The idea is simple enough: to investigate the area of London known as Alsatia, and other similar ‘outlaw’ areas, their history, context and meanings. There are many tantalising references, but nothing substantial on the subject, so it offers challenges and rewards.
Of course, I could just do some searching, some reading, and perhaps write an article or suchlike. But keeping track of all the fragments, questions and resonances requires some organization, and that in turn requires some tools.
Perhaps historians used to keep their notes to themselves – reproduction and circulation may have had considerable overheads – but with the internet that no longer seems inevitable, or even preferable. The computer in its many dimensions has changed the game, both technically (a concordance can be built in minutes, not lifetimes) and socially (collaboration across great distances and outside the academy is a snap). Furthermore, history is nothing without source material, and the publication of it and the data generated from it are required to test and prove a thesis.
So along with an intriguing subject, I also have new methods and techniques to try out. There are possibilities of building maps and timelines, manipulating text and presenting findings as accessibly (in all senses) as possible. The social aspect is even more important, as it is through sharing, both giving and receiving, that community develop.
Besides, who wants to simply read alone, and not talk about their enthusiasms? Hence this site.
Why a blog?
I began using a CMS (Content Management System) to build this site, but abandoned it as being overly structured, pre-empting the twists and turns of research. Consequently, I turned to WordPress, the very flexible open-source blogging platform, as a way of allowing for the unpredictability of this project. If the lack of narrative is confusing, that is because the narrative remains to be written. Here we explore the alleys one by one, and see where they lead us.
About The Author
I’m John Levin, hacker, historian, Londoner. You can contact me at: john [@] anterotesis.com
This site opened to view on August 26th, 2009.