Can we talk about research, please?! Alongside my fiction writing I'm very slowly researching two separate non-fiction ideas. One has slid onto the back burner as I really need to do in-person interviews to progress it so that will be post-vaccine, I guess. But the other is very much go. It concerns events and real people's experiences in the 1940s in both the UK and USSR. I'm looking for suggestions to add to my list of research sources.
I am most fortunately blessed with a wonderfully skilled and helpful researcher in the guise of my mum. She’s a trained genealogist with access to all those programmes, an editor and researcher, and a writer of biographies, with great persistence in her research, more free time than I have, and the willingness to do an awful lot for me. Though all my historical novel research has been done by me in the archives (with a tutorial from her in reading 16th century writing), she has helped me on so many other projects. Though you may not be blessed with such a helpful in house resource, maybe there are experts like who’d happily answer a specific question of two? When I’ve approached others on specific topics, I’ve usually had a positive and useful response.
I can recommend my researcher. He visits the National Archives for me and I pay £150 for a days search. He transcribes any old handwriting and translates from Latin for that, and is very quick to reply.
That’s great that you’ve found someone you can work with and who has the skills you need. I remember my first day in the York city archives, barely being able to read the dates in the 16th century manuscript I was looking at, and feeling certain that I’ve never be able to master the handwriting and language. But with time it became so much easier, and after a couple of months I could search through 200 pages in a day, confident in my ability to spot anything relevant, if not quite reading every word. It felt like such a privilege to have access to original sources like that. Though I did study years of Latin I think I’ve forgotten it all now, so I was relieved to be dealing mostly with English!
I got as far as our local records office and it's a fascinating place. I just love doing the research!!! You can still download some Wills etc from the National Archives and its free right now because of Covid
You could start with WWII airfields. Lots on Google with a good amount of info if you follow the links.
My father had great foresight. In early 1940 he bought a house on the fringe of RAF Hornchurch. It was a front line fighter station, with Duxford, the first to have Spitfire squadrons. Commencing July that year, the airfield had quite a pasting from the Luftwaffe. My earliest recollection is the sound of shattering glass as our conservatory took a shock wave. Most of those airfields are long gone but a few have some relics. Beaulieu in Hampshire is one. It has some bits of runway remaining. Take a folding chair and sit in the solace of the New Forest. It has an aura.
I have projects in different decades of the twentieth century and have Hutchinson's 'Twentieth Century' tome on my desk. Because it's laid out chronologically with a mix of stories, news reports and photo's, I can start with a helicopter view over weeks and months I need, seeing stuff develop, then (sorry folks - I need to work fast) I talk to google-nest gadget in my room "Hey Google, were any submarines sunk by our own side in world war two?" and 'she' lets me know more info - then I use that to zoom down even more and checkout those details. I'm not actually writing about war - just the impact of war on people after it's all over - but I need to 'hear' their voices. I use the method above because I found myself going down rabbit holes and getting too enthused about something that'd never end up in the book - so I have this length of yarn I use to find my way back out of the labyrinth!
yep - I find it really useful. For a novel too, as I can just muse - 'Hey google, have you any synonyms for "pride" or somesuch. The family won't allow it elsewhere as we have state secrets and millions in the bank they want to protect from prying ears, but in the spare bedroom, I can chat happily away to discover the capitals of small countries, the year of the poll tax riots and who was health minister in 1978.
One problem I've found is that sometimes research, especially if one is using more than one source, can contradict each other.
When writing my script regarding Alcock and Brown was that certain aspects of their story was easy to find research on with plenty being written on it, whereas other aspects (for example Margaret Carter and Marguerite Kathleen Kennedy). There are certain historical characters and events that are more well known and therefore easier to gather research on. Whilst others that have been forgotten it becomes harder. It's one reason why I wrote my script was to ensure that what they did (plus the other competitors) are not forgotten.
Currently I've just began to gather research on the Vickers Vimy not only for its record breaking flights but also its more "down to earth" service.