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

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Social change in New England 1950-2000 Introduction

This post began as just a note to myself.

The second half of the twentieth century was a period of great social change in New England, as it was in the rest of Australia. For a long time, I was reluctant to tackle this, partly because I found parts of it so depressing, party because it was hard to get a frame that might allow me to judge objectively. After all, I lived through this period.

In writing the story of social change in New England during this period, one issue is just the nature of the change itself. A second issue is the way that change mirrored, diverged from, or interacted with, the changes taking place elsewhere in Australia. Even if the changes simply mirrored those elsewhere, the story needs to be told. But was the process of change different? Were there specific local elements?

The bullet points that follow are simply notes on key themes. I will not give references, nor past posts. That can come later.
  • Don Aitkin's story of the Armidale High Leaving Certificate class of 1953 is a fundamental document because it provides a picture of change through the prism of one group. The themes that Don identifies provide a national and localised framework.
  • The fundamental changes in the demography of New England in the last two decades of the century, the rise of the coast and decline of the inland, needs to be scoped through census data. Even in the seventies, these changes and their impacts remained in the future. 
  • Economic and associated structural change needs to be scoped. New England is an interesting case study because it combines urban and rural, industrial and farming. The 1997 closure of the BHP steelworks could be used as an entry point just to give drama, the end of an era.
  • Changes in social attitudes and values might be illustrated by taking the history of the University of New England. The history of the Armidale School might be used to illustrate how this worked out at a school level. Ken Dempsey's study of the Uralla Methodist Church shows the impact at a purely local level. The history of the counter culture and of Aquarius and Nimbin needs to be spelled out; I am not sure of references here.
  • At Aboriginal level, there is actually a very specific New England story, extending well beyond the Sydney University student rides, so often the feature of history discussions of the period. The other elements get lost.
Well, there is an initial stake in the ground. I will now do some more notes focused not on new research, just what I have done to this point.

You cn see this in the following posts:

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