My recent research trip to London, UK was very productive. This was despite the Coronavirus being declared a pandemic while I was in London and the fear that the National Archives of the UK and the British Library could close any day hanging over me…Through a combination of hard work (I do not think I have ever researched under such pressure before) and some really helpful staff at both institutions I was able to achieve what I set out to do.
I was actually surprised at how much material I found for my project in London. I mean I expected there to be some of course as London was the metropole of the four Dominions of my study: Australia, Canada, Aotearoa New Zealand, and South Africa. However, the volume of material was quite impressive. This was mainly due to the India Office (the UK government department responsible for its then colony of India) collating correspondence from itself, the Government of India, and the Governor-Generals and prime ministers of the various Dominions.
I was especially struck by the number of times the Government of India (the Indian colonial government during the British Raj) actually took up the issue of the rights of Indian British subjects in Australia, Canada, Aotearoa New Zealand, and South Africa. This was predominantly in response to the constant erosion of those rights by the governments of the respective countries.
My current research project marks a departure from my previous three (‘The end of the British World and the redefinition of citizenship in Australia, Canada, and Aotearoa New Zealand, 1950s-1970s’, ‘Australia in War and Peace, 1914-1919, and ‘The Search for a New National Identity: A Comparative Study of the Rise of Multiculturalism in Canada and Australia, 1890s-1970s’) in that although I do also look at identity, I do not focus on citizenship legislation, intra-imperial relations, or primarily government policy. Instead my goal is to find the voice of a primarily disenfranchised minority in the four countries of my study and determine how they saw themselves. I definitely came across this voice in letters and newspaper articles in files that I consulted in London. However, I will need to look at historical sources in Australia, Canada, Aotearoa New Zealand, and South Africa that I have not focused exclusively on in the past. This will certainly be a challenge, but it is one that I am very much looking forward to 🙂
However, the current Coronavirus pandemic does mean that I will not be able to go on any overseas research trips anytime soon…But I have plenty of material that I gathered in London to make notes on! The process of which will also hopefully guide me in what I should search for when I do hopefully make it to Canberra, Australia next, followed by Ottawa, Canada, Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Pretoria, South Africa 🙂