Thursday, 29 April 2021

The Return of my First Draft Chapter for my PhD on Barnsley's War Memorials


Last night I got my first draft chapter back from my supervisor, Prof Laura Ugolini, at the University of Wolverhampton. As expected there were lots of useful comments, and some which made it apparent to me that I have been overestimating what I will be able to include in my thesis. It also seems that I need to include a lot of explanations that I had hoped would be unnecessary, such as 'what is a war memorial?' and the difference between and obelisk and a plaque (surely not .... aren't the names self explanatory?)

University of Wolverhampton history theses have a word limit of 90,000 - now that looks like a lot, but it includes footnotes and the bibliography (the list of books and articles that I have used as reference for the work). You are allowed a certain amount of extra space in your Appendices - which is where I usually put tables and maps and lists - but that must not exceed 20% of the total allowed for the thesis, so in my case 18k words, which is soon taken up with long lists of memorials and various tables showing categories and groupings. 

For comparison my MA dissertation had a word limit of 15k, but that did not include footnotes and the Bibliography. I carefully wrote 14,992 words, but if I include everything it came to 23961 with the footnotes and Bibliography and I used 6506 words in my Appendices (as opposed to 20% of 15k which is just 3k). One table alone, that of the 237 memorials we knew about in Barnsley in February 2019 (not counting 520 war memorial gravestones or 47 memorials that don't commemorate the FWW), came to 3278 words. Should I miss out that table? No, of course not, it's what everything is about after all.

For my first draft chapter, which was on the different groups of people who had planned memorials, I started off aiming at 10k words, that was soon upped to 15k when I realised the lower amount didn't allow enough space to fully discuss all the categories I had devised. 

Table of Memorial Types (horizontal axis) by Groups (vertical axis) as of 14 April 2021

Prof Laura made a useful comment about the table above - using codes was not helpful for readers, who would be forced to flick backwards and forwards to discover what the types of memorial were. She suggested presenting it landscape (ie turning that page on its side) so that I could write in the words Obelisk, Plaque, Roll of Honour etc in full. Later on she pointed out that I use the category 'Individuals' to describe memorials erected by family members to commemorate individuals. I had got the people being commemorated mixed up in my head with the people planning the commemoration. She proposed calling that group Families and I totally agree. 

As you can't see what my codes mean either here's the list:

Obelisks, Cenotaphs, Crosses, Columns, Figures etc (O)
Plaques, Tablets, Boards (P)
Rolls of Honour, Books of Remembrance (R)
Church fittings (like bells, pews, lecterns, windows, altars, screens, candlesticks, etc) (C)
Trophies, Relics etc (T)
Lychgates (G)
Endowed Beds (B)

Even landscape it will be 'fun' fitting the Church Fittings (ha!) at the top of a column if I use the full list.

Additions to Gravestones (but not graves) is also a main IWM category - which I am excluding from the main part of my thesis as they are really hard to research and never (?) appear in newspaper reports. I really didn't want to do this - there are hundreds and hundreds of them in Barnsley - but apart from analysing the inscriptions and researching the families I can't really say much about them.
On the other hand, mass-produced commemorative items, which the IWM exclude - I am including these - items such as gold medals or watches given by work places to men who returned or the dependents of men who were killed. There will have been hundreds of these, most of them inscribed with an individual's name. They are particularly common amongst the collieries in Barnsley who awarded little medals to all their workmen who had gone to the war at large, well reported events, often rather than erecting a stone or metal memorial or plaque. Did they feel this fostered good will as it showed they were considering everyone? Or was it a good advertisment for the paternalism of the company?

I can see another problem in my list above - use of etc is not advised in a thesis, I should write out lists in full. The Imperial War Museum's categories contain etc and these are the ones on which Pete and I based most of the above.  Not all the categories the IWM use are useful for my thesis - for example, we have no land based memorials such as parks or gardens which date back to the First World War. 

Here a couple of screen grabs from the IWM War Memorials Register site, specifically the filters for choosing what kind of result you want to get when you do a search:

The IWM call the above 'Types'

The IWM call the above 'Components'

Yet if you search for 'Bed' on the website you get 906 hits! Ok, some of them are in Bedfordshire! And if you open up an entry for an actual bed the type used in the listing is 'Endowed Bed', which doesn't appear in either of the lists above. Clicking on Endowed Bed in a listing (where it is underlined to show it is a link or option) brings back 109 records. None for Barnsley because we only have an existing plaque for one and that one hasn't been added to the War Memorials Register yet. However I know, from newspaper reports, that there were at least 5 endowed beds relating to the FWW in Beckett Hospital.

The IWM doesn't use Groups of people as a category, I'm not surprised, it can be very difficult to allocate a memorial to one of my groups. One example is the memorial plaque for Tom Lockwood in Hoylandswaine Church, a Community memorial, a church memorial or a family memorial? Well, the church must have applied for a Diocesan Faculty in order to erect it, but it was possibly proposed by the local Council because he was a local hero. It's for just one man and usually those memorials are promoted by family members. As I haven't seen the Faculty yet, or read the Hoylandswaine Council minutes I've been calling it a Family memorial in case it was his family behind the proposal after all. 

Prof Laura also suggested I explain who people were. I had done that for some of the names mentioned in the newspaper cuttings - I find it quite easy, and very satifying, to track a man down, either in the census returns or using the newspaper indexes, or both. The trouble is it uses up quite a few words to explain who they are. For example, one of the churchwardens at Darfield, named on the Diocesan Faculty for the church memorial tablet, was Thomas Cherry. I wrote a little about him in a footnote to try to explain why his opinion might have carried weight when he spoke at a meeting. 

"Thomas Cherry was the treasurer of the Darfield Conservative Club, MST, 29 July 1922, p. 2, and the secretary of the Parish Church War Memorial Committee, PSHE, 16 July 1921, p. 9. His son John Albert Cherry served in the Royal Navy during the war."

MST = Mexborough & Swinton Times, PSHE = Penistone, Stocksbridge and Hoyland Express.

That little biography was 44 words! And I haven't referenced how I know who his son was (I looked Thomas up in the 1911 census and checked his son in the military records on Ancestry to see if he served). I will have to reference it, but that will be quite a lot more words. 

It will be useful to do these little biographies, as I do want to try to explain the differences in social class between some of the groups. But I suppose it also means I'm going to have to be very choosy about which men (and they are usually men) I mention in my text. Actually I don't like the idea of editing the words I use from the newspaper reports so much (picking and choosing which speaker to name and research) as it might unfairly bias my analysis of the committee or group. A man with a distinctive name, like Thomas Cherry, would be much easier to find than a John Smith for example. A local clergyman or businessman would be easier to find in the newspapers than a bricklayer. Such a lot of pitfalls once you really start looking at the pros and cons. I did ask if I could put the biographies in an Appendix, but that is when Prof Laura reminded me about the 20% rule. I suppose I will just have to see what they amount to.

The main reason I was running out of words and failing to provide a good discussion about each group of people appears to have been that I was including too many examples in each section. With 249 memorials to choose from I am quite spoilt for choice, but if we imagine I divide the 65,000 words I have allowed for my main body by 249 that allows only 261 words per memorial which is about one long paragraph. Nothing left for headings, or footnotes, or discussion or the (very important) argument. Going forward I will have to be even more selective about which memorials I discuss, thinking about what I want to propose as the unique feature of each group and picking examples to illustrate my argument. 

I feel somewhat hampered by my MA as when I want to include a mention of an aspect of a memorial that I talked about in my dissertation I now need to reference it in the same way I would if they were someone else's work - I think that's how to do it - anyway I mustn't plagarise myself, that is, reuse my own discussion as if it were new thoughts. One of Prof Laura's comments said that I should explain what I discovered in my MA, just like outlining another historian's 'unique contribution' to the topic of war memorials. Sometimes I forget which memorials I talked about ... and I have to open up the final copy of my dissertation and do a 'Find' on it.

Here's a list of the memorials I mainly discussed in my MA:

The main Barnsley Civic memorial (now in front of the Town Hall and previously discussed by Alex King in his book but I added a lot more detail about fundraising and the whole lack of names scandal [that's my own personal opinion of the matter by the way, during the planning of the memorial the Council said they were going to produce a list of names and it was never done, hence, partially, the reason the BWMP produced their Roll of Honour in 2018])
Farrar Street Congregational's plaque (Non-conformist, I discussed fundraising and how that influenced what they eventually ended up with)
Dodworth's obelisk with a soldier on the top (a combination of the Council there and the Gardeners Association and way in which the two groups had initially been in competition with each other)
Barnsley Co-op's endowed beds (a Workplace - though I now see I got the number of beds wrong in my MA)
Shaw Lane Sportsman's obelisk type memorial (a Club, I mainly discussed the arguments about who had contributed subsciptions and who was invited to the unveiling ceremony)
Hoylandswaine's obelisk (proposed by the Council there but where the working committee included working class men as well as councillors and clergymen and got on with the job quite speedily)
Monk Bretton's church memorial (initially proposed by the Council there, but which was objected to by non-conformist groups and some smaller parts of the area which resented being clumped together by the Anglican parish boundaries)
Monk Bretton Cliffe Bridge Wesleyan Reform Chapel and Monk Bretton WMC (as a response to the above)
Thurlstone's various plans culminating in brass plaque in the church (ambitious utilitarian plans were originally suggested but came to nothing)
Worsborough Dale's obelisk (which had to be scaled down due to cost)
Thurgoland's stone cross - grouped with obelisks in my categories (the elements of the inscription changed due to space available)
St Peter's Church, on Doncaster Road, large wooden tablet (which had to have extra names added later)
Woolley's stone cross (how they collected the names and discussed who should be included)
The York and Lancs memorial plaque in St Mary's Church (who was intended to be commemorated and how the funding was taken from the town's civic memorial fund - because the Council had promised a contribution to it in the early days when they combined both funds)

That is only 14 memorials in 15k words. I only really discussed the main Civic memorial's whole story, the rest appeared in bits and bobs under fundraising or changes to plans. I mentioned at least 33 memorials in my 15k word draft chapter, and some others just in passing, so definitely far too many. 

I have an online meeting booked with Prof Laura for next week, and I'll happily re-write the chapter taking her comments into consideration. I will aim to use no more than two or three memorials per section (2 or 3 x 7 sections = 14 to 21 memorials in 15k words), and write nice long paragraphs beginning with my argument explaining and justifying the inclusion of each example. It will be a different kind of writing to get used to.

It can only get better??

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