Under starter’s orders

22 May

I had a group meeting with my supervisors last week and they’ve agreed that I can start my research. I’m so excited at the thought of a lovely summer ahead of me getting stuck into my research!

I’ve begun reading Maurice’s diaries. The earliest series have been photographed and so I have those on disc. It’s handy being able to read them from home. The actual notebooks are tiny in size and can be very hard to read but now I can zoom in on my computer screen. There are photocopies of most of the later diaries at Tatton, but for the few sections not covered I will have to go to Chester Records Office.

I’ve already found out so many interesting things and I’m finding it really hard to concentrate my note-taking to include only what is really revelant to my research. At the moment I’m writing down all sorts of quotes and stories because they fascinate me and I want to share them with my colleagues at Tatton. But I know that if I carry on in this way that my reading will take me years so I’m going to try to be more disciplined from now on.

So, as I said, I began at the beginning, which is with Maurice’s first diary from 1896. Maurice was 22, and travelling and hunting (not too successfully!) in Zimbabwe when he became caught up in the Matabele uprising. Although I don’t think any of this will make its way into my research, he gives an an amazing account which would be a great resource for any historian looking at this conflict.

For the main part, Maurice was kept in the ‘laager’ (mobile fort made from waggons) in Gwelo, and was frustrated that he wasn’t sent on patrols. I’m not sure if it was his youth or status that saved him from being sent outside. He describes concerts and cricket matches, alongside grizzly accounts of limb amputations and casualties, all in his matter-of-fact emotionless way of reporting things. At one point he was accused of napping on watch duty, but managed to find a witness to get him off from a steep charge and hard labour punishment. His excitement builds up over the weeks as he hears Cecil Rhodes is heading to their camp. On meeting him, he seems disappointed; he is shorter than he expected and his speech was inaudable to almost everyone. The conflict lasted just two months for Maurice before he was back at a hotel complaining over the quality of his ham and eggs.

I’ve just started diary 2 which covers 1900-1902, and has started with a hunting trip in Sicily and moves onto America and the Klondyke. I’ve found a really nice passage that I think sums up Maurice’s desire to get away from his life in England and explore the world that was open up before him. He is in Italy:

“The Pastori seem very decent fellows, I talked to one today, who seemed to have a great desire for theatres and travel and was tired of always remaining with his sheep in the hills; however I consoled him by saying that towns and theatres were not so very great delights, for I who lived in one that stretches further than from here to Lamusei still came to these same hills to enjoy myself”

Reading the diaries takes me a fair bit of time as I’m having to keep a glossary of words alongside. I don’t yet speak Maurice’s particular brand of ‘colonial’ english! I’m also keeping a glossary of the people he meets and the animals he hunts.

I hope that my posts will be a bit more interesting from now on, and I will keep sharing the stories that make me smile. Here’s to a good summer when I won’t need a holiday as I’m seeing the world alongside Maurice!


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