From a Distance

It is easy to forget the state of research in the 19th century — a world that would be so unfamiliar to us now. Information was local and only held in someone’s memory, or on paper. Much information was so local it tended to stay local. A story might appear in a local paper, but unless it was big enough news to make the national or international press, it would reside only in the minds of local readers (until such time as they forgot), or in a bound copy of that newspaper in the local library.

With judicious page turning, the story might be resurrected from the local archives, but you needed to be there. That newspaper’s back copies might not be held anywhere else in the world save for the town for which it was produced. No-one outside could find out from a distance. Proximity meant knowledge and distance equalled ignorance.

Hurrah for the Internet and Google. Those little facts which were always there but disenfranchised from big history now generate new perspectives and untold stories.

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