed text passages, the working environments as well as useful tools and skills to write and to structure the work in long-term projects.

I used the first weeks of August to organize the last aspects of my archive stay in the UK and to book the places in Birmingham, Aberystwyth, Haverfordwest and London. The August marked also the beginning of this research blog and one of my first intentions was to devote at least one blog article to each archive.

By the late August I eventually moved to London and Birmingham and quickly began to read the first manusripts of the Cadbury Research Library in Birmingham in the first weeks of September. The Missionary manuscripts turned out to be very productuve and helpful from the very beginning. In Birmingham, I also contacted some staff members of the Department of History at the Birmingham University and so came in touch with Dr. Tom Cutterham. We had a great conversation and agreed to stay in touch in the future.

October to December 2021 – conferences, conferences, conferences

The preparation of conference presentations as well as archive researches in Aberystwyth, Haverfordwest, Milford Haven and London shaped the last quartal of 2021. At the first of October, I had the opportunity to introduce my topic to the audience of the Australian Seascapes Conference of the “Gesellschaft für Australienstudien“, which took place virtually via Zoom between 30th Sept. and 2nd Oct. 2021.

In the last week of November then between 23rd and 26th Nov. 2021, the New Zealand Historical Association came virtually together under the conference title “Ako: Learning from History“. I was delighted and very thankful to have had the possibility to present my research project in front of a Aotearoa/ New Zealand audience.

The last presentation, which I had in 2021 was in mid of Dec. 2021 to the GHI London Colloquium, where I have shown the first results of findings during the time in the UK. Being back in Germany now, I have used the christmas days to take a break and look forward to beginning the new year of 2022 with new motivation and to read the archive material, which I have collected and gathered.

What my dissertation project would say about the year 2021 (1/2)

I had aimed to write this article already ealier in December 2021, yet the last month of the year literally rushed over me. I travelled back from my archive stay in the UK – (in retrospect I came back very timely before the rise of the new Omicron variant) – and only some weeks afterwards I presented my research topic as well as the first archive results to the audience in the context of the German Historical Institute London Colloquium. Perhaps you have seen already the new page of my blog “upcoming events”.

From my dissertation’s point of view, the year of 2021 was very productive and I would like to go once again through the quartals and by giving some further insights.

January to March 2021 – Second Writing process

Before I come to the writing process of 2021, I need to give a few notes into my former writing process from the last year. In the first half of 2020, I wrote already the first coherent chapters by outlining the theories, concepts and questions of my dissertation topic. I was happy to have started writing at a very early stage in english language, because I quickly realized how difficult and heavy it was for me, to write this dissertation in a language, which I can use for sure, yet to which I still bear a bit of respect.

The writing process has also much to do with the comfort zone. It is comparably very easy to spent hours and days in databases, taking notes in research journals and quoting passages in research articles and monographs. These (still important) works merged to a “productive” way of procastination. It is however, much more difficult to write these results down, to form the thoughts and notes into sentences and passages and pages.

During my studies, I very seldom had experienced writing blockades, as I wrote the most of my works in german language, which is, in fact, my native language, and in which I feel much more comfortable. Therefore, I had many difficulties at the beginning to combine and to stick my quotes and notes of research articles and monographs into my own words and to structure them into coherent and logic passages. The first writing process of 2020 therefore was highly shaped by feelings of wrong perfectionism, by deleting passages and pages (sorry, I will never do it again!) and many discussions. Therefore, it took a while to recognize that it is all a process and that it does not need to be “perfect” yet, because right now the focus is on production, production, production, and not on perfection, perfection, perfection.

In the first months of 2021, however, the “second” writing phase went much easier and much more structured. While I dived deeper into the “Atlantic” part, I also started with writing the first few general chapters of the “Pacific” part. Starting with an “Atlantic” chapter allowed me to go in more detail into the characteristics of Nantucket, New Bedford, the history of the early colonization process of New England, the history of Quaker settlers, the Wampanoags, Native American, to the history of slavery as well as of practices of indentured servitude and unfree labour in the whaling industry too.

By focussing explicitly on the members of the Starbuck and the Swain Families, I filtered and extracted any information and knowledge, which I could receive from existing secondary literature (thank you CITAVI), and, what was much more important: from digitised historical aids like the whalinghistory.org database or the Barney Genealogical records of the Nantucket Historical Association.

All this combined with primary sources such as the entirely digitsed “Nicholson whaling logbook collection” of the Providence Public Library in Rhode Island as well as the entirely digitised Probate records for Nantucket I was able to collect and built my first source fundament (thank you EXCELL) in order to write down my first results and insights.

During this writing process, I regularly attended the online writing sessions of a group of doctoral researchers from various german universities, which had been established in Dec. 2020. I found it very helpful for myself, to create a sense of reliability together and to stay connected with like-minded during a period of lockdowns and physical social distance.

April to June 2021 – pursuing digital archive research – and applying for analog archive research

The addition of new aspects, changes and never ending revisions of chapters and the chapters’ structures shaped the month of April, while at the same time, I stuck to the screen for reading and analyzing digitised colonial sources about the local history and the economic circumstances of the whaling industry in Nantucket and New England in the 18th and 19th century.

It was in this period of time, when the German Historical Institute London announced their scholarship-application for archive stays for doctoral researchers who work on colonial or british-history related topics. The preparation of the research proposal – deadline: 31st May – was very intense and time-consuming, yet it gave me much inspiration and motivation for another writing process for the month of June.

The White-Board suffered a lot under my ideas and visual concepts. – private picture – 11th June 2021.

In manifold ways, the June formed one of the highlights of the year, because

1) the DFG decided to fund the research project, in which I am working in

2) the German Historical Institute London accepted my application

3) I finallly received the appointments for my Covid vaccinations 🙂

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