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

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Robert Madgwick and adult education

I haven't posted since 21 June! It's partly computer problems, more time. While I haven't been absent from history, I simply haven't been reporting. So I thought that I might report on some of the things that I have been thinking about.

I have been continuing my research into the history of the Northern or New England New State Movement.  Here my focus has been on the history of the post second World War II movement. I have folders of notes that I took many years ago.

Looking at those notes, one of the things that I hadn't focused on was the history of the regional movements during the War. Those movements laid the base for the resurgence of new state agitation at the end of the war.

You won't find this material in any of the published histories that I am aware of. So far as modern Australian historiography is concerned, they didn't exist. Yet they were quite important.

I have also been reading my way through some of the Armidale and Historical Society journals that I have on the shelves. My original aim was to find a new state article that I knew I had, but I keep getting badly sidetracked!

Robert Bowden Madgwick One of the interesting things about writing a history of a broader region with its own traditions is the way it keeps on throwing up insights into broader Australian issues.

Robert Madgwick is best known in New England as the Warden of the New England University College and then as the first VC of the University of New England. However, he had had a substantial career prior to his NEUC appointment as a teacher, lecturer at Sydney University and then head of the Australian Army Education Corp during the Second World War.

Madgwick's role in Army adult education was, I think, quite important in the history of adult education in Australia. He then took that experience and his ideas and applied them in a New England context. In doing so, he created a new adult education model that is, to my mind, in advance of that applying today.

At one level, there is far more adult education today than Madgwick could ever have dreamed of. The internet alone provides access to information that beggars that then available. Yet the principles that Madgwick articulated, the ideas of he and his colleagues about the relationships between the university and broader community, are still relevant.

I suspect that Madgwick would actually be sad at just what has happened. But that's a story for another post.       

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