Researching Writing Lives – Edward Balne

This has been an incredibly interesting semester – I have thoroughly enjoyed the research I have undertaken. This is due to Edward Balne being such an interesting character.

One of the most difficult things about researching in depth is keeping track of the exact task I am carrying out at that particular moment! I can so very easily become distracted with another thread or investigation to do with my author. Learning how to use WordPress and social media for publishing and publicity does not come naturally to me, but I have learned a lot from doing it.

What I found most interesting was Balne’s circumstances of birth and registering. I looked at several sources and found them to uphold what Balne had claimed: that he hadn’t an official name until he was 63. All birth records for Southwark, 1895 had him pop up as Unnamed or just Male, while every single other person in his birth year had names.

The human side of his story and his thoughts on his school and how this affected him in later life was also extremely compelling. He, as a poor law schoolboy was looked upon as a second or even third class of citizen – he mentions an incident which scarred him personally for a long while. He does not go into detail.

It’s this that makes the research worthwhile. The trawling through the UK Births, Deaths and Marriages online sites – horribly hard to use – and the online sources to do with his education and army protocol concerning boy musicians etc was difficult to concentrate on, but Balne himself was very compelling.

In his diatribe on the state of education in 1972, for example, and comparing my school history with his (the positives) I can see exactly where he’s coming from.

Looking at secondary sources such as essays and other works on working class autobiography brought the politics of the time to light. It made me fully understand why exactly Balne was so angry – and had this chip in his shoulder about the state of education. It was only through his education he managed to claw his way up to modest means. I would not have understood the depth of that, if I had not paid attention to Regenia Gagnier or Evan M. Gottlieb, among others.

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