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

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Launching an introductory course on the history of Australia's New England

This is a photo of the North Coast Steam Navigation Company's Uralba in naval dress.
Built by the shipbuilder E Wright of Tuncurry in 1942, this was the last ship built for the North Coast Steam Navigation Company, the last wooden coal burner built in Australia and, almost certainly, the last ship built in New England for the coastal trade.
Back in June 2007, so twelve years ago, I started outlining a possible course outline on the history of Australia's New England. The trigger at the time was linked to frustration on the new school curriculum, at the way it it ignored particular areas, as well as my own concerns about the promotion of New England's history.

My 25 June 2007  post, Towards a Course on the History of New England- The Colonial Period, was the most developed. Note the way I have tried to tailor it so that schools in particular areas could use local examples and themes in the course.

In the years since I have kept researching and writing, but have never given up the idea that my material might form the basis for a course or courses. My view was and is that history has to be taught if it is to have real meaning to people. This is especially important where, as in the New England case, history has been effectively written out of existence by the passage of time and fashion.

Aberglasslyn House: The monumental Georgian pile designed by architect John Verge for George Hobler remained unfinished following Hobler’s insolvency in the crash of the early 1840s. Part of New England's built landscape 
I can now advise that, after all this time, the first course, An introduction to the History of New England, will be delivered through the University of the Third Age (u3a) in Armidale over the first semester in 2020. This first course is experimental, to test interest, to develop the course ware required for broader delivery and to sketch further courses where there may be demand.

Here I need to make an important point. In market test on the Uralla, Armidale and Glen Innes family Facebook pages,  I received 35 expressions of interest for external delivery within a few days. It was also suggested that the course should be delivered in conjunction with other u3A branches and local historical societies.

Horton River Band 1967: Dave Game, Mark Rummery, Chris Sullivan, Lionel O'Keefe. The band became a major vehicle for presenting New England's folk tradition.
Neither surprised me. For every person currently living in New England there are three New England expats living elsewhere. At purely local level, the same position holds for Armidale or Uralla or Glen or Singleton. People want to know their history and want to see it in a broader context. However, this creates a problem.

.In logistic terms,  it's not clear how this might be done simply, recognising that we are working outside a conventional university environment. So things have to be worked through. Can it be done?

Now as part of continuing market testing let me outline the course to you.


In geographic terms, the area covered is the New England Tablelands and the surrounding river valleys from the Hunter to the NSW border and, in fact. beyond prior to the separation of Queensland.  In time terms, we are looking at the 30,000 or so timer period since first human habitation.

This is a general introductory course that seeks to cover, if in a sometimes superficial way, most aspects of human life.
Overseas Students' Week 1960: The Columbo Plan brought many international students. By the early 1960s, they formed a significant part of the student body at the University of New England

It will be a full semester course with a break in the middle for school holidays. That means 16-18 lectures plus some tutorials and possible excursions. The number may fall a little depending on detailed course planning. Lectures will deal with main content, the tutorials with method issues and sub topics linked to the main course. Excursions are supplementary.

This is based on internal delivery. .Any external delivery will be a little different since on-line platforms will have to be used. That is one of the issues that will have to be worked through.
Tom Robert's painting of squatter Edward Ogilvie. Ogilvie staked out land on both sides of the Clarence River seeking to build a dynasty.
There are. no pre-requisites for enrolment nor is any knowledge assumed. This is an adult education course where interest is the only requirement. There will be no essay or assignment tasks since at this point the course does not provide a formal qualification requiring formal measurement.

This may change should it be possible to offer a recognised certificate or letter of attainment. Those wishing to obtain this would need to go through an assessment process without affecting others.

 Course Content

The course content is evolving, but this is the current draft:
  1. Introduction
  • Structure of the course, objectives
  • Setting the scene: geography of New England, naming
  • Historical overview 
  1. Aboriginal New England to 1788
  • Origins
  • The journey
  • Arrival in new England
  • Impact of the Late Glacial Maximum
  • The Holocene and the spread of settlement
  • Aboriginal New England on the dawn of invasion
The heritage-listed Brewarrina fish traps are one of the largest surviving examples of Aboriginal engineering.
2 Colonial New England
  • Britain and the context of European occupation
  • The penal period
  • The pastoral rush including the frontier wars and the impact on our Aboriginal peoples
  • Mining
  • Spread of the railways, rise of the towns
  • Political movements including rise of the unions and the emergence of the first new state agitation
  • Threads in social and cultural history: families, class, recreation, art, architecture
3. New England in the Twentieth century
  • Economic challenges from the 1890s, context for what might follow
  • First World War
  • Emergence of new political forces including Labor, the Country Party and a resurgent new state movement
  • Fights for services and the creation of new institutions
  • The Depression, possible secession and recovery
  • The Second World War
  • Social and economic change 1950-2000
  • Aboriginal history over the 20th century
  • Threads in social and cultural history: families, class, recreation, art, architecture, music, film, 

Obviously a lot of work to go, but in the meantime I would be interested in any feedback you care to offer. 

 .  .  


Hels said...

Good luck.. hope it goes well.

What does the Possible Secession refer to?

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Hel. Possible secession refers to the possibility of extra legal secession during the early days the 1930s to force the achievement of self-government.