2013 Ernest Scott Prize winner announced

The Faculty of Arts in conjunction with The Australian Historical Association is pleased to announce the winner of the 2013 Ernest Scott Prize worth approximately $11,000 . The winner is:

Melissa Bellanta for her book Larrikins: a History (University of Queensland Press)

Here is the citation from judges Professor Mark Finnane, Griffith University, and Professor Philippa Mein-Smith, University of Canterbury.

“A landmark first book by a young scholar, Larrikins stands out for its liveliness, centrality to issues in Australian culture and politics, and breadth of approach, including attention to patterns of speech and youth behaviour,  style and dress. Melissa Bellanta unpacks the origins of Aussie larrikinism as a cultural phenomenon (and performance) that originated on city streets.  Noting that Ned Kelly perceived the larrikin as a city version of himself in 1879, she asks why the larrikin became such a mythic type in Australian identity formation. Contextualised by a social history that locates the shaping of a colonial urban youth culture in the wake of the gold rushes, Larrikins teases out how Australians turned a term of abuse imported as dialect from the United Kingdom into a national mythology once merged with the image of the digger during the First World War. This youth culture – attracted by the pull of the ‘push’ rather than the bush – was ‘flash’, exhibitionist and violent. Part of the book’s appeal is the way in which Bellanta engages with the language and conduct of her youthful larrikin subjects, young ‘brazen’ women as well as men. The quality of research, engagement with the spoken word, connections with the theatre and visual culture place this engaging work in a singular category. Its inter-disciplinary achievement is considerable, respecting the best scholarly conventions of archival history while deploying analytic and interpretative tools from literary and cultural studies that illuminate this phenomenon of Australian history.  Based on rigorous primary research, this work addresses a core aspect of Australianness and Australian sensibility in a refreshing, thoroughly readable but equally scholarly way.”

The following publications were shortlisted for the prize.

Tony Ballantyne, Webs of Empire: Locating New Zealand’s Colonial Past, Bridget Williams Books

Citation: In Webs of Empire, Tony Ballantyne reassesses New Zealand’s colonial history by relocating New Zealand within the British Empire, which he conceptualises as a web of imperial connections. The book brings together a number of essays in which Ballantyne has helped shape contemporary Imperial history, through an emphasis on knowledge production in forming colonial communities, shifting attention from the ‘British World’ approach which focuses on the former white Dominions. In his richly documented account he questions nation-centred histories, stressing the value of looking locally as well as outside the national story for the connections that created communities. The result is a work that among many other contributions redresses the neglect of New Zealand’s connections to the British Empire in Asia, especially through networks of migration and mobility that connected New Zealand to India, with consequences for both Pakeha and Maori histories.

Graeme Davison and Kate Murphy, University Unlimited: the Monash story, Allen & Unwin

Citation: University Unlimited is a history of the emergence of a brand as well as the life of an institution. The skill with which the Monash story is contextualised by the baby boom and a transformed university system – democratised in the 1960s, and rendered an ‘educational supermarket’ in the 1990s – makes this book a landmark contribution to the history of post-war Melbourne and of higher education in Australia. Graeme Davison and Kate Murphy blend seamlessly a rich historical archive with reminiscences from oral interviews, staff and students, within Australian and beyond. The close attention to the influence of university leaders is balanced by an absorbing interest in the changing experience of student life and identity in the modern university. This is a particularly distinguished and accessible institutional history that is destined to be a classic of the genre.

Fiona Paisley, The Lone Protestor: AM Fernando in Australia and Europe, Aboriginal Studies Press

Citation: This is a beautifully written, moving biography of a forgotten Aboriginal activist, A M Fernando, who took his lone protests for Aboriginal rights from Western Australia to Europe, where he sought international intervention to address the wrongs inflicted on Aboriginal people by British colonisation. With considerable empathy, and through painstaking research, Fiona Paisley follows her subject from his petitioning of the Chief Protector in Western Australia against the treatment of Aboriginal Australians as outcasts in their own country, to war-time and later Fascist Europe and to London, the centre of British imperial power. Paisley skilfully locates Fernando in time and place as a Black man of Aboriginal and probable South Asian descent, an educated and devout Catholic, sustained by his Christian faith. In this recovery of his remarkable life story, Fernando emerges as an internationalist, providing, as the author concludes, ‘an extraordinary example of the global reach of one man’s political activism’.

Lyndall Ryan, Tasmanian Aborigines, A history since 1803, Allen & Unwin

Citation: In a new interpretation of the subject Lyndall Ryan uses the framework of settler colonial studies to address the history of Tasmanian Aborigines from when the first people crossed a land bridge from mainland Australia at least 40,000 years ago to contemporary struggles for recognition, rights and reparation. Her meticulously documented study enriches the understanding of the impact of settler colonial violence, dispossession and the forced removal of survivors to Bass Strait in the 19th century. This work sets new standards in the use of mapping (with the assistance of cartographer Robert Anders) in tracing Aboriginal relation to land and the patterns of conflict with settlers. Though wearing lightly the impact of the topic’s embroilment in the ‘history wars’ of a decade ago, the book documents beyond doubt the sustained resistance by Tasmanian Aborigines to colonisation as well as their remarkable struggle for survival.

The Ernest Scott Prize is awarded annually to work based upon original research which is, in the opinion of the examiners, the most distinguished contribution to the history of Australia or New Zealand or to the history of colonisation. Click here for more information about the Ernest Scott Prize.