History in the Making Author in Focus: Patrick White

In the Summer-Autumn issue of History in the Making, Patrick White, a PhD candidate at James Cook University, published an article considering Australian discourses of post-war, home-front defence and the question of northern development in relation to Townsville’s Lavarack Barracks.

Here, he details the archival basis of his research project, explains how a year in the United States spurred his interest in history, and lists essential reading for those interested in northern Australia.

How did you find and access your primary sources?

For the HITM article I based my primary research on newspaper articles and editorials from the relevant period. It was a pragmatic decision, James Cook University’s Mabo Library has a very good collection of newspapers stored on microfilm and good facilities to utilise them. I also chose some letters between key politicians – for example between the Queensland Premier and the Prime Minister – because they directly discussed some of the issues I explored in the article.

What did you learn from the peer review process?

The importance of clear topic sentences! And you must establish a good literature review to help guide the reader. These are the basics but sometimes you might ‘know’ you need to do something but not really understand why or how important it is until you are peer reviewed. The process at HITM was great and I was lucky to get some very helpful feedback.

What’s your favourite history book?

Two Australian books at the moment: Geoffrey Bolton’s A Thousand Miles Away: a history of north Queensland to 1920 and Alan Powell’s Far Country: a short history of the Northern Territory. These are not glamorous offerings but as a northern Australian, they appeal to me. There are very few really good histories of the Northern Territory or north Queensland but these two certainly stand out. Bolton’s is quite old now (1960s) and is an excellent summary of north Queensland’s post-colonial settlement. The pattern of development described by Bolton remains evident today. Powell’s NT history covers a lot of ground but must be an essential early stop for anybody studying the Territory.

Why do you think the study of history is important?

I started studying political science when I was an undergrad international student in the United States. I was there during the Bush-Gore election and in the following years for 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan and the build-up to war in Iraq. Politically, this was immensely volatile and interesting period. A vast array of ideas and topics were bouncing around and I began to understand how history could be radically manipulated to substantiate politics or controversial policies. This concerned me and the importance of history – professional, objective, detailed and holistic – was clear. I quickly added history to my studies and never looked back. I’d like to see good history become more accessible and more widely appreciated as a crucial central pillar of academia by universities and the community.

How do you juggle your studies and the rest of your life?

As we all know, maintaining full-time work while studying is very difficult. Attempting to participate in the community and have a social life on top of these is occasionally impossible. Sacrifices need to be made and I am not a naturally gifted student or researcher so I need to work hard to get anywhere. Quarantining time each day is critical to achieving your goals. Two hours per day to read, take notes, edit or write is important. Just get in there and do something each day. I am lucky to have a good desk at home and a space at the university. Primary research is a whole other ball game though. That requires vast quantities of time and effort and I expect that the skills and tactics of a good research ferret are developed throughout a lifetime.

Where would you like to take your research next?

I am working on a political history of northern development. The idea of developing northern Australia has been around for a long time and it sporadically attracts interest from governments. However, little is known about its politics. I hope to make a contribution to filling this gap. I am also interested in football fan sub-cultures known as ‘Ultras’. These sub-cultures have roots in southern and eastern Europe but have spread to all corners of the globe, including Australia. I envisage doing some work in this space.

History in the Making Author in Focus: Emily Gallagher

In the latest issue of History in the Making, Emily Gallagher, a fourth year undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame, published an article on the neglect of atrocities in Australian historical writing about World War I.

In a short author interview, she explains the pleasures of studying history, the struggle to fairly write about the darker aspects of Australia’s wartime history, and her fascination with Australia’s official historian of World War I, C.E.W. Bean.

Why did you choose to study history?

History is humbling. An epistemology where dissatisfaction dominates your professional and private practice. For me, to study history is to rebel against inadequacy, deny the impossibility of the task, and participate in a type of story telling that never ends. This is truly an exciting, often intoxicating, cause.

What questions do you still have about the topic of your research?

Like all historical studies, my research is fundamentally unfinished. Time is not fixed and the boundaries of my published research are exponentially expanding. Of all the questions that have persisted and emerged I would like to know ‘how’, how can we teach the atrocities committed by Australian soldiers in war to overcome the glorification of the Anzacs without desecrating their memory? This is a question I intend to answer.

What advice would you give to someone considering submitting an article to the journal?

Don’t conform to the popular. There is no history or historiography more valuable than another, embrace your passion, however unconventional it may be. In the words of Raphael Samuel: ‘the contours of national past are continually changing shape. Mountains turn out to have been molehills while conversely tumuli, as they appeared at the time, may seem, on a longer view, to be foothills of a mighty peak.’

How do you juggle your studies and the rest of your life?

It is my perfectionism that supports me most powerfully to ensure I balance all the important aspects of my life. My personal best is achieved when I ensure I have an active, socially rich and political engaged lifestyle. Practically, I function incredibly well on six hours of sleep. This has certainly been a great fortune in enabling me to gain the extra time needed to pursue my academic ambitions without jeopardising my social, sporting and employment opportunities.

What’s your favourite history book?

I love books and I can faithfully say I have no favourite. But, theoretically, if I had to nominate a ‘history book,’ I am currently enthralled by Edward Said’s book, Orientalism.

You’re hosting a dinner party. Which three figures are invited?

My first guest comes to mind effortlessly, C.E.W. Bean. Australia’s official war correspondent for the First World War, Bean is a character that has left an imposing legacy on the writings of this nations official history. Bean is not a flawless historian, however his histories remain the defining character of academic, public and political Australian Anzac history. He is secretly loved by many Australian historians. Secondly, I would love to see my Grandfather again, simply because I miss him. Lastly, (excluding the issue of his thick German accent) I – like many others – think dinner with Albert Einstein would guarantee good conversation.

History in the Making Author in Focus: Matt Firth

In the last issue of History in the Making Matt Firth, a postgraduate student at the University of New England, published an article on the changing policies of Australian colonial governments toward corporal punishment between 1788 and 1838.

Here, Matt explains how he arrived at his topic, the challenges of balancing writing and research with an active family and business life, and what he’d like to ask the Holy Roman Emperor.

How did you come to your topic for your article?

One of the things I love about history is the many tangents any inquiry can open up, and I have to say that my article was definitely tangential to my normal interests and inclinations as a medieval historian. In taking a unit at the University of New England entitled ‘Crime, Incarceration and Servitude’ I had anticipated researching Early Modern carceral ideology. I did this to an extent, tracing the evolution of the English prison system from 1550–1850, but my attention kept returning to the colonies. This opened the opportunity to work with the delightful staff in the history room at the State Library of Tasmania (I am Hobart based), and pore over their collection of convict memoirs and British Parliamentary papers, and an article on flogging in Colonial Australia was born.

How did you find and access your primary sources?

I usually find that my initial leads come from secondary sources. Searching a university database will normally locate relevant journal articles and the footnotes are invaluable. In this case, from there I went to the State Library and spoke with the historians there who provided access to the sources I had located, and they made further suggestions. Naturally as my research developed, new sources were found, old ones discarded and many trips to the Tasmanian State Archives were made.

How do you juggle your studies and the rest of your life?

This is not easy. Communication and commitment are the key. I came to my postgraduate degree later than many—ten years after attaining my BA—and am married, have a little girl and run a small business. I study part-time. However, I am doing both a Graduate Certificate in Classical Languages and a Master of History, so part-time is a matter of opinion! Sacrifices need to be made at all levels and flexibility is a must: study, work and family all require no less than 100% commitment. I schedule every hour of my weekdays from 6am to midnight and ensure I allot time to both family and study alongside work. I remain flexible on the weekends to ensure my family comes first, however the hard conversations have been had and they know I need blocks of time to study on the weekends.

What advice would you give to someone considering submitting an article to the journal?

Firstly, don’t simply submit the essay that was submitted for marking. Edit in line with your marker’s comments and edit it to ensure it reads as a stand-alone article as opposed to simply answering a question Secondly, pay attention to the journal style guide and make sure you stick to it – I say that as both an author and reviewer!

You’re hosting a dinner party. Which three historical figures are invited?

Raising deceased historical figures from the dead is way more likely than me hosting a dinner party. We will have to go down the pub.

I would take Frederick Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire, Henry V of England and Louis XIV of France. Men who committed their lives, resources and people to establishing pan-European autocracies. I would like their opinions on the EU.

What do you plan to read next?

I have returned to my medieval studies and am working on a research paper looking at the political uses of torture in late Anglo-Saxon England (so not entirely removed from convict flogging). I am reading Larissa Tracy’s Torture and Brutality in Medieval Literature as an accompaniment to this.

History in the Making Author in Focus: Elizabeth Morgan

In the last issue of History in the Making Elizabeth Morgan published an article delving into Australian memorialisation traditions since the mid-ninteenth century through her examination of local cemeteries in Albury, New South Wales.

Here, in the first in a new series of author in focus interviews, Elizabeth explains how she came to her topic, her experiences of peer review as a first-time author, and her personal fascination with history, community and identity.

How did you come to the topic for your article?

My topic of cemeteries and death culture came from a fabulously named subject at the University of New England: Waking the Dead, which of course generates much interest. I can’t think of many history students who don’t profess a love of cemeteries, gravestones, and memorials. The cemetery research I completed was for the research component of ‘Waking the Dead’, but it was incredibly fun to complete. Who could say no to several days wandering cemeteries in the name of actually studying? In the course of researching the article I learned a great deal about the town I grew up in, the way in which death is treated in Australia (and worldwide) and, excitingly, the way things are changing even now. It’s lovely to take the study of history and relate it to the present day.

What did you learn from the peer review process?

When I first started thinking about the peer review process I was sagely advised to “leave my ego at the door”, meaning that my work was likely to be shredded and I shouldn’t take it personally. Thankfully, for both my writing and my ego, the peer review process was fairly painless. All the comments I received were less intimidating than those received on the original assignment I submitted for university.

The main point that came through the peer review process was that, although I thought I had adjusted writing from ‘uni assignment’ to ‘article’, I still had included a lot of assumed knowledge and things I’d mentioned in passing because I had a good grasp on the topic. This totally overlooked the fact that my audience may have never heard of some things I assumed were common knowledge. The peer reviewers helped me identify these gaps in my writing, which I was able to fill in and expand on during the editing process.

The only difference between peer review and comments from your university markers is that you aren’t being given a grade by the peer reviewers, and they haven’t read a hundred essays on the same topic before they’ve gotten to yours. They still want your work to be as good as you can make it, and they are looking for the potential for your work to be polished to a publication standard. It is very rare for an article to be accepted without revisions, even for your academic lecturers! My article is definitely stronger for having gone through the peer review process.

What questions do you still have about the topic of your research?

I suspect I could spend a good chunk of a research career on this one topic. My immediate questions about cemetery were ones I raised in the conclusion of my article: what will I find by correlating the small plaque grave markers that are common today with the obituaries in the local newspaper, and how has that changed over time as grave markers have become smaller in both the size and the sentiments expressed on them. Death is a concept that western society is gradually reacquainting itself with in the 21st century and the way this new trend is expressing itself is fascinating in light of how it was almost taboo in the 20th century. ‘Natural’ shroud burials and no burials at all are becoming more popular, and it will be interesting to see how unmarked graves will be considered in the future when there is no marker to indicate to the viewer who is buried in front of them and why they should care.

Any research can be a rabbit-hole of possibility if you want it to be!

What do you plan to do when you finish your studies?

This question assumes I plan to finish studying! Given enough time and money, I’d love to learn all of the things. Alas, I have been restricted to finishing my undergraduate degree before I move on to another. In my immediate plans are honours, PhD, and studies in Theology and more languages: just a few things to be going on with!

Ultimately I’d love to research and teach, but for now I study history because I really enjoy it, not for an ultimate career goal.

Why did you choose to study history?

I came to university as a mature-aged student, while I was at home with babies. I thought the best idea would be to study something that interested me rather than looking ahead towards a career. Although my road through my undergraduate degree has been long and bumpy—life happens! I still hold to this principle.

Studying history helps me put the world in context. Finding a sense of ‘identity’ or ‘community’ was something I struggled with as a young adult, but history helps me see that I am part of a broader community. It helps me understand how things today have come about, by looking backwards at the threads that have woven together to create the events of today. I find it fascinating to see the pieces of various ‘puzzles’ come together to create different effects over time.

What historical period would you like to visit?

I really enjoy having antibiotics, running water, electricity, enough food, and the Internet. I would really like to stay here in the future, rather than visit any historical period!

Call for Papers, History in the Making Vol. 4, No. 2

Did you write a great essay and would you like to see it published in a journal?

Do you want to gain experience of the peer review process?

History in the Making is open to all undergraduate and postgraduate students currently enrolled at an Australian university.

We are currently inviting students to submit articles for publication – you can submit at any time, but if you submit by Friday, 5 June 2015, you will be considered for the next issue, to be launched in Semester 2, 2015.

Find out more at: https://journal.historyitm.org/how-to-submit

A Reflection on Fifty Years of Independent Australian First World War Scholarship

In early August 2014 many European nations commemorated the beginning of the Great War, the supposed war to end all wars, which claimed the lives of millions and whose consequences paved the way for a second, even more deadly conflict barely twenty years later. In Australia, some of these overseas events made the news, while at home, Albany (WA) held a ceremony for the centenary of the first Anzac departure from the commonwealth’s shores. However, on the whole, it has been all quiet on the commemorative front. And so it remained until April, when Australia’s commemorations began in earnest. On Anzac Day, thousands gathered around memorials or on beaches to commemorate the sacrifice of the first Australians to land at Gallipoli as well as to celebrate the birth of a nation. Many historians were watching, analysing, and perhaps even participating in the unfolding rituals.

Taken at face value, academic interest in Australia’s First World War involvement and its enduring repercussions is unsurprising. After all, the Anzac legend has come to occupy an increasingly central position in contemporary popular and political discourse about Australian history. Nonetheless, this interest is a fairly recent phenomenon. During the interwar period, Australians wishing to learn more about their country’s role in World War I beyond their own lived experience could really only turn to C.E.W Bean’s Official History, a twelve-volume behemoth, published between 1921 and 1942. After World War II, nothing changed for another two decades. In the 1950s and 1960s, academic circles still snubbed Australian war history as a topic worthy of study. Around the same time, the pageantry and ritual of 25 April was suddenly struggling to attract widespread popular attention and, for a moment, Anzac appeared destined to become an obscure reference in Australia’s past, forgotten by scholar and public alike. However, from the mid-1960s onwards, a combination of circumstances, including the 50th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, the opening of sealed archives, the Vietnam War and ensuing debates concerning conscription, saw World War I become a relevant, even pressing issue in Australian society again.

Leading the initial charge of academic interest was Ken Inglis, who was soon followed by many others, such as Lloyd Robson and Bill Gammage. Their pioneering work went beyond analysing the conflict’s purely military aspects and considered the social and cultural implications of Australia’s Great War involvement. These initial studies, which cover issues such as the Anzac tradition’s roots, the ‘civil’ religious aspects of commemoration and the social history of the first Australian Imperial Force, have remained hugely influential. This influence is reflected in the central themes and debates that make up Australian Great War historiography today, which include: the Gallipoli campaign; Bean’s role in the propagation of the Anzac legend; the validity of the Anzac legend’s claims; conscription; bereavement and mourning; memorialisation and commemoration; and the dominant position of Anzac in contemporary Australian history. Nevertheless, as broad as this list appears, there are also significant gaps in Australian First World War studies. For example, the predominance of Gallipoli in the public’s understanding of the war is reflected in the historiography, and there are few detailed analyses of other major campaigns in which the Anzacs fought. Australian war art and literature has also received relatively little attention, especially when considering the amount of scholarship available on British, French and German works. Recent publications suggest that historians are beginning to explore these areas and others, but so far the surface has only been scratched.

For those who find the First World War fascinating, confronting, intriguing, or perhaps a combination of these sentiments, it is an exciting if somewhat overwhelming time to undertake research in this domain. Approximately half a century ago, Ken Inglis looked back at Australia’s Great War history and, apart from Bean’s government sponsored magnum opus, he found very little. Five decades later and we can now turn to an increasingly rich historiography to inform and challenge our approaches to the study of an event popularly conceived as having given birth to the Australian nation. For the greater public, 2015 may be the centenary of the Anzac Landings, but for historians it also marks fifty years of independent Australian First World War scholarship.

– Matt Haultain-Gall (PhD Candidate, University of New South Wales)

[Note: A version of this blog post first appeared as the guest editorial in History in the Making 4, no. 1, 2015]

​​​Launch of History in the Making Vol. 4, No. 1

History in the Making Vol. 4, No. 1 was launched today. Our latest issue features six articles by undergraduate and postgraduate history students from across the country. Released on the centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign, this issue includes a special themed section on war and memorialisation. Jackie Lobban unpacks the complex depictions of the Anzac legend in children’s literature, while Emily Gallagher examines representations of wartime atrocities during the First World War. Closer to home, Patrick White explores discourses of post-war, home-front defence in relation to Townsville’s military base. Meanwhile, as part of a wider examination of Australian memorialisation trends since the mid-nineteenth century, Elizabeth Morgan reflects on the impact of war on cemetery structures in Albury, NSW.

The remaining two articles published in this issue of History in the Making reflect the dynamic and disparate fields of academic history studied by Australian tertiary students. Matthew Firth discusses the practice of convict flogging in early colonial Australia, while Melissa Laughton investigates the portrayal of history in film.

We hope you enjoy this edition of History in the Making.

Call for Papers Submissions are currently open for the next issue of our journal, which will be launched in Semester 2, 2015. We welcome submissions from all undergraduate and postgraduate students currently enrolled at an Australian university. The deadline for the next edition is Monday, 5 June 2015.

Get Involved! History students at all levels can get involved with the production of our journal:

  • Write for our blog: any history student may submit entries to our blog. Blog posts must be between 200 and 500 words long and deal with any aspect of history or historical research. Potential topics include: book reviews, conference summaries, research tips, stories from the archives or historical anecdotes. To make a submission or find out more, email blog@historyitm.org
  • Join the editorial collective: if you are interested in helping to run the journal, email editors@historyitm.org