This blog is mostly professional, but may have some personal notes in it as well, as it affects my professional activities.

Its namesake stems from my PhD research into regional identities in the late eighteenth century in what is now southern Bavaria.

I blog about issues related to information literacy, access to library resources, the environment, and the Historical Geography of Rupertsland.

Some sources regarding his life and work.

Fischer, H. (1988) ‘Schön und vortrefflich’: die ‘Charte von Schwaben’: Ein kartengeschichtlich bedeutsames Werk zu Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts, in: Beiträge zur Landeskunde: Regelmässige Beilage zum Staatsanzeiger für Baden-Württemberg, Juni 1988, 3:1–8.

Fischer, H. (1988) Die ‘Charte von Schwaben’ im Massstab 1:86,400: Erläuterungen, in the series: Reproduktionen alter Karten, Stuttgart.

Fischer, H. (1993) Die ‘Charte von Schwaben’ 1:86,400, Cartographica Helvetica 7 (1993) 1–10.Gradmann, J.J. (1802) Das gelehrte Schwaben: oder Lexicon der jetzt lebenden schwäbischen Schriftsteller, Ravensburg.

Günther, Siegmund (1922) Eine Kartierung Oberschwabens um die Wende des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts, Sitzungsberichte der mathematisch-physikalischen Klasse der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu München, Jahrgang 1921 315–330, 317n.

Wolfart, P. (2008) Mapping the Early Modern State: the Work of Ignaz Ambros Amman, 1782–1812, Journal of Historical Geography, 34(1):1-23.

"Ignaz Ambros von Amman" in Wikipedia [short entry but cites Wolfart (2008).]

Indigenous Studies Portal News

Friday, March 18, 2011

Written on the occasion of the day after St. Patrick’s day, 2011, when I viewed a documentary entitled Famine and shipwreck: an Irish Odyssey

The programme, not surprisingly given the medium presented a very simple message, but simple messages are the most misleading, and are based on assumption that there is a single truth. Perhaps we are constrained by the time limits of the programme, and the expectation that by the end of it everything is nicely wrapped up, and we can rest comfortably. To its credit, it succeeded in one thing, namely it got me thinking, and perhaps even engaging in meaningful debate. But it also got me angry, or at least passionate enough to write this piece. I am especially bothered by its omissions and admissions; omitting that there was a long and complicated history before the famine (and what the salient points of that history are) and admitting, with little support, that Canada welcomed the Irish with open arms.
I think it best to try and summarize the most relevant omissions. There had been ongoing emigration from Ireland, and not on an insignificant scale to varying degrees, and from different regions, probably since the early 19th century. I say probably, because Ireland, like the rest of the United Kingdom was subjected to a large-scale census that was directly related to very disruptive social change. Without getting into discussions about which came first, the census or the change, we can say with certainty that the project of colonization and distant control of local populations was well entrenched with the first Ordnance Survey early in the 19th century. In fact Ireland is unique compared to many other parts of the UK because a detailed census was taken by Elizabeth I to account for Catholics throughout her realm, producing some nearly unprecedented examples of cartographic surveillance, only to be replicated for the rest of the realm several hundred years later. And emigration to England was well enough established by the 1840s (even before the Famine) that Engels in his ‘conditions…” could comment on the Irish bringing down labour prices in Manchester by being willing to work for less than their English counterparts. (If memory serves he makes some very disparaging comments about their tendency not to wear shoes).
Although the film touched on the agricultural reforms that had forced many of the land, it made scant reference to the scale of the crisis. This had been going on throughout Europe, probably at least since the middle of the 18th century (might have been related to the reforms of Marie Theresa in the Holy Roman Empire, and Frederick the Great in Prussia, and the reforms that were late in coming, and hence precipitated the French Revolution). And while in England these same reforms (Parliamentary Enclosures and Poor Law) led to the Captain Swing Riots of the 1830s, the film made no mention of the contemporaneous events in Ireland.
Additional context for the response, the desire to leave, may be in the aggressive colonization of Ireland from the very beginning of the 19th century. Here’s a parallel with other colonized groups (in Canada) that the film omitted, namely the remapping and hence increased surveillance of the land. In Ireland this event has been dramatized by Brian Friel in his play Translations, (1981) and while related to a neighbouring Principality, by Hollywood in the 1995 film, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain. We’ve seen this exercise of course in our own country and throughout the new world with names of colonial conquerors dotting our map (Vancouver, Edmonton, London, Windsor, Kitchener (or is that Berlin), and it was going on in Ireland as the English landlords sought to ‘translate’ place names throughout Ireland. I was struck, but not really surprised, by the existence of a well-argued written petition from a landless tenant to his landlord. Two questions that this raises, but were not even mentioned, are the fact that this individual could write, and write well, and that he wrote in English – a product, to be sure, of the previous generations’ institution of English rural schools throughout Ireland. Can no one see the irony of using the tools provided by the colonial overlords to negotiate one’s independence from them? But then history is full of irony, and my biggest complaint is that this is rarely brought to the fore, perhaps because it seems so often that the ability to recognize and appreciate it is a lost art.
And finally to the admissions: The admission that Canada welcomed these Irish with open arms. The film, did not present very convincing evidence, one way or another of this ‘fact’. The film opened with some fascinating, and probably hard to replicate facts, one that struck me in particular that 50% of the population of Ontario can claim (or claims, I don’t recall the exact words) Irish descent. It left the viewer just having to take this at face value, and yet, from the time of the first large wave of immigrants arriving from Ireland, it took at least one, if not two generations for Catholics to hold public office, and to be accepted into mainstream society. Throughout the 19th century we have accounts of the Irish being discriminated against, the Irish language being suppressed, and the Irish urban populations being forced into clannish social organizations (allegedly well documented in an early 20th century account, at least for the city of New York, in Herbert Asbury’s Gangs of New York). Elsewhere, in the county atlases that were produced of southern, and south eastern Ontario in the late 19th century, and since then have reappeared as facsimile’s we see large tracts of bush, and none of it too attractive, marked as ‘suitable only for Irish’. Open arms indeed.
In the end it, while the programme succeeded at one level, I wonder why we must cater, in a medium such as this to a lowest common denominator to reaffirm a national myth, (sometimes a dangerous proposition) rather than challenge the viewer and introduce them to the more complex interconnectedness of historical and geographical events, perhaps making them yearn for more.

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