Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Next Steps

This is out of sequence with recent posts, but is designed as a preliminary thesis proposal, appraising my potential supervisor of what I am currently thinking.

On the first three of the four terms that make up the full-time Biography course at the University of Buckingham, we examined a number of different genres of both autobiography and biography: we read – or skimmed – paradigms of each and then in weekly seminars discussed their salient features. We did not however discuss works in which the autobiography is the most important source of information for the biographer, as would be the case with Colonel Wintle.

In such cases it would seem to me important to select a number of episodes related by the autobiographer, particularly those which show him in a good light, and seek to compare what he said happened with what other people may have said. The degree to which the accounts of the autobiographer and other people tally would then be an indicator of the reliability of what he says about himself.

So one of my first steps must be to skim The Last Englishman and to look for a handful of episodes that can be checked. At the same time I should look for those aspects and incidents in his professional and personal life which could form part of an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, since there is not yet one for my colonel. The first paragraph of such an entry must include brief information about both parents and all four grandparents, so I need to research this on FamilyRelatives.com or FindMyPast.co.uk.

Other steps, but of lower priority, are these.

  • Obtaining a CD containing the hour-long television programme about him mentioned in the Wikipedia entry and attempting to get interviews with the actor who played him and the author of the script.
  • Recontacting the friend with whom I saw the colonel in 1956 to see what he remembers of our meeting
  • Visiting West Malling, the nearest town to his last home, to seek to contact people who knew the colonel
  • Tracing the records of The Shop ('Sandhurst' for gunners and sappers) to c heck claim of rapid pass-out
  • Looking at service records, in particular commanding officers' assessments of someone who must at times have been a difficult subordinate and what is known about his time at the Ecole de Guerre
  • Finding out whether there might be a record of his court martial
  • Finding regimental histories to seek to cross-reference actions in which the colonel took part
  • Visiting the French embassy to see whether it would be possible to check his claim to have been top of national primary school exams in 1909
  • Looking at his will, both to satisfy ODNB requirement to give value of estate at death and to identify some relatives
  • Seeking to contact relatives to see who has the MS of the autobiography and other any personal paper, perhaps using telephone directories

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