New England's History

Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Contributing to Northern Life



Shirley Mckechnie at the UNE dance summer school. Under Peggy Van Praagh and Ms Mckechnie, the summer schools assisted the evolution of Australian dance. This  is the twelth in the story of the Pacific Belshaws, the seventh on the early days of the New England University College, University of New England

At the end of the Second World War, Jim Belshaw as Acting Warden had spoken of the New England University College as the powerhouse of the North. This view was shared by the College’s founders and the new Advisory Council.

This part of the College’s role s was seen in fairly broad terms; one part was the education of the young; a second economic development and especially the role that agriculture might play in that development; a third the contribution that the College might make to broader Northern life

Belshaw took up the regional development cause. In 1944, he combined with geology lecturer Alan Voisey to launch the New England University College Regional Research Bureau. This was more name than substance, the main print output appears to have been a pamphlet based on a series of articles originally published in the Northern Daily Leader, but it provided a platform for a new movement, the regional council movement.

Belshaw travelled the North, arguing for the creation of regional councils with real powers that could facilitate development, a cause taken up by a number of local councils. As it became clear that the Government in Sydney would not grant the new regional councils the power they needed to be effective, the regional councils movement turned into a resurgent New England New State Movement.

In parallel, Belshaw and his colleagues focused their research and writing on different aspects of the North. This output would peak in the early 1980s and then decline sharply as the University changed direction.

Appointed as Warden in February 1947, Robert Madgwick shared the vision but added to it high level administrative skills along with a profound belief in liberal and adult education.

After founding the Australian Army Education Service,  Madgwick played a major part in establishing the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. He also sat (1943-46) on two inter-departmental committees which set out the future role of the Commonwealth government in education.

Madgwick constantly championed the cause of adult education. When his claims for a Commonwealth-funded national system were thwarted by lack of political support, he chose to leave Canberra and come to the College as a way of putting his ideas into practice in a direct way.

In June 1948, A W (Arnold) Eberle was appointed to head adult education. Eberle died suddenly in January 1954 and was replaced in 1955 by AJA (Arch) Nelson.

Under Eberle and then Nelson, the role played by the College/University in adult and then external education gave it regional reach and national prestige.

Speaking just of the dance summer schools, the Curator of Dance at the National Library Michelle Potter spoke of the excitement generated where creativity was fostered, where some of Australia’s most prominent artists made contributions, and where the talents of aspiring choreographers, dancers, writers and historians were nurtured.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 11 April 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017, here 2018 

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Building university into a regional power house


Colonel Robert B Madgwick, Director of Army Education at work, Toorak Melbourne.This  is the eleventh in the story of the Pacific Belshaws, the sixth on the early days of the New England University College, University of New England 

In February 1947, Robert Madgwick had been appointed as new Warden of the New England University College, replacing Belshaw as Acting Warden. He proved to be a good choice.

Belshaw had previously articulated a vision for the future university. In this he spoke of the College’s already considerable significance in political, social and economic arenas, of its great future, of its heavy obligation to research and extension work. To Belshaw, a third function of the university would be its role as the “power house” for its region.

Madgwick shared these views. Like Belshaw, he also believed in the role of education as a tool for economic and social advancement. However, he also brought a broader experience that would help form the character of the place.

Robert Bowden Madgwick was born in North Sydney on 10 May 1905, the second of three sons of Richard Charlton Madgwick and Annie Jane Elston. His father was a tram-driver in Sydney, his mother a dressmaker. Both were active members of the Anglican Church.. Madgwick stated later that his parents taught him that, "all men and women were sacred, and poverty and injustice were in some way contrary to God's teaching."

After attending Naremburn Public and North Sydney Boys' High schools, Madgwick entered the University of Sydney on a Teachers' College scholarship, graduating in 1927 with the first university medal in economics, an award shared with (Sir) Herman Black.

After teaching, for a period, Madgwick was appointed in 1929 to a temporary lectureship in economics at the University of Sydney. There he completed his Masters and then in 1933 was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship. This allowed him to complete a D Phil at Balliol College, Oxford, later published as Immigration into Eastern Australia 1788-1851.

Madgwick returned to the University of Sydney in 1936 as a lecturer in economic history. There on .19 May 1937 he married Ailsa Margaret Aspinall. The couple would have three daughters.

At Sydney, Madgwick had become involved in adult education as secretary of the University Extension Board. Now the War gave him an opportunity to put his evolving ideas on adult education into large scale practice when he became involved in planning an army education scheme.

In July 1943 he was appointed temporary colonel and given the title of director of army education, becoming head of what would be known as the Australian Army Education Service (AAES).

The AAES aimed: to build morale, to educate for citizenship, to provide a diversion from forward or staging-area tedium, and to prepare servicemen and women for demobilization. This was a large scale activity, with (among other things) some 10 million attending AAES classes.

I will continue this story in my next column.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 28 March 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017, here 2018 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

University college ‘starved'


College family: January 8, 1945. Edna, first college librarian and eldest daughter of college founder David Drummond, marries first staff member and now acting Warden Jim Belshaw. This  is the tenth in the story of the Pacific Belshaws, the fifth on the early days of the New England University College, University of New England 

The 1940s were a difficult time for the New England University College as it fought to establish itself with limited funds. However, there were some advances.

In January 1943, the Commonwealth Government established the Department of Post-War Reconstruction under the leadership of H C (Nugget) Coombs to plan and coordinate Australia's transition from a war economy with the goal of achieving and maintaining full employment.

One result was the first direct Commonwealth financial support to the university sector via the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme (CRTS). Student numbers increased from 180 in 1945 to 246 in 1948, partly as a consequence of ex-service personnel enrolling under the CRTS.

In 1946, the University also received a Commonwealth grant of £33,000 under CRTS to build a temporary laboratory block, the Belshaw Block, which finally opened in 1949. The new building may have been, as University librarian Edith Tattersall said, “a bleak, ugly, two-story barn”, but it was still a God send to the Faculty of Science

There were also some new staff appointments, including two ex-students, Paul Barratt (Psychology) and Alwyn Horadam (Mathematics). Barratt had been the first student enrolled at the new University College in 1938 and would later become Professor of Psychology

Despite this growth, the efforts progress the autonomy issue failed completely. Possible Commonwealth funding was drained by the creation of the Australian National University in 1946, an action vigorously promoted by H C Coombs. In New South Wales, the Government transformed the Sydney Technical College into an Institute of Technology and then in 1949, with much fanfare, into the New South Wales University of Technology, now the University of New South Wales.

This was a bitter outcome from a New England perspective: “the University of Sydney is being financially starved”, Drummond said, and “its offspring, the New England University College, is even more starved” Staff bitterness lingered for years.

In February 1947, Jim Belshaw as acting Warden had been replaced by Robert Madgwick. It had been a busy and productive time for Belshaw.

In addition to his duties as acting Warden, he had continued teaching, played a major role in creating the institutions that the College required and had become actively involved in the promotion of Northern development. He had also found the time to marry.

“I wonder”, he had written in his diary in 1938, “whether I shall ever have a wife and children?” Now his new bride was Edna Drummond, David Drummond’s oldest daughter.

Edna’s sisters were a little surprised at the news because she had not always been complimentary about Doctor Belshaw. In fact, it’s not so surprising. Edna had established the College library so they worked together, while Belshaw and Drummond had worked closely on College and Northern Development matters.

In February 1945 their first son, James, was born.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 21 March 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017, here 2018 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Skara Brae: local responses to environmental change

Interesting piece in Nature Ecology & Evolution, The resilience of postglacial hunter-gatherers to abrupt climate change, on the Skara Brae site (photo) in Scotland published on-line on 26 march 2018.

I will give you the abstract first and then make a brief comment. The abstract reads:
Understanding the resilience of early societies to climate change is an essential part of exploring the environmental sensitivity of human populations. There is significant interest in the role of abrupt climate events as a driver of early Holocene human activity, but there are very few well-dated records directly compared with local climate archives. Here, we present evidence from the internationally important Mesolithic site of Star Carr showing occupation during the early Holocene, which is directly compared with a high-resolution palaeoclimate record from neighbouring lake beds. We show that—once established—there was intensive human activity at the site for several hundred years when the community was subject to multiple, severe, abrupt climate events that impacted air temperatures, the landscape and the ecosystem of the region. However, these results show that occupation and activity at the site persisted regardless of the environmental stresses experienced by this society. The Star Carr population displayed a high level of resilience to climate change, suggesting that postglacial populations were not necessarily held hostage to the flickering switch of climate change. Instead, we show that local, intrinsic changes in the wetland environment were more significant in determining human activity than the large-scale abrupt early Holocene climate events. 
Simon Blockley, Ian Candy, Ian Matthews, Pete Langdon, Cath Langdon, Adrian Palmer, Paul Lincoln, Ashley Abrook, Barry Taylor, Chantal Conneller, Alex Bayliss, Alison MacLeod, Laura Deeprose, Chris Darvill, Rebecca Kearney, Nancy Beavan, Richard Staff, Michael Bamforth, Maisie Taylor & Nicky Milner The resilience of postglacial hunter-gatherers to abrupt climate change Nature Ecology & Evolution (2018)
doi:10.1038/s41559-018-0508-4
The resilience of human populations to survive in the face of extreme change will not come as a surprise to anybody who knows something about the Tasmanian Aborigines. By the time that Skara Brae was established, Tasmania's Aboriginal peoples had survived the Late Glacial maximum and the separation of Tasmania from the mainland. They were affected by but adapted to dramatic climate change.

All this said. the Skara Brae case illustrates the importance of understanding the local effects of change and the nature of responses. I know that I am a broken record on this one. .

Monday, March 26, 2018

Dendrochronology and the discovery of the Late Antique Little Ice Age

I first came across dendrochronology when I was studied prehistory and archaeology in my undergraduate degree. Since then, the field has exploded.

Wikipedia describes dendrochronology in these terms:
Dendrochronology (or tree-ring dating) is the scientific method of dating tree rings (also called growth rings) to the exact year they were formed in order to analyze atmospheric conditions during different periods in history. Dendrochronology is useful for determining the timing of events and rates of change in the environment (most prominently climate) and also in works of art and architecture, such as old panel paintings on wood, buildings, etc. It is also used in radiocarbon dating to calibrate radiocarbon ages. 
New growth in trees occurs in a layer of cells near the bark. A tree's growth rate changes in a predictable pattern throughout the year in response to seasonal climate changes, resulting in visible growth rings. Each ring marks a complete cycle of seasons, or one year, in the tree's life As of 2013, the oldest tree-ring measurements in the Northern Hemisphere are a floating sequence extending from about 12,580 to 13,900 years.
A very user friendly description by Matthew Mason can be found in Environment Science: Dendrochronology: What Tree Rings Tell Us About Past and Present.

As indicated, dendrochronology can be used in dating including the calibration of radio carbon dates. However, variations in the tree rings can also provide evidence for climatic variation. This February 2018 Cambridge University promo, Silent witnesses: how an ice age was written in the trees, describes a little of the work being done here focused especially on the discovery of LALIA, the Late Antique Little Ice Age which dated from AD 536 to around AD 660.

The promo references a 2016 letter published in Nature Geoscience, Cooling and societal change during the Late Antique Little Ice Age from 536 to around 660 AD.. The abstract follows. Details of the footnotes can be found in the original. :
Climatic changes during the first half of the Common Era have been suggested to play a role in societal reorganizations in Europe 1,2 and Asia 3,4. In particular, the sixth century coincides with rising and falling civilizations 1,2,3,4,5,6, pandemics 7,8, human migration and political turmoil 8,9,10,11,12,13. Our understanding of the magnitude and spatial extent as well as the possible causes and concurrences of climate change during this period is, however, still limited. Here we use tree-ring chronologies from the Russian Altai and European Alps to reconstruct summer temperatures over the past two millennia. We find an unprecedented, long-lasting and spatially synchronized cooling following a cluster of large volcanic eruptions in 536, 540 and 547 AD (ref. 14), which was probably sustained by ocean and sea-ice feedbacks 15,16, as well as a solar minimum 17. We thus identify the interval from 536 to about 660 AD as the Late Antique Little Ice Age. Spanning most of the Northern Hemisphere, we suggest that this cold phase be considered as an additional environmental factor contributing to the establishment of the Justinian plague 7,8, transformation of the eastern Roman Empire and collapse of the Sasanian Empire 1,2,5, movements out of the Asian steppe and Arabian Peninsula 8,11,12, spread of Slavic-speaking peoples 9,10 and political upheavals in China 13.

Ulf Büntgen, Vladimir S. Myglan, Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist, Michael McCormick, Nicola Di Cosmo, Michael Sigl, Johann Jungclaus, Sebastian Wagner, Paul J. Krusic, Jan Esper, Jed O. Kaplan, Michiel A. C. de Vaan, Jürg Luterbacher, Lukas Wacker, Willy Tegel & Alexander V. Kirdyanov "Cooling and societal change during the Late Antique Little Ice Age from 536 to around 660 AD".. Nature Geoscience volume 9, pages 231–236 (2016) doi:10.1038/ngeo2652
Discussion

One of my weaknesses when I first started studying history at school and then as an undergraduate is that I underestimated the importance of variations across space and time in environmental conditions. I became much more conscious of these issues when I started Aboriginal history. Even the, I had unconscious blind spots.  As a simple and much later example, until I visited the Greek Islands in 2010 I really had no idea of the importance of water, food production and transport to life and politics on particular islands. Perhaps more precisely, I knew in an abstract sense but hadn't made the concrete connection.

As we gain more knowledge of the past, our views shift. The knowledge that the still new colony at Port Jackson was hit by an El Nino event that counters a previously prevailing view that its food problems were primarily due to lack of knowledge of soil and farming techniques in a new land.

The discovery from dendrochronology of the Late Antique Little Ice Age, although I'm not sure that I buy all the hype attache, is actually exciting. Here we have a case of difficulties that were identified in the documentary record but that, like the Sydney example, lacked a context to interpret them in a coherent way.      

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Billy Griffiths, Isabel McBryde and Deep Time Dreaming - a note

On Saturday 17 March 2018, ABC's Radio National Geraldine Doogue interviewed Billy Griffith, the author of Deep Time Dreaming: Uncovering Ancient Australia. (Black Inc, February 2018).

Billy is a historian and research fellow at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation. In his book, he explores a twin revolution: the reassertion of Aboriginal identity in the second half of the twentieth century, and the simultaneous uncovering of the traces of ancient Australia by pioneering archaeologists.

The ABC interview is on-line and well worth listening too.An excerpt from the book telling the story of archaeologist Isabel McBryde, Haunted Country, was published in Inside Story. It is well written and will give you a feel for the book as a whole. It is also an excerpt of particular relevance to me because I was one of that group of Isabel's students that Billy talks about.

I have written a little on all this, material that I need to consolidate. Billy's assessment is to a degree limited by space and focus.This does not detract from its value, it's a very good piece indeed, but means that it does not fully reflect the scope of Isabel's work.

John Mulvaney, Isabel's mentor, has been described as the Father of Australian archaeology, while. Trowelblazers described  Isabel as the mother. Leaving aside a certain feeling of discomfort about the use of such gender specific terms, it does reflect her importance and influence.

In a paper delivered in 2010, Unrecognised and now almost unknown: explorations through the history of the broader New England, I described Isabel's contribution to the University of New England in this way:

" Isabel’s personality and approach exactly fitted the University’s culture. The results were quite outstanding for such a small institution.

Four years after Isabel’s arrival came the first thesis, Sharon Sullivan's 1964 honours study on the material culture of the Aborigines of the Richmond and Tweed Rivers.

By 1978, UNE students had written at least 22 theses on the Aborigines, 4 Litt.B's, 16 BA honours and 2 MAs. Isabel herself was awarded her PhD in 1967, laying the basis for a 1974 book, Aboriginal prehistory in New England. This was followed in 1978 by book of essays, Records of Time Past: ethnohistorical essays on the culture and ecology of the New England tribes mainly written by her former students. This included an article of mine, Population distribution and the pattern of seasonal movement in Northern NSW, drawn from my original work. The story does not end there, for there were also journal articles and monographs, including her pioneering study with R A Binns, A petrological analysis of ground-edge artefacts from northern New South Wales.

The citation for her award in 2003 of the Rhys Jones Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Australian Archaeology justly summarised her work this way:
Her work in New England was remarkable for its extent and depth, and Isabel's examination of the interface of archaeology and ethnography in the region shaped not only the approach taken by many later researchers but also prepared the basis for the arguments about upland regions created by archaeologists such as Sandra Bowdler and Luke Godwin."
It is now 55 years since I first became involved as a student with Isabel. My career choices took me well away from archaeology, prehistory or Aboriginal studies.Still, here I am 55 years later trying to develop a new synthesis for New England Aboriginal history. That's a remarkable reach.  

Friday, March 23, 2018

New questions on the origin and spread of Australia's Aboriginal languages

Proposed Australian language tree

A University of Newcastle (UON) news item published on 21 March 2018, Indigenous language link reveals common ancestor, reported on new research on the history and structure of Australia's Aboriginal languages. As I have done before, I provide the information first while comments follow at the end.

The University of Newcastle piece reads:
"New research has found a ground-breaking link between Australian Indigenous languages, demonstrating for the first time that all Indigenous languages descend from one common ancestor. 
The unprecedented finding sheds new light on the origins of Australian language and has significant implications for the cultural history of Australia.
The result of a collaboration between the University of Newcastle (UON) and Western Sydney University (WSU), the finding is the first time the theory that all Australian languages derive from one language, Proto-Australian, has been proven. 
UON Chief Investigator and historical linguist, Associate Professor Mark Harvey, said the finding was an exciting culmination of a three-year project, which he hoped would enhance the understanding of Australian and human history. 
“Until now, it was speculated that Australia was significantly more linguistically diverse than somewhere like Europe, because it had not been proven that all Australian languages actually stemmed from the same lineage. 
“This is the first demonstration that all Australian languages are part of the same language family. This language family spread across all of Australia, presumably from a small area in Northern Australia. This spread is likely to have been carried out by at least some population movement whose material and genetic traces have remained somewhat elusive. 
“However, with further interdisciplinary research, this new linguistic evidence is likely to give us a more precise reconstruction of Australian prehistory from what is currently known,” Associate Professor Harvey said. 
The project used the standard method in historical linguistics to establish whether similarity between languages was due to inheritance from a common ancestor, as opposed to transfer from one language to another through human contact or chance. 
WSU Chief Investigator, Associate Professor Robert Mailhammer, said the findings revealed recurrent similarities between languages that were not in contact. 
“We discovered that the sounds of words we compared showed recurrent systematic differences and similarities across a set of languages that are spread out in a geographically discontinuous way, which makes it very unlikely that they are the result of chance or language contact,” Associate Professor Mailhammer said. 
While a multitude of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages were spoken at the time of European settlement, the findings also imply that Indigenous Australian languages only spread after the end of the last ice age, some 10-12,000 years ago. 
“These findings show that Indigenous Australian languages were not the likely languages spoken by the first inhabitants of Australia, raising more questions around how the languages spread and how the linguistic findings connect to the genetic findings,” Associate Professor Mailhammer added. 
Both researchers recognise that work in this area will continue, with plans to publish a book on Proto-Australian and collaborate with other disciplines to inform what is known about the prehistory of Australia. 
Funded under an Australian Research Centre (ARC) 2014 Discovery Project, the key research was published in the leading journal of historical linguistics, Diachronica. 
Researching in the field of Indigenous language, Dr Raymond Kelly from the University of Newcastle’s PURAI Global Indigenous and Diaspora Research Studies Centre said the findings would come as a welcome relief to many first nation people in the state of New South Wales (NSW) working at the coal face of language reconstruction, revival and renewal programs. 
“During the course of research for my own PhD, I also developed a similar conviction that Aboriginal languages in NSW are formed or drawn from a single source and expand beyond the state and territorial boundaries that we know exist today. These findings provide a healthy opportunity to re-evaluate the concept of connection and relationship for community,” Dr Kelly said."
The abstract of the :Diachronica article, the full article is behind a paywall,  reads:
"Evaluation of hypotheses on genetic relationships depends on two factors: database size and criteria on correspondence quality. For hypotheses on remote relationships, databases are often small. Therefore, detailed consideration of criteria on correspondence quality is important. Hypotheses on remote relationships commonly involve greater geographical and temporal ranges. Consequently, we propose that there are two factors which are likely to play a greater role in comparing hypotheses of chance, contact and inheritance for remote relationships: (i) spatial distribution of corresponding forms; and (ii) language specific unpredictability in related paradigms. Concentrated spatial distributions disfavour hypotheses of chance, and discontinuous distributions disfavour contact hypotheses, whereas hypotheses of inheritance may accommodate both. Higher levels of language-specific unpredictability favour remote over recent transmission. We consider a remote relationship hypothesis, the Proto-Australian hypothesis. We take noun class prefixation as a test dataset for evaluating this hypothesis against these two criteria, and we show that inheritance is favoured over chance and contact". 
Mark Harvey and Robert Mailhammer, Reconstructing remote relationshipsDiachronica, Volume 34, Issue 4, 2017, pp 470 –515, Published online 09 February 2018
Comment

In The origins of Pama-Nyungan - a note on the implications for the history of New England's Aboriginal peoples (13 March 2018) I reported on new research by Professor Claire Bowern and her colleagues that concluded that all Pama-Nyungan languages, the dominant language family across Australia, emerged just under 6,000 years ago around what is now the Queensland town of Burketown and then spread across Australia as people moved in response to changing climate. This research appears consistent with those conclusions but goes further, suggesting that all Aboriginal languages were related to some common proto-language but only spread after the end of the last ice age, some 10-12,000 years ago.

My 13 March comment focused on the difficulty I was having in meshing the conclusions of  Professor Claire Bowern and her colleagues with my evolving conclusions on New England Aboriginal history. A particular difficulty was the pattern of language diffusion and replacement given my evolving thoughts on Aboriginal retreat and resettlement during the Late Glacial Maximum (LGM) and following Holocene period. To restate my views:
  • We have a range of dates from the Hunter Valley, Liverpool Plains and at Wallen Wallen in SE Queensland suggesting occupation during the late Pleistocene (17,000 to 22,000 years ago)
  • The LGM (Late Glacial Maximum) forced populations to shift to survive. Parts of the North Coast were not very hospitable, so I postulated a retreat north and south.
  • As the new coastal environment began to form, people returned. Inland, the population spread from refuge areas along the slopes and plains. The Tablelands constituted an initial barrier.As the climate eased further and the environment changed the Tablelands were resettled primarily from the coast, but also onto the slopes from the West. I think that this pattern is reflected in later language differences.
  • In terms of the patchy dates we have, we have earliest settlement in the Macleay around 9,000 years ago, a date of over 6,000 years ago for Seelands in the Clarence, around 5,500 years ago for Graman on the western slopes. My feeling was that by around 6,000 years ago, reoccupation of territory after the LGM was well underway.  
  • from around 4000 years ago the number of dates begins to accelerate with accelerated population increase.
.In the UON piece, the second researcher Professor Mailhammer states “These findings show that Indigenous Australian languages were not the likely languages spoken by the first inhabitants of Australia, raising more questions around how the languages spread and how the linguistic findings connect to the genetic findings,”

Then, in a comment on the findings, UON's Dr Kelly state that  they would come as a welcome relief to many first nation people in the state of New South Wales working at the coal face of language reconstruction, revival and renewal programs. He goes on: :
“During the course of research for my own PhD, I also developed a similar conviction that Aboriginal languages in NSW are formed or drawn from a single source and expand beyond the state and territorial boundaries that we know exist today. These findings provide a healthy opportunity to re-evaluate the concept of connection and relationship for community,” 
There is something of a tension between these views. The problem is that the linguistic evidence appears to be suggesting that the Aborigines in NSW/New England who survived the LGM were supplanted by/ absorbed by later groups. So the first nations of NSW may not be the first nations at all, but peoples who came millennia later. I'm not sure that that conclusion will provide much comfort.

Professor Mailhammer suggests that the research raises more questions around the way the languages spread and how the linguistic findings connect to the genetic findings. I think that we should add archaeological findings to the list.

Last year, I reported (When and where did the Australian Aborigines and the Denisovans meet? 17 September 2017) on a 2106 Nature article by Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas, Michael C. Westaway et al
A genomic history of Aboriginal Australia. The abstract to that paper reads:
"The population history of Aboriginal Australians remains largely uncharacterized. Here we generate high-coverage genomes for 83 Aboriginal Australians (speakers of Pama–Nyungan languages) and 25 Papuans from the New Guinea Highlands. We find that Papuan and Aboriginal Australian ancestors diversified 25–40 thousand years ago (kya), suggesting pre-Holocene population structure in the ancient continent of Sahul (Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania). However, all of the studied Aboriginal Australians descend from a single founding population that differentiated ~10–32 kya. We infer a population expansion in northeast Australia during the Holocene epoch (past 10,000 years) associated with limited gene flow from this region to the rest of Australia, consistent with the spread of the Pama–Nyungan languages. We estimate that Aboriginal Australians and Papuans diverged from Eurasians 51–72 kya, following a single out-of-Africa dispersal, and subsequently admixed with archaic populations. Finally, we report evidence of selection in Aboriginal Australians potentially associated with living in the desert."
As the title of my post indicates, my main focus was on the nature of DNA evidence and the linkages with the Denisovans. However, the broad conclusions as summarised in the abstract are broadly consistent with the latest linguistic evidence, with the spread of Pama–Nyungan by absorption and contact rather than occupation and replacement.  However, problems remain.

Since the Nature article was published, we have the latest results from the Madjedbebe Rock Shelter (The lessons and questions from Madjedbebe) pushing back the date of human occupation of Sahul to 62,000+ years ago.As noted before, on the assumption that the Aboriginal peoples were the first occupants a tension arises between the dates suggested by DNA analysis and those from archaeology. Further, each new piece of analysis suggested a far more complex picture in terms of out-of-Africa and the spread and mixing with other hominid species.

At this point I do not quite know what to think. I am documenting for later analysis and synthesis.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

New England University College fights to stay open.


Booloominbah, army convalescent hospital First World War: In 1942, the army's desire to use the mansion in the same way could have closed the New England University College for good. This  is the ninth in the story of the Pacific Belshaws, the fourth on the early days of the New England University College, University of New England 

Those who had fought so hard to establish the New England University College had always seen it as a first step towards the creation of a full university for the North. This view would shared by the newly formed Advisory Council and staff.

The outbreak of war affected students and staff, bringing progress to a standstill. At first it seemed that the College itself might close. In 1942, the Army sought to requisition Booloominbah as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers, a role that it had played during the First World War.

These were difficult hours. Despite opposition from College supporters, Sydney University VC Robert Wallace advised NEUC Warden Edgar Booth in May 1942 that the Army requisition was mandatory and that immediate action was required.

Now desperate, Booth visited Canberra to see the Minister for the Army and Deputy Prime Minister Frank Forde to put the College’s case. He was persuasive. Forde immediately revoked the decision, adding that proposed requisition was “neither essential nor in the best interests of the Commonwealth.”

This was a real-payback for the earlier speed in establishing the College and the subsequent work of the first staff and students. Without it, the College could well have closed, perhaps never to re-open.

By the middle of 1943, the College felt sufficiently settled to again pursue the autonomy question.

In July 1943, the Council submitted a memorandum to the Sydney University Senate suggesting that the time had come to prepare the College for independence. This was followed by a similar petition to NSW Premier William McKell in February 1944. In both cases, the appointment of full professors was seen as a central step.

Booth as College Warden pursued the autonomy cause with vigour. In May 1945, the Sydney University Senate agreed that the College should be prepared for autonomy and that its subsidy should be increased to allow the appointment of professors.

Satisfied that autonomy was in sight, Booth resigned in July 1945. He had played a crucial role in the successful establishment of the College and in the creation of its character and ethos.

Jim Belshaw as Deputy Warden became Acting Warden, a position he would hold until February 1947. when Robert Madwick was appointed Warden.

Belshaw continued to press the autonomy cause with the NSW Government, but to no avail. In late 1946, he was forced to report to the Advisory Council that “the replies being received were still of the same nature – the matter was still under consideration and the Government had not yet determined its final policy in relation to the decentralisation of university education.”
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 14 March 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017, here 2018 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The story of Camp Victory and the Casino Boys

Last year I wrote a series of Armidale Express columns telling the story of Camp Victory and the Casino Boys. It's a fascinating story set in the context of WWII that begins with the fall of Holland to the Nazis.

This post on my general New England blog, New England Stories - Camp Victory and the Casino Boys - brings that story together.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Intense first days for new College


Creating student life. First New England University College rugby union team, 1939. Back Row: Lewis Border, Consett Davis, Max Hartwell, John Rafferty, Jim Belshaw (Coach), Alf Maiden, Les Titterton, Frank Rickwood, Ken James Middle Row: Ralph Crossley, Paul Barratt, Pat Thompson, Alan Sutherland, Peter Durie Front Row: Ed Scalley, Harry Savage. For more detail on the players see Paul Barrat's New England University Rugby Team 1939

This post is the eighth in the story of the Pacific Belshaws, the third on the early days of the New England University College, University of New England 

The early days of the New England University College have been well described in memoirs including Keith Leopold’s Came to Booloominbah and Paul Barratt’s Psychology at New England.

From the student perspective, two things stand out: the first was the intensity of life in the small College, the second the standard of the education received. The staff perspective is a little different, more concerned with the practical difficulties of institution building and of teaching with limited resources.

The College’s academic staff necessarily came from elsewhere. They saw a university as a collegiate community of scholars, themselves as belonging to an international and especially British and Commonwealth academic tradition. They also saw teaching as a key role.

With the exception of local students who were allowed to live at home, the new institution was to be a fully residential. This was partly a matter of necessity, but it also reflected a belief that a true university was a residential university. Here many contrasted New England with the mother University, Sydney, where some students had little connection with the place apart from attendance at lectures.

During the early periods, limited accommodation on campus meant that many students had to live in town houses, but they were still expected to eat on campus and to be there for the day, to be full time students.

The students who came from across the North were generally young. For most, this was the first family connection with a University. Both the College as an institution and its staff saw part of their role as introducing the students to the academic community, to giving them the knowledge and life skills required to fit into their new world, to contribute and advance.

This was not just the required course knowledge, but a total university immersion. There was also a strong competitive ethos, of pride in institution. The early staff were well aware that their new institution was the subject of suspicion; they had to be better.

Student results were remarkable. On average, New England students had lower entry level qualifications than those going to Sydney. On average, they had better examination results. During the period 1938-1953, the life of the University College, 441 students took their degrees. Of these, 88 graduated with honours, 27 with firsts of whom more than half took out university medals.

In addition to their other duties, staff had to manage the sometimes fractious relations with a remote mother university. This strengthened a growing desire for autonomy, a desire shared by the new College’s Advisory Council whose members had been carefully selected to ensure broad representation from across the North.

This would prove to be a long battle.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 8 March 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017, here 2018