What gives me the right to review history books?
There's no reason on earth why anyone shouldn't write reviews on whatever they choose to. The real question is why the hell should you take any damned notice of me or my opinion?
Well, here goes. My qualifications to be a history book reviewer.
I'm a total history nerd. I've loved everything about history since before I could read, over 59 years ago. My father, who had his share of faults, also had many good points. Among them was his ability to pass on to me his passion for history.
But, of course, being nuts about something doesn't necessarily make me capable of reviewing a history book. Except, I'm also a historian, insofar as I graduated from university with an Arts Degree majoring in history, and minoring (Crikey, is that a word? Well it is now!) in Law.
Yeah, okay, I've also known heaps of university graduates in all kinds of fields who are total dunderheads. So, what else do I have going for me?
Well, it's true I wasn't lucky enough to ever actually work as a historian, mainly because after my parents were murdered in Laos in 1974 I couldn't get my shit together enough to achieve the marks necessary to get into postgraduate courses.
Besides, I didn't have anywhere near enough moolah to pay my way through, and probably wouldn't have had enough even if my parents hadn't been killed.
So I went to work and became trapped in a wage cage I thought was golden, but was only gilded with coloured paint that started to peel off after I'd lost my will to do anything much of anything. And the rest is history, a bit like the most boring history class you were ever forced to sit through.
The next 17 years was spent working off my sentence to government employment, mostly as a policy and legislative reform developer, analyst and writer.
I then spent the next few years running my own consultancy business, but after being given a sneaky heave-ho by a lawyer I thought was a friend, I went back to University, got a couple of graduate diplomas (Criminology and Education), and spent the next ten years teaching History and English to secondary students (ages about 13-16). Six years later (I'm writing in 2016), I'm still recovering!
While my criminology interests stem from a number of areas, they're principally history related. I have very strong social equality and justice concerns, and use history to try and restrict the media- and politician-driven crime fears that cause the implementation of tried and failed options, decade following decade.
You know the stuff, tougher laws, tougher sentences, fear of granny bashing, fear of young people, fear of burglaries, fear, fear, fear. Mostly statistical bullshit, countered by more bullshit.
I can't say I've had a whole heap of success, but at least I'm in there fighting. And I'm a big believer that so long as someone's fighting, there's always the hope of gradualist change slowly taking us forwards, even if it's over several lifetimes.
And my teaching? Despite turning myself inside out every class, and spending many, many, many long hours researching and writing activities and materials to get their interest, they had decided all history was crap many years before I taught them. However, it helped maintain my research and writing skills, specifically in the history domain.
While I was qualified to be a history teacher, I was not qualified to be an English teacher. At least, not on paper. My writing and reading background secured me an English teaching job, where I fruitlessly tried to teach classrooms full of semi-literate and illiterate kids how to both write and to think and analyse critically. There were exceptions, of course, but all-too-often they were corrupted years earlier by their uninterested and often positively anti-education peers and parents.
What this did, however, was to very strongly reawaken my joys at writing, and to hone my skills. But also to learn a heap of stuff about grammar and the language in general that I'd missed at school because I was staring out the window at the girls playing sport. I stress here that I'm very far from one of those grammar nasties who rave on about some poor shopkeeper not knowing where to put their apostrophes.
No, I'm much more interested in the origins and development of language, and the background to all the ineffably, although to me all too "f"-ably, bizarre, stupid, and completely unnecessary grammar and spelling rules of our language.
Just a final word. Although I've not yet had anything published, part from a couple of plain-English guides to some legislation I co-authored with the aforesaid lawyer former friend, I still write constantly.
In terms of history, I'm trying to put together a website describing places in Britain and Ireland with connections to Australia that Australians might have interest in visiting (www.britainforaussies.weebly.com). I'm also writing a book on how to write, for kids, a children's book based on bath time stories I told my sons about Cornelius the chocolate cake-loving, farting Rainbow Rock Monster, and a history of English to try and explain, as much as it's possible, the stupidities of our language.