Modern China, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Jan., 1982), pp. 133-143.
One of the biggest challenges for local history is to take seriously the idea of multiculturalism. Very few local history works in Queensland achieve much outside of an Anglo-Celtic perspective. The Philip Huang reading does not address the issue of multiculturalism in local history, but it demonstrates what local history research looks like well outside of the Anglo-Celtic or European perspective which tends to dominate the discourse in Queensland. It has further educative value in that Huang defines his study as “local social history”, rather than social local history. The reader can ponder on whether there is a difference. The study is highly technical in its research and provides an insight into the use by the local historian of social science techniques. Having made the argument from the Dew reading that the professional local historian needs to engage the hobby community, it is equally true that the professional historian needs to appreciate that his reading audience will also include fellow specialists. The successful practitioner will be the one who can turn out publications for both audiences. In writing specialist papers, the historian is not only contributing to the welfare of the profession, but is engaging in self-reflection for their local work. The benefits for the local community might seem as far away as Queensland is to China. However, communities mature intellectually when they are prepared to support specialisation in knowledge. One feels good that his neighbour is an expert in a field that a person might have little inclination to understand. We can feel glad that an art or science is not lost to the community as a whole even if its utilitarian value cannot be identified.
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