Researching Writing Lives: Charles L. Hansford (B. 1902)

When first introduced to the module, Writing Lives, I was intrigued by the memoir I had chosen, however I was not aware of how much I would actually connect with my author. The only information I had about my writer, Charles Lewis Hansford, was his name, the title of his autobiography: “Memoir of a Bricklayer” and a short description which simply told of his profession. But from the first page, I automatically found myself captivated by Hansford as he introduced himself to his readership by fondly reminiscing on his childhood, describing the small village of Brockenhurst, Hampshire in which he grew up.

Prior to starting the module, I did have experience of blogging to a minimum, through creating a blog for a module I had completed in my second year at Liverpool John Moores Univeristy, and through also constructing my own personal platform: both via WordPress. When inputting my blog posts into the Writing Lives blog, I was able to navigate the website well in terms of using categories, tags to promote my post, and posting my content. But despite this, I do feel my knowledge of blogging did increase during the module. For example, I gained an understanding of the style of writing I was required to use when writing a blog post, in order to engage with my audience. By using smaller paragraphs, images and detailed yet structured sentences, I was able to put across my writing not just from an academic and analystic point of view but also in an informative way. Furthermore, the module taught me the importance of finding a niche in my writing by drawing on specific points for each blog post as opposed to aimlessly writing and trying to fit all my ideas in in one. This allowed my writing to be easily digested by my audience, no matter what their background knowledge of the working-classes during the Twentieth century was.

Through the use of blogging, I was required to share my blog posts as well as the Writing Lives blog via the social networking websites, Facebook and Twitter, and this taught me the importance of promoting my work and how to broaden the audience for my writing. I also shared the tweets and posts of other students on the module in order to support and promote their work, and show to our readership that the research project was a collaborative effort with the aim of increasing visitors on the Writing Lives blog.

In addition to developing my knowledge of blogging, I also learnt a lot about the historical events and the period that the author lived during. This, for example, included the changes that were beginning to take place during the beginning of the Twentieth century in health and safety laws, education and rights for both men and women. The author of my memoir also described his experiences of both World War One and World War Two, maintaining optimism and reflecting on his understanding of what he had endured.  But what I found most fascinating in particular when reading “Memoir of a Bricklayer”, was the way in which Charles described not just his experiences from a working-class view, but how working-class literature and events in history affected him so strongly, consequently influencing his beliefs. In his autobipography, he touches upon books such as The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell which I read as part of my research, as well as describing in depth the changes in work laws and the impact that witnessing the funeral procession of Shapurji Saklatvala had on his visions of the working-classes in Britain. As the autobiography progressed, Hansford analyses how his identity grew and changed, and therefore what started out for me as just a narrative about a construction worker became a text that allowed me to gain a vision of life for the working classes, and the importance of being a part of that class.

Finally, the research I carried out during my time ranged from both confirming information mentioned in Hasnford’s memoir to gaining new understandings of the events described in the text. This research included a visit to the Imperial War Museum North in Salford, Manchester, which I found a very moving and rewarding experience, allowing me to try and imagine what Charles would have experienced both as a child during the First World War, and an adult protecting his family during the Second World War. I also participated in further reading relating to my memoir, collecting information from journals, books and websites which allowed me to broaden my understanding of Charles background and the context of the time he lived during.

I have found this module rewarding in the sense that not only have I expanded my blogging skills but I have also heightened my knowledge of the important events of the twentieth century and how they affected the people that lived through them. But most importantly, I have realized the importance of the working-classes and learnt that their accounts are important because their voices needed to be heard in order for change to happen and improve the lives of people. Today we have health and safety laws, work regulations and equality in classes, with many opportunities available no matter what your background or income may be, and there are many chances to better yourself. I speculate that one of the main reasons for this is because the voices of the working-classes were eventually heard and listened to, thus producing positive results.

I feel very privileged to have been a part of the Writing Lives module, and proud to have been able to identify the memoir of Charles Lewis Hansford, who I discovered, was much, much more than just a bricklayer.

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