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

Monday, February 15, 2010

Setting Australian history in context

Neil Whitfield had an interesting post, I’m old-fashioned in my way…, dealing with the study of British history in Australia.

Like Neil, I grew up studying a fair bit of British and especially English history along with a slab of European. This has now been largely lost and, like Neil, I think that it's a pity. Yes, I know that the school curriculum is crowded and Governments want to push the study of thing's Australian, but the consequent loss of context does create difficulties. Among other things, it means that more has to be explained.

If you look at my post Patrick Desmond Fitzgerald Murray 1900-1967 you can see how the Murrays  were an Imperial family. The post also refers to the University of New England as it was in the 1960s.

In all the frequent focus on institutions and processes, it is sometimes easy to forget that people with their own histories and ideas make history. The New England University College owed its existence to regional pressures and links. The precise form the new institution took was due to interaction between the ideas of the key founders and those of the early staff, all recruited to the area from outside. 

 Saturday Morning Musings - New England's Ogilvie dynasty looks at a very different family, one of New England's pastoral dynasties. With Edward Oglivie, you can see the tug between his Australian present and his and his father's love of Italy.

In a sense this is just a footnote. However, one issue in New England history is the divide within the squatting community between those who saw the North as primary focus and those to whom it may have been home, but whose real interest lay elsewhere. 

Sunday Essay - church, state and social change in Australia explores aspects of New England's social history. The members of the Ursuline order who came to Armidale and founded the order in Australia had a very particular and European vision of the church and of education. This had a small but significant effect, first in Armidale and then beyond as the order spread.

In Train Reading - S H Roberts the Squatting Age in Australia, 1835-1847 I look at one of the pioneering histories of the early squatting period.  This drew a rather nice companion piece from Janine Rizzeti, ‘The Squatting Age in Australia 1835-1847. Janine's blog, The Resident Judge of Port Phillip, is a very good blog for all those interested in Australian history.

One of Robert's strengths is his ability to set local colonial events in a British and European context. His description of the changes in the English and European wool industries that opened the door for the Australian industry is very good indeed.

I hope that I have made my point. Australian history at whatever level needs a broader historical context.

No comments: