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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Aboriginal engineering in New England

Practical: The heritage-listed Brewarrina fish traps are one of the largest surviving examples of Aboriginal engineering.This is the third in my new series on New England's built landscape and architecture 

This column continues my exploration of New England’s built landscape and associated architecture looking at housing, food production and communications in Aboriginal New England.

All architecture reflects culture, social structures, purpose and the environment including climate and available resources. The Aborigines were no different.

A seasonal people, they moved across the landscape in varying size groups in response to both the availability of food and water and social and ceremonial needs. In transit, they formed camps marked by multiple small fires rather than single big blazes, thus spreading the warmth more widely across the group..

These camps might but need not contain simple shelters to provide additional comfort. These might be no more than a few sheets of bark leaning on a pole fastened a few feet up the ground with a fire in front, sited so as to block wind.

Where people remained for longer periods, more substantial structures were constructed, forming something close to villages.

On the coast, we have descriptions of these from Flinders (Clarence River 1799), Rous (Richmond River 1828), Perry (Clarence River 1839) and Lang (Port Macquarie 1847). Inland on the Western Slopes and Plains we have Cunningham (Coxs Creek 1825) and Mitchell (near the Gwydir River, 1832).

From the descriptions we have, the Tablelands’ semi-permanent shelters were simpler, reflecting lower populations, more limited resources and more frequent movement.

Those to the east and west were much more substantial. Some appeared designed to accommodate a family group, while other could accommodate up to fifteen people. The number of dwellings varied from as few as three up to perhaps twenty. .Depending on the size and number of buildings, the resident population would have been perhaps twenty to eighty.

Design was generally circular or semi-circular with a conical roof and an entrance designed to shield from the weather. Building materials appear to have varied, but in all cases the construction was watertight.

Observers were impressed. Writing of the two villages he observed on the Clarence in 1839 with canoes moored in a line in front, Captain Perry commented on the ways nets, baskets, water vessels and cooking utensils were “constructed with particular care and neatness.”

The Aborigines were sensible people. Just as they invested time in the construction of more permanent housing where that made sense, they also invested in the same way in communications and food production.

They created tracks especially in thick bush where that would save time, they created wells to provide water when traveling in drier country, and they invested in particular structures where that would aid food production. This included standing nets to aid in hunting and fish traps on the coast and in the west assist fishing.

While much of this has gone, the Brewarrina Fish Traps remain as an example of the scale of Aboriginal engineering.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 20 September 2017. 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. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Inverell Times, Glen Innes Examiner local history series

Regular readers will know that I write the history column for the Armidale Express. Now the Inverell Times and Glen Innes Examiner have their own columns. I will report the individual stories as they come out. This post records progress to this point.

The Inverell Times has two stories so far written by staff reporters:
The Glen Innes Examiner's first story is Living history: The Wellingrove era (18 September 2017) written by Eve Chappell.  Eve is manager, Land of the Beardies History House.

I know that other New England papers cover local history as well, at least from time to time. Please let me know of stories so that I can cover them. That way we build up a resource.

Friday, September 22, 2017

New DNA results shed light on African migration patterns

Researchers in Malawi examine bone fragments whose DNA provided input into a significant study of African migration patterns. Photo New York Times
There is an interesting article in Cell, Reconstructing Prehistoric African Population Structure. The summary reads:

"We assembled genome-wide data from 16 prehistoric Africans. We show that the anciently divergent lineage that comprises the primary ancestry of the southern African San had a wider distribution in the past, contributing approximately two-thirds of the ancestry of Malawi hunter-gatherers 8,100–2,500 years ago and approximately one-third of the ancestry of Tanzanian hunter-gatherers 1,400 years ago. We document how the spread of farmers from western Africa involved complete replacement of local hunter-gatherers in some regions, and we track the spread of herders by showing that the population of a 3,100-year-old pastoralist from Tanzania contributed ancestry to people from northeastern to southern Africa, including a 1,200-year old southern African pastoralist. The deepest diversifications of African lineages were complex, involving either repeated gene flow among geographically disparate groups or a lineage more deeply diverging than that of the San contributing more to some western African populations than to others. We finally leverage ancient genomes to document episodes of natural selection in southern African populations"

The New York Times (21 September 2017) carried a useful story by Carl Zimmer, Clues to Africa’s Mysterious Past Found in Ancient Skeletons, which provides some useful supplementary material.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

New England: A journey through the built landscape

Mark of the past: Groves made by grinding as part of Aboriginal axe production. This required suitable stone and access to water. This is the second in my new series on New England's built landscape and architecture 

We begin our journey through the New England built landscape and associated architecture in Aboriginal times with a question. If you could shut your eyes and return to New England in 1700, what would you see?

The physical landscape would appear familiar but also different. You would recognise major land forms, some types of vegetation, but then you would notice the differences.

Over the millennia, the Aborigines had modifies the environment to suit their needs and life styles. When the Europeans came with their stock, ploughs and axes, the landscape changed quite quickly.

The Tablelands, for example, were much boggier in Aboriginal times. The lagoons that now survive as remnants stretched along the Tablelands’ spine. Creeks such as Dumaresq Creek had high banks and deep pools. The pattern of trees and open space was different, altered by burning to meet Aboriginal needs.

All human societies have similar needs for food, shelter, protection and social interaction. They hold beliefs and values that allow society to function and explain their world. They invest time and resources in creating things that will make life easier and express their beliefs.

The Aborigines were no different. In addition to altering the landscape to meet their needs, they created a built environment that reflected available resources, climate and their culture, beliefs and life style.

That built landscape varied across Australia in ways we don’t properly understand. In Northern NSW, I suspect the first thing you would have noticed were the carved trees. They marked boundaries, graves and ceremonial sites embodying religious and ceremonial messages.

The next thing you might notice were the range of ceremonial sites including bora rings, stone arrangements and cave paintings. Some were of local significance, but others had a wider importance as centres for broader gatherings drawing visitors from long distances.

The stone sites are often found in high country including the Fall country, while the concentrations of cave paintings suggest sites of particular ceremonial or religious importance.

These ceremonial sites involved investment of considerable time not just to build and maintain, but to gather the food need to feed those attending.

The signs of Aboriginal industry and economic activity were also spread across the landscape.

Quarries such as the Moore Creek axe factory were developed to access particular types of stone, Axed had to be ground at particular sites, leaving distinctive markings on rocks. Over millennia, the production of stone tools created a lithic scatter across space, with special concentrations around occupation sites.

I will complete my discussion on the Aboriginal built environment next week looking at food production, communications and housing.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 13 September 2017. 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. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

When and where did the Australian Aborigines and the Denisovans meet?

Back in September 2016, a paper in Nature rather dryly titled “A genomic history of Aboriginal Australia.” reported on the results of a comparative genomic study of Australian Aboriginals and Papuans.  Genomics applies recombinant DNA, DNA sequencing methods, and bioinformatics to sequence, assemble, and analyze the function and structure of genomes (the complete set of DNA within a single cell of an organism).

The results were quite striking,  so striking that they attracted global media attention. “Indigenous Australians most ancient civilisation on Earth, extensive DNA study confirms” read one UK headline.

Some care must in fact be exercised in interpreting the results, for the statistical techniques used give you date ranges, a central date and then a confidence interval, a range within which the actual date might fall. These can be large, 20,000+ years, something that can be quite frustrating when you are trying to match dates to understand a pattern. That said, the results were remarkable.

They suggest that Aboriginal Australians and Papuans are more closely related to each other than to anyone else on earth. They also suggest that the Aboriginal-Papuan population diverged from Eurasians following a single out-of-Africa migration 51,000 to 72,000 years ago. See what I mean about date ranges.

In their long travels, that small band or bands of Australo-Papuans appear to have mixed with two related archaic human species. The first were the Neanderthal, something shared with Eurasians. Between one and six per cent of modern Eurasian’s genes derive from the Neanderthal, a percentage higher in some individuals depending on their exact family lineage.

Much later, the travelers mixed with the Denisovans, with about four per cent of the Aboriginal genome traceable to that admixture. We did not discover the existence of the Denisovans, a group named after Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains in Siberia, until excavations that began in 2008. Subsequent work suggests that the cave had also been inhabited by Neanderthals and modern humans over 125,000 years of intermittent occupation.

Speaking of the meeting with the Denisovans, study leader Professor Eske Willerslev is reported as saying: "We don't know who these people were, but they were a distant relative of Denisovans, and the Papuan/Australian ancestors probably encountered them close to Sahul."

Now comes this interesting piece in The Siberia Times (Olga Gertcyk, Extinct Denisovans from Siberia made stunning jewellery - but did they also discover Australia?, 14 September 2017). The UK Daily Mail carried a rather more sensationalised verson.(Will Stewart and Tim Collins, Were ancient Denisovans the first to discover Australia? Scientist believes traces of their DNA found in Aboriginal people suggest they beat homo-sapiens to the continent, 15 September 2017). Hat tip to regular commenter JohnB for pointing me to the Siberia Times story.

While the stories have a beat-up tone, the recent discoveries do raise the question of just when and where the ancestors of the modern Australians did meet the Denosovans. If, as the present consensus seems to suggest, they met them near Sahul, the extended continent that became Australia as the sea levels fell, the Denosovans must have been wide spread.    

In an earlier 2013 paper in Science,  Alan Cooper and Chris Stringer posed the question Did the Denisovans Cross Wallace's Line?. The summary of the paper reads:
The recent discovery of Denisovans (1, 2) and genetic evidence of their hybridization with modern human populations now found in Island Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Pacific (3) are intriguing and unexpected. The reference specimen for the Denisovan genome (4), a distal phalanx from a young girl, was recovered from the geographically distant Denisova Cave in the Russian Altai mountains. Three Denisovan mitochondrial genomes have been generated from material in the cave, dated by poorly associated fauna (5) at more than 50,000 years old. The diversity of these genomes indicates that the Denisovan population had a larger long-term average size than that of the Neandertals (6, 7), suggesting that the Denisovans were formerly widespread across mainland East Asia. However, interbreeding with modern humans only appears to have occurred in remote Island Southeast Asia, requiring marine crossings and raising questions about the distribution and fossil record of Denisovans in Island Southeast Asia.
So far we still have only one known Denisovan site, the original at one at Altai. Based on the material remains there, they have appear to have been an advanced hunter-gatherer group. It seems unlikely that the Altai Denisovans "discovered" Australia. It is more likely that there were a number of Denisovan migration paths with possible northern and southern migration routes. But we just don't know. As Professor Richard 'Bert' Roberts, Director of the Centre for Archaeological Science at the University of Wollongong suggested in the Siberia Times piece, We need deep study of ancient migration routes to understand how the Denisovan DNA exists to this day in the native people of Australia. More broadly, we just need more information about them!

We also need, I think, to consider the latest results from the Madjedbebe rockshelter in the Northern Territory,  something I wrote about in The lessons and questions from Madjedbebe, which showed occupancy as well as a sophisticated tool kit from around 65,000 years ago. Recognising my own lack of professional expertise, there is an apparent tension now between some of the date ranges generated by genomic analysis and archaeological analysis.

I have no idea how these conundrums will be resolved, nor what picture we will find at the end of the process. I suspect that it will be as different from current knowledge as current knowledge is from the world view holding even thirty years ago. .      .  .

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Architectural keys to the past

Mid Victorian finery: Mallam House was built in 1870 for Henry Guy Mallam, one of Armidale's pioneer chemists and druggists. This post marks the start of a a new series on New England's built landscape and architecture 

The past lies all around us in the form of the built landscape. We see it, but then we don’t because it is so familiar to us.

Each period since European occupation of the land has been marked by different architectural styles, by different building forms that vary depending on the time built, on purpose and on available materials, on economics and available technology, on fashion and sometimes fad.

There are similarities in the built landscape across the broader New England. The old bank buildings or post offices, for example, are instantly recognisable, sometimes surviving as symbols of a more optimistic time. However, there are also differences that reflect differences in physical, human and economic geography. The architecture of the North Coast is not the same as the Tablelands, that of Newcastle is different again.

The built landscape is constantly reinvented through a process of destruction and reconstruction, of expansion and sometimes contraction. Sometimes elements survive as memorials to past hopes and expectations.

In 1970-71 when Robert Bryant designed stage 3 of the Old Boiler House at the University of New England, he did so as part of a broader plan for a northern residential complex. That complex was never built, swept away in the changes taking place in the university sector.

When New England gained autonomy in 1954 there were nine Australian universities. In 1970 that number had increased to 14. Then an explosion occurred: there were 19 universities in 1980, 25 in 1990, 39 in 2000. UNE’s focus shifted from expansion to survival in the face of fierce competition, leaving the Old Boiler House behind as a sign of things past.

There are different ways of classifying the architecture surrounding us.

We can classify it by period and style. Mallam House, for example, is Armidale’s best surviving example a mid Victorian fashionable house.

It was built in 1870 for Henry Guy Mallam, one of Armidale’s pioneer chemists and druggists, to service the high end rental market. Its first tenant was Bishop Timothy O’Mahony, Armidale’s first Catholic Bishop of Armidale.

We can, as with the old Boiler House, look at architecture in terms of the combination of style and purpose.

A very different example of Armidale’s Victorian architecture can be found on the western side of Beardy Street. Designed by architect John Sulman for the Australian Joint Stock Bank and completed in 1889, the building was intended to be functional while acting as a physical assertion of authority and respectability.

With this as introduction, over the next few weeks I will take you on a tour of New England architecture from the very ancient to the most modern. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 6 September 2017. 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. 

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

William Gardner - chronicler, sketcher, amateur photographer, tutor, regional historian and geographer.

Saumarez Homestead as we know it today. When William Gardner took up a position as tutor on Saumarez Station in 1842 the property was owned by the Elizabeth Dumaresq. In 1856, Saumarez was sold to Henry Arding Thomas who in 1874 sold it to Francis White. It was the Whites who built the homestead we know today.  

“When New England was first settled by the Whites”, William Gardner wrote in 1854, “they found standing nets of the Blacks in many parts of the bush for the purpose of entrapping the wild animals – The tribes of Blacks met by appointment at these places at certain times driving from different directions their game before them, and this from a circle of many miles into these nets”.

This has become one of the most often quoted descriptions of traditional Aboriginal life on the Tablelands, providing a clear picture of the nature of cooperative work within an Aboriginal society on the point of disruption.

One of the first chroniclers of life in Northern New South Wales, William Gardner has been described as sketcher, amateur photographer, tutor, regional historian and geographer.

Gardner (1802-1860) was born in Glasgow, Scotland. In April 1838 he sailed from Leith, Edinburgh’s port, for Sydney as a cabin passenger on the barque Countess of Durham, arriving five months later.

We know little of Gardner’s life in the thirty six years before he sailed for Sydney. He was clearly an educated man and may by then have spent some time in Georgia (USA), for in 1848 he published a pamphlet on the possibility of growing of cotton in NSW.

Upon arrival in Sydney, Gardner worked briefly for the Union Bank of Australia before going north to Maitland to assist in Dickson’s general store. About 1842, he moved further north to become tutor (at £15 a year, plus keep) at Saumarez Station near Armidale.

The Saumarez run had been taken up by William and Henry Dumaresq in 1837. When Henry died from war wounds in 1838, his wife Elizabeth inherited Saumarez. While the property remained in family hands until 1856 when it was sold to Henry Arding Thomas, Elizabeth and her children returned to England a few years after Henry’s death.

Gardner was then employed as tutor at various stations around the district, Moredun, Rockvale, John Barker’s Mount Mitchell Station, and finally Andrew Coventry's Oban Station .

A keen horseman, Gardner travelled widely over the district. He compiled the first detailed map of the northern districts of New South Wales, published in September 1844.

Gardner's later writings were not published, but were kept in large manuscript notebooks. “I made them for my own amusement”, he wrote. These notebooks, now held in the Mitchell Library, are a treasure trove of information about the early years of New England.

One of his pupils, John Barker’s daughter, recalled Gardner as a stout, jovial man of wide learning, a keen amateur photographer and painter, the owner of a stereoscope with views of his native country and a keen student of history who 'wrote in bulky volumes far into the night by the light of a candle’.

Gardner did not marry. He died at Oban in September 1860 and was buried in an unmarked grave. In November 1973, a headstone was finally erected on the grave by the Armidale and District Historical Society.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 30 August 2017. 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. 

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The fossil footprints of Trachilos date to c5.7 million years ago

The Trachilos Footprints

On Trachilos, Crete, 29 small fossil tracks were found made by someone walking upright. The footprints have remarkable human like characteristics. Now Professors Mathew Bennett (Bournemouth University) and Per Ahlberg (Uppsala University) report in The Conversation (1 September 2017, (Our controversial footprint discovery suggests human-like creatures may have roamed Crete nearly 6m years ago).that the footprints have been dated  to around 5.7 million years ago. At this point towards the end of the Miocene the Mediterranean Sea was apparently dry, with Crete linked to Greece with a very different environment from today.

The authors conclude:
If – and for many it is a big if – the tracks of Trachilos were indeed made by an early human ancestor, then the biogeographical range of our early ancestors would increase to encompass the eastern Mediterranean. 
In a later piece in The Conversation (4 September), Robin Crompton (University of Liverpool) and Susannah Thorpe (University of Birmingham) ask Ancient footprints in Crete challenge theory of human evolution – but what actually made them?

They note  that it looks as though the footprints may be hominin – a member of the human species after separation from the chimpanzee lineage."But, as the authors point out themselves, the findings are highly controversial – suggesting human ancestors may have existed in Crete at the same time as they evolved in Africa..........So what should we make of it all? If the footprints are confirmed to be from a hominin – additional studies are needed before we can know for sure – it is unquestionably exciting."

After discussing options and the need for further investigation of the findings, they conclude:
If all 50 of the Trachilos prints were made freely available to other scientists as high resolution laser scans, we would have a decent sample to assess their variability and compare them to other fossil and recent footprints and foot pressure records. And indeed, the researchers behind the study told The Conversation they are aiming to release all their data at some point. 
This would give us a good chance of saying who made them. As it stands, they could as well be those of gorillas – which separated from us over 10m years ago – as those of a member of our own human lineage such as Oreopithecus or Orrorin.

Using Domain or realestate.com.au as historical research tools

I have begun a new series in my Armidale Express column on New England's built landscape and architecture. The opening sentences sentences in the first column, Architectural keys to the past, set  the theme.
The past lies all around us in the form of the built landscape. We see it, but then we don’t because it is so familiar to us.
This is Woodleigh on the outskirts of Armidale. While modernised, it is a fairly typical country homestead of its period with its weatherboard construction, chimneys and verandah.

I found Woodleigh on the Domain real estate site. I had not actually realised to that point that the sale notices on Domain and rival site realestate.com.au are actually quite a valuable tool for historical research for those interested in the history of architecture and the built environment in general or in regard to particular locations.

Each house has photographs, a floor plan, a written description and a map. By looking at the map you can place the house and its type in a particular location. By scanning a number of house sale notices over time, .you build up a picture, a mental mud map, of the varying built landscape in an area. You also get a good idea of prices, although that may not be your primary aim.

You can also use the approach to select examples that illustrate particular architectural styles to be found in the area.

In investigating, you also find out new things that then provide a base for further research.

This is 148 Dangar Street just two blocks from the main street. It was constructed in the 1890s from Armidale blue brick

I know this house quite well because I used to walk past it all the time. It's a funny place, striking in its own way but somehow different.

While I knew the house from the outside, I did not know its history. I find from Domain that it was originally built as stables for James Miller’s Kapunda estate. This was described in 1891 as “one of the most complete private residences in town”, with the stables planned by James White described as “very comfortable quarters” for racehorses. The house was later refurbished as a four bedroom residence.

I don't know anything about James Miller or his Kapunda estate, so I have some further research to do at some point.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Winners of the 2017 NSW Premier’s History Awards

On Friday night, 1 September, the 2017 NSW Premier’s History Awards were announced at the State Library of NSW as part of the official launch of NSW History Week.

Details of the winners are set out below. I have given links to the publishers plus the judge's comments for each award.

Australian History Prize ($15,000). From the Edge: Australia’s Lost Histories, Mark McKenna (Melbourne University Publishing) 

From the Edge contends that it is only when Australians look to the edge of their country that they can properly comprehend what makes their histories distinct. The book begins with an account of a walk along the southeast Australian coast in the late eighteenth
century, before moving on to the failed British attempt to establish a presence at Cobourg Peninsula, the search for profits at the Burrup Peninsula and James Cook’s stay at what is now Cooktown. The focus is on the encounter between Australia’s Indigenous and non‐
Indigenous inhabitants.

This evocatively written and innovative study is based on wide‐ranging research and fieldwork. It conveys a powerful sense of place. Attractive images are a vital component of the evidence it presents. A convincing case is made for the importance of historical connections between remote localities at opposite ends of the continent. By explaining why an understanding of these localities’ Indigenous stories is so essential, Mark McKenna makes a major contribution to the development of a more widely informed Australian historical consciousness.

From the Edge stands out in a competitive shortlist through the manner in which it highlights and makes sense of a complex network of local histories that deserve far greater attention than they have previously received. The book combines well‐told intriguing stories with sophisticated and clear analysis. McKenna demonstrates that Australians’ historical imagination can be enriched through a broader yet more geographically intimate view. He emphasises the significance of a local and regional perspective that emerges from the histories of locations that are ‘both on the edge of the continent and the edge of national consciousness’. Through detailed place studies that give special attention to Aboriginal–settler encounters, he offers a highly original contribution to understanding Australia’s past with considerable contemporary relevance.

General History Prize ($15,000). Japanese War Criminals: The Politics of Justice After the Second World War, Sandra Wilson, Robert Cribb, Beatrice Trefalt and Dean Aszkielowicz (Columbia University Press)

Japanese War Criminals showcases the power of collaboratively authored historical research. In its analysis of new sources written in multiple languages, it is truly transnational. It engages impressively with one of the most complex moral and legal problems — can we achieve justice and restitution for crimes committed during war?

Wilson, Cribb, Trefalt and Aszkielowicz have placed the war crimes tribunals in their full cultural, legal, diplomatic and political contexts. We read about the significance of the trials to people around the world as they struggled to return to ‘normal life’ and reconstitute moral order amid the wreckage produced by the war. The book skilfully shows that identifying criminal acts committed during militarised conflict is more than a matter of practical legal determination; it has implications that go well beyond setting parameters for just war and legal killing Japanese War Criminals is an exceptional book. It provides readers with fresh insights into the complex moral challenges, practical legal limitations and political constraints that influenced the Allied authorities in their execution of justice in the emotionally charged years following the Pacific War.

Never shying away from recognising the horror of crimes committed by the Japanese military, the book also reveals that the trials were complicated by the Allies’ efforts to prevent their own wartime atrocities from facing similar legal and moral attention. This powerful book shows us that the horror of war contaminates every aspect of civilised life, including the law and its ideals of justice and impartiality. It is a remarkable achievement, both for its intellectual reach and its deft handling of fraught ethical issues that continue to confront us today.

NSW Community and Regional History Prize ($15,000). Stories from the Sandstone: Quarantine Inscriptions from Australia’s Immigrant Past, Peter Hobbins, Ursula K. Frederick and Anne Clarke (Arbon Publishing)

The North Head Quarantine Station operated from the 1830s until it closed in 1984; it served as a holding station for passengers on inbound ships to New South Wales arriving from well‐known hotspots for contagious diseases. Stories from the Sandstone examines around 1600 engravings in many different languages that were carved into the rocks and walls around the Quarantine Station during its 150‐year history.

The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs of the engravings and paintings of the area. In addition to the inscriptions and graffiti, sources include official records, personal recollections, unpublished diaries, private correspondence, family trees and various archives. The authors draw from this rich body of sources to spotlight individuals who passed through the station and left their signatures in stone.  This fascinating and accomplished history of the Quarantine Station firmly locates the experiences of the local within the broader context of the global. It covers the history of immigration to Australia, the conditions of ship travel for men, women and children, the start of government public health measures and the establishment of official quarantine policies to manage arrivals and the spread of disease. It is a history contoured by how the governments of the day applied ideas of gender, race and culture to the treatment of diverse individuals. Such local experiences are set within the broader transnational framework of the history of trade, trade routes, theories of disease and pandemics.

Young People’s History Prize ($15,000). Maralinga’s Long Shadow: Yvonne’s Story, Christobel Mattingley (Allen and Unwin)

On 24 June 1952, the Aṉangu people were forcibly dislocated from the Ooldea Lutheran mission on their traditional land in South Australia and sent to Yalata, another mission station in the country of another Aboriginal people. The traditional Aṉangu country was renamed ‘Maralinga’ and handed over to British scientists to carry out nuclear tests which would contaminate the land for the next 24,000 years.

Maralinga’s Long Shadow tells the story of Aṉangu woman Yvonne (also known as Tjintjiwara), who experienced this dislocation. Her husband and two sons died of cancer when they were granted ‘salvage rights’ and sent to clean up Maralinga many years later.

This well‐researched and original history interweaves the account of nuclear testing at Maralinga with Yvonne’s biography, community service and career as an artist. It tracks her experience of life on mission stations, her grief at being tricked into allowing her baby to be removed from her care, her marriage and family life, her reunion with her adult son, and how the introduction of alcohol began to destroy the Yalata community.

Christobel Mattingley does an outstanding job handling the many strands of this complex narrative, telling the tale in a simple but powerful and accessible voice. The book is beautifully illustrated with photos from Yvonne’s life and vivid reproductions of her artwork. Despite the tragic history it recounts, Maralinga’s Long Shadow is suffused with hope because of Yvonne’s resilience and her determination to serve her community both in practical ways, and by passing on Aṉangu stories, traditions, and her art. This is an
important, moving and inspiring story.

Multimedia History Prize ($15,000). The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial, Adam Clulow (Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media) 

In the 1620s, Dutch and English competition for control over the lucrative spice trade in the East Indies (present‐day Indonesia) reached a critical point. After uncovering an English plot to take the Dutch castle at Amboyna, the Dutch authorities tortured suspects, placed them on trial, and ultimately condemned to death 10 English merchants and 10 Japanese mercenaries. For the following decade, passions escalated as both sides clashed over the legitimacy of a trial that would become one of the most famous legal cases of its age.

The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial website invites us to revisit this seminal case. With a rich trove of digitised archival material, we become investigators, lawyers and jurors tasked with understanding historical events. The process is guided by insights from academic experts who explain the trial’s context within the spice trade and colonialism. Primarily designed for tertiary students, the interactive website is accessible to broader audiences. The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial asks us to investigate an event, on a human scale, that is dense with continuing issues of justice, journalism, politics and propaganda.

The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial website is an outstanding example of how maps, sketches, paintings and archival documents (in multiple languages) can be brought to life. It vividly and intelligently introduces us not only to the history surrounding the trial, but also to the tools of the historian in making sense of a trail of angry missives and public pamphlets. The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial is fresh, interesting and engaging. It is an important resource for teaching history and a model for multimedia history education.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

The History Carnival 168 hosted Helen's ART and ARCHITECTURE, mainly

The History Carnival is a regular generally monthly round-up of history posts carried on different blogs in different countries, hosted by a different blogger each time. This month's carnival, the 168th, is hosted by Helen's ART and ARCHITECTURE mainly.

Do have a look. My favourite among the posts mentioned, and I'm not alone here, is Laundry Methods During the American Revolution: The Really, Really Quick Version