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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Round the history blogs 13 - diet, independence & Brideshead Revisited

It is almost six months since I did my last history blog round-up! That's too long. For the moment, just a taste.

Over on History Today, The Best of History Today in 2011 provides free access to some of the best articles published over 2011. It's worth a browse.

They synopsis to The English Diet: Roast Beef and.... Salad? reads:

The English diet has been mythologised as one of roasted meats and few vegetables but, as Anita Guerrini concludes from a survey of early modern writings on the subject, the nation’s approach to food has been rather more complicated than that.

My first reaction was simply that theology had something to answer for. Then I thought, what's changed? Just substitute health for religion!

In Canada as in Australia, there is debate about the question when Canada became truly independent. In Constitutional meat in the blogs, Christopher Moore reports that:

Andrew Smith... is shocked and saddened by the lack of attention given in Canada to the 80th anniversary of the passage of the Statute of Westminster in 1931 as it "marked the effective end of Canada's subordination to Britain." 

... But Janet Ajzenstat, almost simultaneously, puts forth 1848 as the significant moment that "sever[ed] the colonies' formal connection with the mother country."  By that reading, the 1931 Statute would dwindle to a formality -- the Empire's belated recognition of what had transpired a century earlier.

I wonder how many Australians have even heard of the Statute of Westminster? I suspect that it - the question of independence - doesn't matter a great deal. It just evolved!

Over on the Resident Judge of Port Philip, Janine remembers Christmas' past in An Australian Christmas c.1963. I have written a little on this topic myself, for most Australians have similar types of memories. From an historians viewpoint, these types of memories are actually valuable raw material. I talked a little about this in Personal memories & the writing of history.

Over on my personal blog I have begun the process of digitising and publishing personal and family photos.This is partly self-indulgence, but history is never far from my writing. For those that are interested, I have created a new label, musings on photos past.

Belle's Casus Belle Époque is arguably not a history blog, but then again it is, at least in the way that I broadly define them. If you haven't yet come across Belle's blog, do have a browse. To my mind, this is a remarkably good blog.

Belle's most recent posts (here one, here two) review Brideshead Revisited.  I watched the original series while I was back studying in Armidale in 1982 and became addicted, although it started to lose me towards the end.

From my own perspective as a sometimes historian, I am interested in the relationships between novels, novelists and history. I have never really liked Evelyn Waugh, but to my mind his life does reflect changing aspects of English life.

Livius' The History Blog continues to provide interesting material. From a purely local viewpoint, the most recent post Australian museum buys 1 holey dollar for $130,000 provides a useful summary of an early element in Australia's economic history.

I have barely scratched the surface today, yet I am already out of time! Maybe another dose tomorrow. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Introducing Lismore's Greek community

My thanks to Mark Bellamy from  Clarence Valley Today for introducing me to this site, A Gourmet's Guide to Lismore & District (or how the Greeks colluded with Col Esterol to concoct the Richmond diet). A related site is Aliens of the Tweed & Brunswick - An account of the fun and games of the Indogreeketceteras in the cafes and banana plantations around Murwillumbah and Mullumbimby.

I am looking forward to a proper browse. At some stage I must pull together the limited material I have so far written and the links on New England's Greek community. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Personal memories & the writing of history

Over on the New England Australia blog, I wrote a short piece Remembering the Tamworth Boys Home and then followed it up with Wednesday Forum - memories of holiday's past. In this post I want to follow up with brief comments on linked historical and historiographical aspects.

Tamworth Boys Home

The Tamworth Boys Home was established under the 1939 Child Welfare Act. This was a Drummond Act. As I read the details of the story, I wondered how Drummond would have felt. I have written a number of pieces on child welfare, including Drummond's life as a ward of the state and then his experiences as  minister in this area. I will pull all this together at some point to provide a consolidated perspective.

I also wondered, and this is a hypothesis, about the relationship between the Tamworth Boys Home and social change. The regime there seems to have been much harsher than in previous juvenile institutions.

The war seems to have relaxed social conventions. When I was looking at the history of TAS (The Armidale School), the war years seem to have been something of a bear garden because all the boys expected to join the Army. I don't think that that was unique to TAS. Later, social order was re-established as society sought to achieve normality after the turmoil of war. I wonder whether this was linked to the apparent harshness at Tamworth. 

In a way all this is only a small sub-text in the history I am writing, but it is still interesting

Memories of holiday's past

One of the wonderful things I have found about blogging is the way that it attracts stories and personal reminisces. This provides personalised material that can be used to bring aspects of past life alive.

I have been conscious of this for some time, but I am now wondering how best to consolidate and use the material. My aim in the Wednesday Forum is to try to attract more!

More broadly, I find that personal memories become more important as my understanding of New England's history grows. By its nature, history is in part about broader patterns. But in this, history is still about people.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Too much Armidale, not enough other in New England history

Yesterday's post on New England Australia, Discovering a New England treasure trove, recorded my excitement at finding some of my boxes of New England books. I spent much of yesterday evening and a fair bit of this morning sorting them.

One of my general complaints about New England history as a field is the absence of material especially in recent decades as historiographical fancies took writers elsewhere. Yet New England is well served compared to many Australian areas outside the metros.

As I went through the hundreds of books, I came up with a new complaint, there is just too much Armidale and, to a lesser extent, Northern Tablelands in writing as compared to other areas.

New England historiography since the Second World War has been largely driven by the University of New England until very recently. The body of work, and this includes family and local histories, has been strongly affected by UNE people and their changing interests.

UNE was established to be the Sydney University of the North, to preserve and present the history and culture of the area. In many ways, it's done a bloody good job. From the Northern Rivers to the Upper Hunter, UNE people have written histories or trained and supported  those writing histories.

From the beginning, penetration in Newcastle and the Lower Hunter was weak, accurately reflecting the psychological disconnect between those areas and the rest of the North. As a consequence, historiography in Newcastle and the Lower Hunter was driven by other factors, with limited specific local or regional writing. Only recently has the University of Newcastle begun to take up the slack.

Elsewhere, the contraction of the sense of New England, of the North, after the 1967 plebiscite loss affected UNE historical research and writing. It was always going to be the case that Armidale and the Tablelands would have a greater focus because that was where the academics lived. However, as UNE's regional view narrowed, so did historical research and writing.

The practical effect was the creation of a research and publication bias that was not compensated for by anyone else. Now when I come to write and go to my shelves, I have a double barreled problem. Not only are there large geographic gaps, but the publications are geography biased.

Armidale is my family home and I love the Tablelands, but we do need more balance.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

New England's history reader interests November 2011

I have been neglecting this blog. It's not that I've lost interest. It's just that that there have been other pressures that have interfered with all my historical research and writing. stats Nov 11 2

The graphic shows visits (yellow) plus page views (yellow plus red) to this blog over the last twelve months. You can see how traffic increased, but the flattened as my posting dropped off.

In terms of reader interests, the most popular posts in November 2011 were:

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Use of the internet in social history: an example

My main post today, Sharing nostalgia in an internet world, is on my personal blog. You might like to scan that post first before reading this one, although I have written this as a stand alone piece.


I incorporate history into my posts all the time. This partially reflects my bias as an historian. However, I also believe that the addition of some history adds to interest and context. To do this, I use the internet extensively.

I thought that it might be interesting and perhaps useful if I took a case study to show the process at work.

The Case Study

   On Monday, I wrote a short nostalgia piece, Australian cowboy & indian outfit 1951. The comments generated led me to write a second piece, Sharing nostalgia in an internet world.

By its nature, nostalgia is individual. However, the internet allows for shared nostalgia. This process is not just important to individuals, but affects the writing of social history.

The first post I wrote was personal, although even then I could not resist adding a little history. The comments that followed from kvd and anon were also personal, their shared responses to my memory. In doing so, they added detail. In my responding post I said in part:     

"I wrote it (the first post) because a photo from Cousin Jamie's collection triggered a memory. This led kvd to comment:

Jim don't know if you ever had one but my most treasured possession at that time was a Davey Crockett hat complete with tail. My brother's Labrador stole it then ate it and growled at me when I tried to take it off her. Vivid early childhood memory. Stupid dog. But anyway cowboys and Indians was very big back thereabouts as you say.

Anon responded with a correction and his own memory:

Davy Crockett much later; 1955. Also, who can forget the much desired (didn't have one!) Hoppalong Cassidy tent. We had a much loved and extremely patient ginger cat, who spent some years doubling as a mountain lion/couger/puma. Sat arvo matinees had much to answer for.

kvd responded in turn:

Anon is correct as to dates. "Me hat got et" in either 56 or 57 based on the house we were living in. I had a pair of H C chaps a little after that i think. Proper leather. Cost a fortune these days."

So I began with a single memory of my own, but now have two other linked views.

Issues of Selection and Question in Evidence

As historians, both the evidence we select and the questions we ask of that evidence involve choices. I faced the same issue in writing my follow up post.

The comments by kvd and anon opened up a richness of choices not immediately apparent just from the words. My subsequent post could have gone in multiple directions. Alternatively, I could have written multiple posts.

Questioning the evidence

When I came to look at the evidence, we had a date range. The photo I used was from 1951. Davy Crockett was 1955. kvd's chaps were apparently a little later.

We also had three popular culture figures: cowboys and indians in general, Davey Crockett and Hopalong Cassidy. We had evidence of specific aspects of human life or cultural activity: pets, the arvo matinees, making or buying stuff under the influence of popular culture.

The first thing that I did was to check wikipedia on Davy Crockett. This confirmed that the movie, the thing we saw at the cinemas, came out in 1955. It confirmed the cult status of the man. However, it also reminded me that he died at the Alamo. Here I faced some choices.

The Alamo was itself a big thing that came from the US into Australia. I read books about it, while John Wayne's 1960 movie was popular in this country. The 1955 Davy Crockett TV series helped popularise it, so I could say something about all this to put it into context. Instead, I put it aside to investigate Hopalong Cassidy. Here I came across some new things.

I suppose that I should say here that while I was aware in a personal sense of Hopalong Cassidy, he didn't have the same impact on me, Sure, he was popular, but he never grabbed me in the way that Crockett or the Alamo did. There may be date reasons for this, I will talk about this in a moment, but I also didn't find him as interesting.

As I zeroed in on HC, I realised that I had not known of his longevity. The first book was published in 1904, while HC DVDs are still being released today. I realised just how important merchandising was, something indicated by the comments from kvd and anon. I also realised the connection between TV and the peak in HC's popularity.

Earlier I mentioned the importance of time.

At one point, the post modernist version of history denied the importance of time or, indeed, even the importance of "facts". Both were silly.

In 1951 when Mum made our cowboy and indian suits, she did so from what was available. By the time that the popularity of HC peaked in Australia, there was money available for tents and chaps.

HC's popularity in the US was linked to the rise of TV. Did this apply in Australia? Here I checked the history of Australian TV.

Broadcasting began on 16 September 1956. It came sometime later to regional areas. In my case, my parents did not buy a TV until after I left home. They did not want it to interfere with my studies! So the TV impact of HC was outside my ken. Yet it might well fit with kvd's dates.


All I have tried to do in this post is to indicate a little about the importance of evidence, of time and of selection. I have also tried to indicate a little about the way that you can use the internet to gather evidence and to test. I hope that it is useful.       

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Aboriginal New England in the Pleistocene Period


A very long time ago, on 4 February 2007 to be precise, The Macleay Valley - the glacial age, provided an initial introduction to the paleogeography of New England. Since then, I have done bits and pieces, but still do not have a clear picture firmly fixed in my mind.

In October this year, Rod began his blog on Northern Rivers Geology. I asked Rod whether he would write something on change over the last 50,000 years. He has promised to do so in due course.

50,000 years is an important span from my perspective because it presently represents the maximum period of Aboriginal occupation of New England. The earliest accepted date we presently have for a location just to the north of New England is some 20,000 years ago. My feeling is that occupation probably began earlier. 

History is about dialogue, dialogue with our sources, dialogue with those interested. To encourage Rod and to extend dialogue, I have decided to post some of my own notes on New England's paleogeography as my contribution to discussion.

Aboriginal New England in the Pleistocene Period

Aboriginal people may have reached the area that would be variously called Northern New South Wales, the North, Northern Districts or New England as early as 40,000 years ago.

We know from dating at Warren Cave in Tasmania that the Aborigines had reached Tasmania around 35,000 years ago[1] while dates from Willandra Lakes in South West New South Wales suggest occupation as early as 41-40,000 years ago[2]. Given these dates, it seems reasonable to assume a working date of around 40,000 years ago for first Aboriginal occupation of New England.

We do not have hard evidence for this dates. The earliest confirmed date I know of in New England itself comes from a dig by Graham Connor at Stuarts Point in the Macleay Valley. This places human occupation at 9,320 +/- 160BP[3]. Further north in South-East Queensland, the Wallen Wallen Creek site shows continuous occupation from about 20,000 years ago.[4]

The Cuddie Springs site near Brewarrina is especially interesting because it suggests occupation as long ago as 35,000 years BP.[5] However, dates here have been subject to considerable dispute and there presently appears to be no agreement on the issue.[6]

Despite the absence of earlier dates, it is hard to believe that the Aborigines had not reached New England if they were at Willandra Lakes around 40,000 years ago, had reached the southwest of what is now Tasmania by at least 35,000 years ago.

What type of world did they find?

Sea levels fluctuated greatly during the long Pleistocene period. Forty thousand years ago, sea levels were perhaps 50 metres below current levels, creating a broader coastal plain. Rainfall was high, temperatures moderate. Rivers running east and west from the Tablelands would have carried substantial volumes of water.

In the east, the river estuaries and wetlands as we know them today did not exist, nor did bays and harbours such as Trial Bay or Port Stephens[7]. The present sea bed drops reasonably sharply in spots, so there would probably have been a significant gradient towards the sea with current headlands standing out as hills or ridges.

The significant volumes of water carried in the eastern flowing streams would have led to some progradation pushing the land out into the sea. With time, this would have led to river estuaries, coastal dunes and marshes. It seems likely that the larger coastal strip was thickly wooded and reasonably rich in marine and land resources.

In the west, the rivers and associated wet lands would also have provided a rich environment., although probably not as rich as it was to become.

The position on the Tablelands is unclear because so much of the analysis that I have seen deals with later periods. I suspect that the Tablelands were wooded and at least visited by surrounding groups.

The size and distribution of the early Aboriginal population is obviously unknown since at this stage we have yet to prove that they even existed. My own feeling is that it was probably much smaller but mirrored the pattern at the time the Europeans arrived; higher concentrations on the coast and on the western slopes and immediate plains, sparse on the Tablelands.

From around 36,000 years ago, the climate became cooler and drier. The cooler temperatures offset the lower rainfall by reduced evaporation; the streams, lakes and wetlands of inland New England therefore retained their water, providing a continued base for Aboriginal occupation.

From perhaps 25,000 years ago, the local environment deteriorated significantly. Sahul, the name given to the continent that then included Australia and New Guinea, became very dry, both intensely hot and intensely cold. This climatic regime peaked during what is called the Last Glacial Maximum, 21,000 to 15,000 years ago.

The sea retreated to perhaps 120 metres below current levels. The sea became colder, 2-4 degrees C below current levels. On land, mean monthly temperatures probably fell by 6-10 degrees C. Extensive inland dune building suggests that the climate become much windier.

According to Mulvaney and Kamminga, severe cold, drought, and strong winds over central and southern Sahul, would have discouraged tree growth , although some species common today must have survived in sheltered or better-watered refuges.[8]

The retreating sea would have progressively increased the size of New England’s coastal strip. The impact here would have varied along the coast, depending upon water depth. In broad terms, the immediately adjacent shallow water to the east of the present coast is quite narrow, with the continental shelf then falling away sharply.

In South East Queensland to the north, the falling waters probably extended the coastal strip to between twelve and twenty kilometres east from what is now Stradbroke Island.[9] Further south the lower water zone narrows, before widening a little after what is now Nambucca. In the case of what is now the Macleay Valley, the coast line probably extended ten to sixteen kilometres to the east.[10]

The sclerophyll woodland and deciduous forests would have progressively colonised the new land, with the coastal dunes and associated wetlands following the shifting coast east.

The Tablelands would have been a very different story. Here average temperatures fell by perhaps 8 degrees C. The New England Tablelands marked the start of a region of cold steppe and scattered sub-alpine woodland sweeping down through the southern Snowy Mountains[11] into Tasmania.

In the southern Snowy Mountains, the fall in temperature was sufficient to allow glaciers to form despite the lower precipitation. In New England, the higher portions of the Tablelands in the centre and south where average heights are around 1,300 metres must have been very cold, dry and windswept. Along New England’s Snowy Mountains where the highest peak (Round Mountain) is almost 1,600 metres, there were probably blizzards and semi-permanent snow despite the much lower precipitation.

To the west, Mulvaney and Kamminga suggest that much of the south-eastern interior of Sahul experienced cold arid conditions similar to modern Patagonia[12].

Josphine Flood notes that the pollen record for Cuddie Springs on the Western Plains shows decreasing tree, shrub and grass cover with a rise in saltbush (Chenopodiaceae) suggesting growing aridity as the as the glacial maximum approached[13]. She suggests that the environmental record for Ulunga Springs, 180 kilometres southeast of Cuddie Springs, shows a similar pattern between 30,000 to 10,000 BP. The net effect was an expansion of the continent’s arid core by at least 150 kilometres.

That said, the lower western Tablelands and slopes were probably vegetated by grassland with spring herbs with patches of woodland and forests. Further west, the streams crossed the arid plains.

While these changes took millennia and would not have been noticeable to individual generations, the effect on the human population must have been quite severe.

Water and food supply were two of the critical determinants of prehistoric demography. Water became scarcer, droughts more frequent. Food supply was reduced. Over time, populations would have been forced to relocate and may well have become much smaller.

In the absence of archaeological evidence, it is impossible to say just what the precise effects were in New England. While colder and drier, there would have been sufficient water and food resources to maintain populations

We know that there was Aboriginal occupation of the coastal strip given that the Wallen Wallen site in South East Queensland shows continuous occupation from 20,000 years ago, a date in the earlier part the Late Glacial Maximum. It is reasonable to assume that any occupation on at least the majority of the Tablelands ceased. But what happened further west?

Under current climate, Northern NSW is generally wetter and warmer than Southern NSW because the area is affected by two different weather patterns. Rainfall also declines to the west because of the impact of the Eastern Ranges.

The climate during the Late Glacial Maximum was clearly very different. However, my feeling is that the current pattern was replicated to some extent because of air flows from what is now the Pacific.

In later times, ethno-historical evidence suggests that the presence of standing water was very important[14]. During wet periods, people moved out into the broader landscape, concentrating round permanent water during dry periods.

With diminished rainfall but also lower temperatures, it seems likely that there were areas on the Western Slopes and Plains that would have continued to provide sufficient water and food to maintain life. Why, then, is there still no archaeological record? It seems likely that any previous human occupation of the Tablelands would have come to an end, although people may still have visited the lower areas.

Assuming that the area was populated, the pattern of sites would have reflected then on-ground conditions. Many of the sites would have been camping sites, not easily identifiable beyond lithic scatter. Other sites would have reflected the then location of permanent water.

My feeling is that we need to chart what the landscape was like then to identify possible sites. Mind you, this may already have been done and I have simply not discovered the analysis.

[1] John Mulvaney & Johan Kamminga, Prehistory of Australia, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, 1999. P186. The broad framework for this section is drawn especially from Mulvaney & Kamminga’s work.

[2] Munvaney & Kamminga, op cit, p197. There is debate about the Wilandra Lakes dates, with some arguing for older dates. Josephine Flood, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, J.B. Publishing, Marleston, revised edition, 2004, p1.

[3] G Connah, Archaeology at the University of New England 1975-76, Australian Archaeology, No 5, 1976, PP1-5.

[4] Ian Walters, Antiquity of Marine Fishing in South-East Queensland, QAR, Vol 9, 1992, pp35-39. P35. Accessed on line 4 April 2009.

[5] Josephine Flood, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, J.B. Publishing, Marleston, revised edition, 2004, p189.

[6] The Wikipedia article, Cuddie Springs, provides an interesting discussion on this issue. Accessed 15 April 2009.

[7] The analysis here is based on an assessment of the present coastal boating maps accessed 15 April 2009. A full assessment would require analysis of broader maps indicating varying depths of the sea bottom, allowing a better assessment to be made of the outer coastal strip..

[8] Mulvaney & Kamminga, op cit, p116

[9] Flood, op cit, p113


[11] I have used the term southern Snowy Mountains because New England has its own smaller range also called the Snowy Mountains.

[12] Mulvaney & Kamminga, op cit, p117

[13] Flood, op cit, p192. .

[14] J Belshaw Population distribution and the pattern of seasonal movement in northern New South Wales. In I. McBryde (ed.), Records of Times Past, pp.65-81. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1978


Saturday, October 15, 2011

A note on philosophy & methodology in history

It's quite late while youngest daughter is having a party so it's not quiet. All this means that concentration is a tad difficult, so tonight I just want to pull a few things together about my thinking on history.

In a post on my personal blog, UNE's HINQ101 The Historian, I mentioned that I was providing a degree of support on this University of New England course via the UNE's Moodle system. I have found it interesting because it gives me a degree of contact with current history students.

One of the questions posed was what makes history good or bad. I mention this because I have written a fair bit across the blogs on historiography, and think that it might be helpful if I tried to pull some of this material together.

Historical traditions change.

In my undergraduate course at UNE I did one full year unit in philosophy plus a second full year course in my honours year on the philosophy of history. As the name said, this course focused on philosophy rather than methodology, although the second was there. There was a much higher methodology component, however, in a second full year honours course, that on Australian prehistory.

When I went back to UNE as a full time postgrad a bit over a decade later, I found that the focus on the philosophy of history, even the use of that phrase, had gone. E H Carr was now the guru. The problem I had with Carr is that quite a bit of his analysis was actually at a lower level than that we had looked at in the philosophy of history course. I guess the approach was broader in some ways, yet I felt a sense of loss.

I was also disappointed in the fragmentation that had taken place in the discipline. I went to all the Departmental seminars because of interest. I found that people had become more interested in an increasing range of narrow topics, less interested in what other people were doing.

Don't get me wrong. Much of the new work was valuable because it addressed new issues, new topics, that had been ignored. I was meant to be completing a PhD, but kept getting sidetracked into new topics: the family, gender roles, the history of childhood. History is about the human experience, and the new work provided insights that had been lacking.

I first wanted to write a history of Northern New South Wales, the broader New England I talk about, in my honours year. I put this aside for many years. When I came back to the project I found that the new work that had been done radically changed the history that I had planned to write. It had become deeper, more encompassing, more people focused, more difficult to actually do.

All this is good. But yet the problem that I first noticed on my return to UNE remained.

History is a craft: it doesn't matter what topic you are writing on, both the philosophical underpinnings and the methodological challenges remain the same. In 1981 I was disappointed in the way that so few addressed or were interested in core methodological issues. The discussions that I had experienced as an undergraduate had gone. If you went to a seminar on 15th century Florence you did so because you were interested in 15th century Florence. The idea that the challenges in research and writing on 15th century Florence were linked to and might inform writing on witchcraft or the Gallipoli campaign seemed alien to many.

Now thirty years later I am again in a UNE environment. Thirty years! Where has the time gone?

I support the idea of the UNE course I am involved with. I also support the desire of some of my UNE colleagues through things such as the Heritage Futures Research Centre to build interdisciplinary approaches. This is something that I have been involved with in a professional sense in my role as a strategic consultant for many years. And yet, the same problem niggles at me: where is the structure, where are the analytical tools, where is the underlying philosophy?

In a comment in a discussion forum on HINQ101 The Historian on what makes good history I wrote:

Harking back to the philosophy of history course that I did all those years ago with Ted Tapp, I would argue that refutability is a necessary condition for good history. This follows from Popper and links to the philosophy of science.  

Refutability first requires clarity of argument: the reader must be able to understand to challenge or extend. It then requires proper documentation so that the reader can check sources. History that does not meet these tests my be well written, but is not good history. Some of the history I have read is really theology!

Of itself, refutability may be necessary but it is not a sufficient condition for good history. Arguments may be clear and properly referenced, but may be shallow and insufficiently evidenced. Good history must be capable of meeting challenges.

In terms of my own approach to history, I make a distinction between interests and values and methodology. Interest and values helps determine questions. However, evidence has to be collected and evaluated in an objective way. Does it actually support the argument?

Now if you look at what I wrote here, I start with refutability. In simple terms, you cannot prove anything through history, the ideas of thesis notwithstanding. You can only put up a hypothesis, an explanation, supported be evidence.

One of the issues addressed by Ted in our philosophy of history cause was that of causation. Ted believed in causation, the idea that a caused b. However, if you look at the philosophy of science, you see that the idea of causation as an absolute, even of correlation as an absolute, is unproveable.The most that you can hope to achieve is to put forward conclusions based on evidence that may be disproved by later evidence. Everything must be testable.

History is no different. Good history must be refutable through later evidence.

As part of our course with Ted we addressed the issue of the history universalists such as Toynbee. These put forward universal explanations for things such as the decline of civilisations based on historical data. Such history might be very influential, valuable in creating new ideas and ways of thinking, but it was inevitably flawed because it denied refutability. It asserted an impossible absolute.

The next point I made linked to method. Regardless of the questions asked, history as a craft uses a variety of techniques to collect and analyse evidence. These include a mix of practical and conceptual tools. Too often, historical research focuses on the mechanical. This is important, but not sufficient. Let me try to illustrate.

The mechanical tools relate to the way we gather and record evidence. This must be done in a certain way. The conceptual tools relate to the way we interpret evidence.

I have often spoken about the past as a far country. By this I mean simply that the past, even the immediate past, is a different world. There is a barrier we must break through as we seek to understand. In doing so, we must be aware all the time that those we are studying did not interpret the world in the way we do.

Such a simple point, yet one with profound implications.

Among other things, it means that we have to be aware not just of the past ,but of the way that our own perceptions affect our understanding of the past. The writing of history is a dialogue between someone embedded in their present and evidence and thought imbedded in a past present.

The worst mistakes that I have made as a sometimes historian lie in my failure to recognise that distinction. My best historical writing is that bringing some element of the distinction alive.    

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Framing Lives, the 8th Biennial Conference of the International Auto/Biography Association 17-20 July 2012, Canberra, Australia

My thanks to David Roberts at UNE for this one.

The Humanities Research Centre and National Centre of Biography at the Australian National University, in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, present Framing Lives, the 8th Biennial Conference of the International Auto/Biography Association.

The field of auto/biography and life narrative studies is dynamic and interdisciplinary. Founded in 1999, the International Auto/Biography Association (IABA) is the leading international forum for scholars, critics and practitioners. The Framing Lives conference will feature distinguished international speakers and events at the National Portrait Gallery and other national collecting institutions.

Framing Lives draws attention to the extraordinary turn to the visual in contemporary life narrative: to graphics and animations, photographs and portraits, installations and performances, avatars and characters, that come alive on screens, stages, pages, and canvas, through digital and analogue technologies. At the same time, framing suggests the ways that lives are lived, recorded and viewed through multiple frames including those of language, politics, place, gender, history and culture. It draws attention to the multiple ‘I’s of auto/biographical representations now, and the various fields of vision, lines of sight, and points of focus for critics, artists, writers, historians and curators in the life worlds of auto/biography. Conference themes include depiction and display, ethics and rights, living archives, place and displacement, media and celebrity, digital identity and social media, and creative life narrative.

CONVENORS: Paul Arthur (Deputy Director, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University), Rosanne Kennedy (Associate Professor and Head of Discipline, Gender Sexuality & Culture, Australian National University), Gillian Whitlock (ARC Professorial Fellow, School of English, Media Studies & Art History, University of Queensland)

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES: We welcome paper and panel proposals that connect with the conference themes as well as wider aspects of biography, autobiography and life narrative in the 21st century.  
For individual papers, please submit a one-page proposal including full name, title, institutional affiliation (if applicable), email address, postal address, abstract (max 300 words) and bio (max 200 words) by email to papers@theiaba.org.

For panel proposals, please submit a short panel description (max 200 words) along with individual paper proposals for each presenter by email to papers@theiaba.org.

Deadline for paper and panel proposals: 15 November 2011
Notification of acceptance: 15 December 2011
Conference website: http://www.iaba2012.com <http://www.iaba2012.com/>

Monday, September 05, 2011

Roberts re-elected as Director, Heritage Futures Research Centre

Dr David Roberts was re-elected as Director at the Annual General Meeting of the Heritage Futures Research Centre held in Armidale on 24 August 2011. Dr Andrew Piper and  Dr Pam Watson were elected as members of the coordinating committee. 

Two of the key strengths of the HFRC lie in its multidisciplinary approach, along with the way it integrates people such as myself who are presently outside the normal groves of academe with the academics. This is potentially very powerful.

One side effect is the way in which a number of us have become involved as a resource for students for particular courses, something I mentioned in my own context in UNE's HINQ101 The Historian.

Like so many parts of the Australian higher education system, the Centre went through a period of drift because it was just so difficult to maintain continuity at a time of constant chops and changes. However, supported by the dedication of a few, HFRC is now gaining real strength.

I wish David and his core colleagues every continuing success. 

Friday, September 02, 2011

New England's History reader interests August 11

stats Aug 11 2

The graphic shows visits (yellow) and page views (yellow plus red) on this blog to end July 11.

The most popular posts on this blog in August were:

Aboriginal posts continue to be very popular. In this context, the second most popular post on my personal blog was another Aboriginal history post, Report of the NSW Aborigines Welfare Board, year ended 30 June 1940 with 140 page views.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Report on Belshaw historical research and writing

One of the difficulties faced by those of us who work alone is simply keeping in focus. A PhD student faces the same problem, but still has deadlines and supervisors. Free-lance researchers find life a little more difficult.

I find as a person that I need deadlines and external pressures. I also find, and this obviously connects, that I get dragged in all sorts of directions by varying interests. Now I am well behind in terms of my main targets. What to do?

My small number of regular readers on this blog will know that I am a member of the Heritage Futures Research Centre at the University of New England and also an adjunct of that University. At some stage, I am going to have to do a report on my role, so I thought that I would do a stock take here on my historical research. This then provides a benchmark against which I (and you) can measure my progress.

It also helps me focus on my main personal project at the present time, getting my history of New England to the point that I can seek a publisher.  

Historical Populariser

I see part of my role as increasing interest in history, in setting events in historical context. To this end, history appears in much of my writing. Excluding general pieces including history, I have averaged more than two history posts or columns a week over the last year. 

This writing gets a good response, yet is also a problem because it distracts me from my other research and writing deadlines. I don't have an answer to this. It's a question of balance.

For the moment, I am putting general posting on my other blogs largely on hold for a hopefully brief period while I just catch up.   

Unrecognised and now almost unknown: explorations through the history of the broader New England

. In March of last year I delivered a paper in the University of New England's History and Classics seminar series, Unrecognised and now almost unknown: explorations through the history of the broader New England.

In June last year I posted a copy to this blog and also put a copy on Scribd. The second allows for easier download.

An Exploration of New England's Aboriginal Languages

In July last year I delivered a paper to the Armidale & District Historical Society, An Exploration of New England's Aboriginal Languages. This paper is now being revised for publication in the Society's journal.

I have had some good comments from people on the paper, and now need to consolidate those.

Social Change in Australia’s New England 1950-2000

At the start of April this year I delivered a paper in the UNE's History and Classics Seminar series on social and economic change in New England over the second half of the twentieth century. This filled a significant gap in my history.

I am now revising the paper so that it can be considered for publication in a refereed journal.

New Companion to the Australian Media

I have agreed to write 700 words on the Vincent Family for the new Companion to the Australian Media.  Edited by Professor Bridget Griffen-Foley, the Companion is due for publication in mid 1914. My deadline is October this year.

Biography of David Drummond

In June last year I began posting my original PhD thesis, Decentralisation, Development and Decent Government: the life and times of David Henry Drummond, 1890-1941, minus the introduction to this blog to make it more accessible. You will find the entry point here.

I have written before about the particular events that surrounded that PhD. I won't bore you with that history. However, the fact that after submission I finally walked away from the PhD because of conflict and disputes over the thesis remains current because, among other things, people still assume that I got it. I still have to explain that I am not Dr Belshaw! 

My family wants me to update and extend for publication. I will do that, but it will have to wait. In the meantime, the blog posting makes the core of the original document available.

History of the Northern (New England) New State Movement

A full history of this Movement has still to be published. It remains my target to do so after I have finished my general history of New England.

In March this year, I did a quick scissors and paste on previous work plus some limited new work to provide a rough first cut history. The work that I am now doing on my general history of New England continues to fill in gaps.

In about three months, I hope to start posting structured material on different aspects of the history to encourage discussion. However, the book itself will have to wait until I finish my general history.

My general history of New England  

I completely underestimated how long it would take me to write my general history of New England over the last 50,000 years. It's partly a question of focus, I get distracted, more that the task of writing a general history for an area not previously covered is quite difficult.

In saying not covered I need to be precise in my use of English. There are histories of the various areas within the broader New England, but not of the broader territory. No one can see the whole.

Given that I am now more than eighteen months behind my original deadline for a first draft, what can I say?

  • I have the general structure (Introduction, Aboriginal New England, Colonial New England, New England in the twentieth century) right.
  • For each of the main segments, I have now identified key themes and periods, and have something written on each.
  • The richness of the material I have discovered, and consequently the scope, far exceeds my previous expectations. I have discovered just so much.

Realistically, I struggle to put sensible deadlines on the project. I am now fillings gaps in an evolving structure, yet it's still hard.

I feel absolutely blessed by the people who have become involved in the project in one way or another - now well over one hundred. I struggle to document all the contributions, for I want people to be recognised.

I don't know whether or not I could claim my evolving history to be the first of the internet age, that's a very big claim. Yet I can say with all honesty that the writing of the history has become a collaborative effort between me and hundreds of people. They actually drive what I do. This is our history, not just mine!


It should be pretty clear that as a private researcher I am struggling to complete the things that I do. There is a constant conflict between my desire to research and write and the need to find the money to live. My entire research is privately funded. I am constantly broke.

Yet I think that if I can keep going, if I can meet my targets, I will have established a good track record, I will forced an interest in the things that I am interested in, I will have established a base for future research and writing that did not exist before.

That's not bad.     

Friday, August 19, 2011

Classical Greek, boxing & New England history

Again, my main history post today, Boxing, history & social change, is on my personal blog. Here I want to make a few short additional comments targeted at the history of New England.

The boxing tents such as those of Jimmy Sharman were part of the texture of life in New England for fifty years. There were those who visited, but also those worked within them.

Boxing was especially important to Aboriginal people because the sport provided an opportunity for income and advancement to a disadvantaged group  However, the importance went beyond this. Boxing was very strong in Newcastle and the lower Hunter because of its working class roots.

I saw the post on my personal blog as a way of sketching out some background, a framework, for later work. In writing my history of New England, I cannot do a history of the world. Yet the inclusion of something like boxing as part of the history of New England life is important in telling an interesting story.

To try to give you a feel for this, compare my boxing post with 1923: Classical Greek in the New England countryside. There is a huge difference between the hot, dusty and sweaty world of the boxing tent and the desire to establish Armidale as a national centre for classical Greek studies. Yet boxing was also a school sport at TAS. I used the school gloves many years later when boxing had already dropped from the frame.

One of the joys of history to my mind remains the contrasts, the way that very different things coexist at the same time. We do ourselves and history no justice when we try to jam things into acceptable frames, ignoring the comparisons and conflicts inherent in any historical period. 


Saturday Morning Musings - boxing & the power of blogging in history on my personal blog provides a consolidated update on these linked posts.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Armidale school days

Two posts linked to Armidale school days:

Really, one of the fun things about history lies in the things that distract us!

The first post is purely personal, I suppose, but the two are still connected.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Reaching the past despite the present

My main history posts yesterday and today are on my personal blog. GeoCurrents' Demic atlas project looks at a new mapping project, while Maps & myopia looks at the way that constructs such as maps and institutional structures affect our thinking. This is pretty important for all those interested in history at whatever level.

I often speak of the past as a far country. We have to break through, and that's so hard because of the way our own thinking is conditioned.

I wondered if any of my readers have their own experiences of times when they suddenly realised that their conditioned thinking was blocking their understanding of the past they were looking at? How did you overcome it?

Friday, August 12, 2011

New England Australia history resource page

While I have had a resource page for some time plus a link on the blog side bar, it has tended to get buried as a post. I have therefore created a stand-alone page featured on the top of the blog.   

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

UNE's Heritage Futures Research Centre Winter Newsletter

I am a member of UNE's Heritage Futures Research Centre. Having just received the Winter Newsletter I decided that the best thing that I could do was to reproduce in full Hope that the formatting isn't too wonky!   

clip_image002Winter News HFRC 2011

Past, Present, Future

HFRC Mission 2011

Our mission is: to consolidate the University's range of expertise and research relating to the natural and cultural history and heritage of regional Australia and regions elsewhere in the world, and to facilitate the sharing of values, information and expertise among scholars, professionals and the broader community. This is achieved through four core areas of activities: research, education, professional development, consultancy and regional and rural engagement.

Upcoming Events

August 24: The Annual General Meeting will be held between 12-1pm on Wednesday August 24th, in Lecture Theatre A3 at UNE’s Arts Building.

September 3-11: History Week this year is on the theme of Eating History. Watch for some exciting culinary events!

November date tba: Tenth Anniversary Celebrations. There will be a special set of Talks on heritage to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the Heritage Futures Research Centre at UNE. The founding Directors of the HFRC, Professors Iain Davidson and Alan Atkinson have been invited to contribute to the celebrations.

Writing Retreats at UNE: August 29th & November 8th, 2011. Writing for Publication Retreats for HFRC members. Using tried and true methods developed by scholars Robert Brown and Rowena Murray, these one-day retreats offer a chance to actually get a rough draft of a paper for publication (or a grant application) completed. Please email your details to Wendy Beck at wbeck@une.edu.au and further instructions will be sent to you.

HFRC Research Fellow 2011 appointed

Associate Professor Wendy Beck was appointed as the 2011 HFRC Research Fellow (0.5 position). Her job is to pursue research initiatives resulting in a successful competitive grant application/major publication(s) and to help foster collective research and other initiatives in the Centre in collaboration with the HFRC Director. She is also submitting at least one competitive grant application (an ARC Discovery). Wendy’s research includes a sustained track record in multi-disciplinary archaeological research with Indigenous communities, such as the ARC Linkage and Discovery grants with Aboriginal communities which demonstrates a high level of achievement and personal commitment to research in this area. She is also an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Fellow. She has been an ARC OzReader for ten years, and has a successful track record in fostering the research of others. For example, in 2009 and 2010 she has run successful one-day research writing ‘retreats’ for a wide variety of groups, including postgraduates and Professors, in both the Faculties of Arts and Sciences and in the Professions.

News from HFRC Research Fellow

Work on a new Constitution and Bylaws has been ongoing and the AGM has been arranged for 10 August. Thanks to the small group of Members who have assisted with this process. This will enable a sustainable administration for the HFRC into the future. I have organised two Writing Retreat Workshops for August and November, with the goal to have at least two publication results for HFRC and which will lead to external funding.

I have attended a number of relevant events recently which may assist the HFRC with gaining external funding in future. See below. Members could also check the Research Grants available at research opportunities advertised at http://www.une.edu.au/researchservices/researchdevelopmentintegrity/grants/

Some future research & funding ideas

Contact me directly if you would like to contribute to any of these!

Heritage Online

Firstly the NSW Archaeology Online Workshop which was held on 7 June at Sydney University. There are definitely possibilities to be followed up here from linkages between this project and UNE Archives and Heritage Centre (and the UNE Library) about making grey literature available more widely, especially in heritage topics. One particular area of interest to me is the many unpublished Consultancy reports for the New England which represent many thousands of dollars of investment, which could be made more accessible. Heritage Office have funded the first and second stages of NSW Archaeology process (which is really the Sydney Historical Archaeology Online process!), which could be rolled out to regions other than Sydney and Canberra.

Bill Oates the University Archivist is a member of a LIEF Grant consortium ( 6 other universities) to develop NSW eResearch Data Store. UNE Heritage Centre has a large volume of data being created as we convert older record medium into electronic formats. There are a number of the these formats that we currently hold including audio, photographic and text based materials that can be digitised and shared with other institutional repositories to enable research. File sizes are too large to enable effective collaboration between university regional repositories without eResearch data store.

Of most importance currently is the search, digitization and dissemination of historical weather records for the purposes of providing new data to climate change modelling  research. This is one example of the wide use where historical documentation can be applied to research.  University of Newcastle researchers are using material collected by the archivists in the University of New England. 

It also strikes me that the National Broadband Network could also form a focus on research funding also given the recent UNE interest. See the general invitation from Victor Minichello: “As the Project Sponsor of the University NBN project, I would like to invite you to come and discuss ideas you may have with respect to taking advantage of the opportunities that the NBN could offer academia or UNE. Please contact me if you want to discuss and brainstorm your ideas with me over coffee (my shout). I am very interested in ideas that cut across discipline boundaries, are creative and futuristic focused and involve partnerships with other organisations and community stakeholders. Let us be at the cutting edge and engage with one of Australia's biggest investment and funded project.”

An Australasian Association for Digital Humanities has just been been formed. See http://aa-dh.org/ for more information.

Mental Health and Humanities

Sally Hunter (UNE Health) and I are working on a Grant application (to RioTinto) with the Northern Forum of Aboriginal Local Land Councils provisionally entitled ‘Preventing depression in young Aboriginal men at risk, using archaeology fieldwork: NSW Pilot project’. And we are keen to be involved in the recent UNE Collaborative Research Network for Mental Health and Well-being in Rural Communities ($4.8 million). UNE is currently in the process of recruiting 16 PhD scholarships and 7 Postdoctoral Fellowship (23 academic positions in total) positions funded by our CRN project as part of our mental health research program in collaboration with our partners. This represents a significant critical mass of new scholars joining the University. It would be great to have some Heritage Futures Centre input! because they are seeking active input into our various research programs associated with this project across the University.

Ecological Humanities

I attended the Sustaining Regional Communities Conference in Narrabri in April, addressed the April meeting of the Northern Forum of Aboriginal Land Councils, and the Institute of Australian Geographers Annual Conference in July.

These conferences were a very interesting forum for all kinds of ideas where Humanities could contribute, especially to documenting community resilience, change and heritage in the face of increasing external pressures from mining, climate change and water shortages and heritage place destruction. I have also been meeting with members of the School of Arts to foster collaboration with Arts New England for some of these research areas. So watch this space!

Wider Collaboration in Humanities and Creative Arts

Colleagues in the School of Arts and I are keen to foster the involvement of HFRC and UNE more generally in policy and collaborative bodies relevant to Humanities and Creative Arts. There will be a meeting in Adelaide on July Monday, 25 and Tuesday, 26 July 2011, Networking the Humanities: The Inaugural Annual Meeting of the Australian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres (ACHRC). In addition I will try and attend the Sydney Workshop of Communicating Big Ideas: National Cultural Policy Workshop on August 2. See http://www.chass.org.au/events/2011/workshop/ncp/.

Volunteers Wanted!

A number of archaeology field and laboratory projects need volunteers to assist with site recording and artefact sorting from August onwards. This includes both local sites and sites in the north Kimberley region. If you are looking for a small interdisciplinary research project (or know some students who are) please get in touch!

Email wbeck@une.edu.au.

UNE Archaeology and History Success in Government Excellence in Research Assessment Exercise

“We know Australia is a clever country and now, thanks to the Gillard Labor Government’s Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative, for the first time we can see exactly how our country’s research efforts compare to the rest of the world.” (Kim Carr Media Release Jan 2011). ERA assesses research quality within Australia’s 41 higher education providers using a combination of indicators and expert review by committees comprising experienced, internationally-recognised experts. At UNE, the two disciplines who have consistently been part of HFRC, Archaeology and Historical Studies, were each awarded a grade of 3/5. This corresponds with research excellence characterised by evidence of average performance at world standard presented by the suite of indicators used for evaluation. This puts UNE in the top 20% of Humanities disciplines in Australia.

HFRC Research News

Projects Sponsored by HFRC

New Projects

Indigenous Heritage: Working ancient wetlands for social benefit and cultural understanding 2011-2016

A research team lead by Associate Professor Beck and based at UNE (together with researchers from UWollongong and UTasmania) has applied for an ARC Discovery Grant. This research will be an Aboriginal-driven heritage project that will answer theoretical and practical questions about the nature of Aboriginal community engagement in research and higher education. The nature, antiquity and past climates of Indigenous occupation in eastern Australian ancient landscapes will form the case study. Oral histories, survey, excavation and archaeological analysis at several ancient wetlands in New England and Tasmania will generate important theoretical and practical archaeological outcomes as well as sustainable community benefits. This cultural heritage research will develop employability skills as well as providing pathways for Aboriginal youth to engage with further education opportunities. This research has the support of the Northern Region Forum of Aboriginal Land Councils and funding outcomes will be known in November 2011.

Current Projects

Meals on Wheels: building towards a new social experiment for our times (Associate Professor Melanie Oppenheimer) 2010-2013

An ARC Linkage Project (LP100200065, $92,673) with LaTrobe University has begun in 2011. This 3 year project includes a PhD scholarship and aims to undertake a national and international study of Meals on Wheels. CI Associate Professor Melanie Oppenheimer will be working with Professor Jeni Warburton from La Trobe University and the Australian Meals on Wheels Association to develop new business models for volunteers.

For 2010 – 2013 she has been appointed Centenary Historian for Australian Red Cross to research and write the organisation’s centenary history.

Finishing Projects

The role of Queensland Museum collections in producing knowledge of Aboriginal people from Federation to the present day

This is an ARC funded Linkage Project (LP0561944), conducted by Prof Iain Davidson and Prof Russell John McDougall, in partnership with the Queensland Museum, and administered by the University of New England. The grant supports the doctoral research of Shawn Rowlands, who analysed the Museum's material culture collection in the context of nation building and considering both the changing meanings and the contemporary relevance of such collections to Aboriginal communities. The project will produce a body of research that can be used in the design of new exhibitions that will reveal the true complexity of cross-cultural interactions in the development of the Museum's collections. Shawn has recently published an article in the Journal of Australian Colonial History Vol. 13, 2011: 183-206. Here is the abstract:

Abstract: This article explores the notion of entanglement on the frontier by considering the exchanges between collectors and Aboriginal people in Queensland, and the acquisition by the Queensland Museum of Aboriginal artefacts that culminated in the Museum's first major exhibition of Aboriginal material culture - the Australian Aboriginal Life diorama, which opened in 1914.

Drawing mostly on the unpublished correspondence in the Queensland Museum's archives from the years 1878-1914, I show how the collection of Aboriginal material culture sometimes fostered trade and other exchanges, creating an entanglement of cultures. Moreover, I show how the material acquired and displayed was heavily biased towards that which was deemed to be 'authentic', or evidencing no admixture of European manufacture. This collecting was informed by a perception that traditional Aboriginal material culture was quickly vanishing. It was not appreciated that the vanishing of traditional material culture was itself proof that Aboriginal people were adapting to new and extremely difficult circumstances. Instead, prevailing notions in the fields of ethnography, anthropology and race-theory, prejudiced the interpretation and display of Aboriginal material culture, with the aim of conceptualising Aboriginal people as static, unchanging, and consigned to history.

Views of Maitland: Art + History

This project, a collaboration with Maitland Regional Art Gallery, is documenting  aspects of the history of Maitland in the lower Hunter Valley in NSW, and is exploring the connections and conversations that can occur between art and history in the interpretation and presentation of the past. To date, there are two sub-projects:  ‘Maitland Jewish Cemetery: Place, People and Paintings', and 'West Maitland Technical College and Museum: An Installation and Memories'. Outcomes include an installation by artist Fiona Davies titled  ‘Intangible collection and drawing on oral history interviews and research on the Maitland Technical College’; and ‘Undertow’, a painting exhibition by artist Hanna Kay, in conversation with an installation and publication titled ‘Maitland Jewish Cemetery: A Monument to Dreams and Deeds’ researched and written by Janis Wilton. Members of the project team will also be presenting a paper at the International Oral History Conference in Prague in 2010. The project data forms part of the Heritage Futures database.

Wesbite: http://hfrc.une.edu.au/heritagefutures/maitland/

Maitland Jewish Cemetary: A Monument to Dreams and Deeds / by Janis Wilton and Joe Eisenberg, Maitland, N.S.W: Maitland Regional Art Gallery, 2010; xiv, 284 pp;  ISBN 9780980752014 (pbk.)

Published by Maitland Regional Art Gallery with funding and support from the Heritage Futures Research Centre (School of Humanities), the Migration Heritage Centre and the Powerhouse Museum. This book explores the history of the Maitland Jewish Cemetery and the stories of the people buried there, highlighting the challenges of being Jewish in a colonial frontier town and the significant contributions made by Jewish settlers to the social and economic development of the Maitland region.

For further details of HFRC Research Projects see http://hfrc.une.edu.au/heritagefutures/

Education News

Archaeology Week in May

Several successful events were held in May to celebrate Archaeology Week

UNE Museum of Antiquities had a special display for visitors including digital images of “UNE People and Archaeology” - Snapshots of UNE students and faculty (recent and long past) and their experiences in Australian archaeology.

There was a public lecture on ‘Current Research in New England Archaeology’ by Associate Professor Wendy Beck and Dr. Bob Haworth (Centre for Heritage Futures UNE) at the Bowling Club in Armidale. Sponsored by the Heritage Futures Research Centre and a careers talk by Dr. Pam Watson and Wendy Beck to the TAFE Fine Arts Diploma students.

Careers Forum (Sponsored by the Heritage Futures Research Centre)

A Careers Forum panel (John Appleton (Archaeological Surveys & Reports Pty. Ltd); Maria Cotter (Niche Pty Ltd); Malcolm Ridges (Office of Environment & Heritage) shared their career experiences with the audience who were mainly secondary and tertiary students interested in Archaeology and Heritage careers.

New UNE study majors and awards

New Bachelor of Historical Inquiry and Practice focuses specifically on the professional development of historians. As it is recommended for professional historians to engage in the study of a cognate discipline relevant to their chosen professional speciality - and because historical inquiry is now widely accepted as elemental to various professions beyond those conventionally associated with history - this course also includes a field of study opportunity whereby the student's study and training in History may be purposefully combined with other disciplines, to facilitate education in, for example, historical fiction and writing, social history and criminology, family history and sociology, national history and languages, cultural history and music.

New UNE major in Cultural Heritage Management! The new Bachelor of Sustainability will contain a major in Cultural Heritage Management. Watch out for more on this new degree.

New Major in Archaeology! Which will enable students to complete two majors ( at 48cp each) in their Bachelor of Arts degree. This means students from 2012 will be able to do a double major in History or Ancient History and Archaeology.

New Graduate Certificate in History Curriculum The course comprises studies in history and education pedagogy focused on the needs of teaching the new Australian National Curriculum in History.

Professional Development

Diploma in Indigenous Archaeology continues to attract students wishing for entry-level qualifications in an archaeological career. UNE with the Australian National Archaeology Teaching and Learning Committee are planning a series of Standards for TAFE Certificate qualifications which could lead to pathways for students through Archaeological Technician and Land Management certificates to the Diploma and on to Degrees.


Wendy Beck and Robyn Bartel have recently completed a research consultancy for the National Parks Group of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage of ‘Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Offsets in Mining Areas.’ The result of this consultancy was a series of recommendations for policy and practice in Heritage Offsets.


Aboriginal Cultural Heritage possesses a range of values which are considered elements of the public good, of Indigenous culture, the broader culture, and which are in the public interest to preserve. These include tangible and intangible values, cultural values to present, past and future Indigenous peoples and the wider Australian public, archaeological value now and in the future, amenity value and inherent value.

Mining also offers benefits to the economy and material benefits to mining employees, shareholders and consumers. Mining however also presents a potential threat to the preservation of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and destruction of material, sites and landscape contexts. There is a balance which must be obtained with preservation on the one hand and development on the other. In this context the potential for conservation approaches may require innovation in order to balance the competing needs of economic gain and Aboriginal Cultural Heritage management.

Increasingly there are overlaps in approach between natural and cultural heritage and understanding of values as scientific as well as cultural. Current practice of some mining companies in NSW utilises the offsets approach which offers something new and with increasing mining activity these practices may also grow. Aboriginal Cultural Heritage should not be offered any less protection than that currently offered to biodiversity. Biodiversity offsets are regulated while there is no regulatory oversight of the process for assessing, evaluating and protecting the full range of values possessed by Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and therefore no means of auditing whether values have been offset or are capable of being offset, or whether all values have been maintained, let alone net gain achieved.

Regional Engagement

NSW Biodiversity & Cultural Heritage Unit moves to UNE campus

A new agreement between the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the University of New England will enable the two organisations to cooperate more closely in a range of projects related to biodiversity and cultural heritage planning.

The signing of a co-location agreement at UNE will see the members of the Department’s Biodiversity and Cultural Heritage Unit moving from their offices in the centre of Armidale to new accommodation on the UNE campus (in the Environment and Rural Science Building). The move took place in May.

The co-location agreement builds on an existing Memorandum of Understanding between the Department and the University that facilitates collaboration in research and teaching. Co-location will allow an even more productive blend of the Department’s practical focus on individual projects and the University’s broader, more theoretical perspectives. A particular strength of the Department’s Biodiversity and Cultural Heritage Unit is in the development of spatial models and their application in biodiversity and cultural heritage planning. The University, for its part, is able to contribute knowledge gained from a wide range of relevant research projects, access to remote-sensing expertise and equipment, and multidisciplinary perspectives.

The co-location will also enable UNE students to become involved in real-world projects.

Dr. Malcolm Ridges (PhD) UNE, is one of the five staff co-locating. Malcolm is an archaeology graduate who is also an Adjunct Lecturer with the HFRC and School of Humanities.

New Members Welcome!

Membership is open to academics, students, practitioners, consultants and organizations with links to heritage.


· ·Membership is available to individual academics and heritage practitioners, to Higher Degree Research Members (Postgraduate students whose research falls within the HFRC brief and is supported by HFRC staff and resources). Full membership entitles members to rights and also imposes responsibilities, as promulgated by the Coordination Committee of the Centre from time to time.

· Membership may also be granted to community or government organisations, as associate members. These organisations need to nominate a delegate or representative.

Please email Wendy Beck wbeck@une.edu.au if you wish to become a Member of HFRC.

Monday, August 08, 2011

The loneliness of the independent historian

Being an independent historian outside the groves of academe can sometimes be a lonely business. We work away, bore our friends, family and colleagues, but often don't have anybody to talk too. Yet every so often things happen that remind us that it's not so bad after all.

My major historical piece this week, UNE Passings - death of Anne Harris, was on my general New England Australia blog. Maybe I should I have put it here, but I just wanted to remember Anne and also felt that the piece would be of interest to a broader audience.

I spent quite a lot of time on the post for I needed to investigate aspects of her life using print sources that I already had plus on-line sources. As part of the post, I included an Australian National Library sepia photo of Dr Harris (the father of Anne's husband). Gordon Smith, one of my blogging colleagues with a wonderful New England Tablelands' photo blog, turned the photo into a sharper black and white image and sent it to me. To say that I was pleased would be an understatement.

Then with yesterday's post here, History of theatre in New England - update 1, Judi provided me with an enormous amount of material in comments, material that will take me many hours to follow up. Again, I was hugely pleased. So maybe we independents aren't as lonely as I thought?

Despite these two examples, I do think that to be an independent historian can be a lonely business. We really can't expect our friends and family to share our obsessive interests! Most importantly, we lack the backing provided by a structured support environment.

Those interested in family or local history often find solace in local history societies. These do a quite wonderful job. In this country, they have played a huge role in preserving local and family histories. Yet a difficulty remains for those who lack access to such societies or who have broader historical interests,

One of the special problems faced by independent historians regardless of their interests can be access to professional expertise, expertise about research techniques or the best way of finding and documenting source material.

Many independents don't realise something as simple as the need to properly document their sources. Then, those coming later get very frustrated because they cannot properly use the material!

I have been wondering how we as historical bloggers might best provide support, to break the bounds set by isolation and lack of skills. What do you think?          

Saturday, August 06, 2011

History of theatre in New England - update 1

The question of New England's theatre tradition was raised in comments on two posts on my New England Australia blog.  In Selling New England to itself, Stu mentioned the Victoria Theatre in Newcastle as worthy of preservation. Greg extended this in a comment on Wednesday Forum: preserving New England's heritage with a reference not just to the Victoria but to other Newcastle theatres and to Newcastle's rich theatrical tradition.

One of the difficulties about New England's broader theatre tradition is that it's so fragmented and localised as to be inaccessible. This comes though when I look at my past posts; a partial list follows.  They, too, are very fragmentary.

One of my problems is that most of the posts have been written for other purposes. A second problem lies in working out just what I mean by theatre. Do I include picture theatres and films? What about festivals and events? Or circuses?

For practical purposes, I am including live performance. This excludes film and picture theatres, but does include circuses.

So what can I say after all my reading? Not a lot, really, and that's depressing.

Amateur performances emerged very early. Professional performances were limited to touring companies. These appear to have begun quite early. Dedicated theatres were, I think, limited to Newcastle or the lower Hunter where population densities were greater. Newcastle and the coal areas also had a different general tradition because of the role of the union movement. There is a neglected story here.

Within New England, the two broadest influential centres were Newcastle and Armidale, Newcastle because of its size and specific union influences, Armidale because of its role as an educational centre. The first two attempts at fully professional theatre seem to have been in those two centres. Today they still have the broadest range of theatrical performances.

Not a loo to say, I know! Still, I suppose it's a start.



Have a look at Judi's comment on this post. Isn't that  a wonderful lot of material?

Monday, August 01, 2011

New Cambridge History of Australia

I was fascinated to discover from Resident Judge of Port Phillip (How many historians does it take to write a history book?) that no less than fifty historians are involved in the writing of the new Cambridge History of Australia! The history is due for release in 2013.

Reader interests July 11

Stats time again.stats july 11 2

The graph shows visits (yellow) and page views (yellow plus red) to this blog over the period to end July.

The most popular posts during July were:

Friday, July 29, 2011

The personal in history

My last two posts on the New England Australia blog (Lismore, Dobell & Margaret Olley, EWA & the death of Alec Shand) have both been concerned with deaths.

Through one of those things that make blogging such a pleasure, the first post drew comments that allowed me to present Margaret Olley's connection with Newcastle.

Back in 2007, I started New England Dictionary of Biography, simply trying to list alphabetically material on particular people. My thought was that this might build to a resource that would allow people to track across New England history by following particular individuals.

Like so many of the things that I have attempted, this has proved difficult to maintain. Part of the reason for this lies in the blogger platform itself. It is quite time consuming to find and amend past posts.

Pretty obviously, the longer the time period you are interested in, the harder it is to incorporate a personal focus. Yet that, the personal, is also part of the pleasure of history to me.

Another post on my personal blog, Time Team & the joy of archaeology, expressed the pleasure I felt at this series. Again, part of my pleasure lies in the insights provided into lives past.

I know that I have written about all this before, but I am coming to the view that if history doesn't provide access to the past personal then it's not really history at all! I accept that that is a bit of an extreme view, but it does capture my own interests.