What happens when a country is no longer a country?
The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
We return this week with an interview with a historical project that's still fairly active, WikiProject Former countries, which has a large amount of recognised content and a pretty large remit: countries that existed in history, but no longer exist as political entities. There are certainly a lot of those. Here to divulge their experiences are OwenBlacker and MirkoS18.
What motivated you to join WikiProject Former countries? Do you have an academic or professional background in world history? Have you contributed to WikiProjects covering any other geographical topics?
- OwenBlacker: I went to school in Plymouth (the original one, in England), so there was a big emphasis on British naval history. Apart from the Roanoke Colony, though, it totally wasn't my bag and put me off history for years. Until I discovered my uncle's copy of The Times Atlas of World History and realised that learning more about history meant there were even more maps to look at — always a guilty pleasure. That helped me realise it wasn't history I disliked, just the parts I learnt at school. Since then I have read (and looked at maps) of history in great quantity.
Have you contributed to any of the project's 44 Featured or 77 Good Articles? What challenges do project members face when improving former countries articles to FA or GA status?
- OwenBlacker: A lot of the Featured and Good articles are about military history, which doesn't interest me as much, but which benefits from many excellent writers. There's only one of the Good Articles that I've worked on in detail, Principality of Stavelot-Malmedy, one of the ecclesiastical states of the Holy Roman Empire and an article I raised from a stub to GA class. I look forward to doing more.
Your front page gives links to WikiProject Historical Atlas and WikiProject Heraldry and vexillology. Is this collaboration still actively maintained, and how does it help the net improvement to your content output as a project?
- OwenBlacker: The articles benefit greatly by having high-quality maps, flags and arms. I also contribute to Commons:WikiProject Heraldry, mainly creating coats of arms images for articles I'm working on.
What is your favourite former country?
- OwenBlacker: I mainly edit around pre-Napoleonic Europe, in particular the Holy Roman Empire and the Old Swiss Confederacy; I'd say the Empire is probably my favourite.
- MirkoS18: Talks on history of Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia are still hot topic in the region. There is almost noone who would be emotionally distant and neutral. At the same time, people know little facts about that time. Theirs opinions are glorification or vilification. Dissolution of Yugoslavia itself created new short living entities that are covered by this project. Today, there is even specific WP project Yugoslavia that tries to bring facts to the general public. Taking into account that topic is from recent history and is still very relevant for today, I would say that Yugoslavia would be my favourite former country and favourite topic to work on that is connected with this project.
What are the project's most urgent needs? How can a new contributor help today?
- OwenBlacker: Like so much in the English Wikipedia, our coverage of the Global South bears much room for improvement — for example, the Songhai Empire was one of the largest empires in Islamic and African history but is currently rated Start-class (though could do with a review and maybe a GA Nomination). The easiest place to start, though would be to take almost any article and flesh it out — over a half of our article-space pages are Start-class.
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