2014 Ernest Scott Prize Shortlist Announced
The following publications have been short-listed for the 2014 Ernest Scott Prize. The Ernest Scott Prize is awarded 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.
The prize is worth approximately $13,000.
The judges for 2014 are Professor Paula Hamilton from the University of Technology, Sydney, and Professor Tom Brooking from the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Janis Sheldrick, Nature’s Line George Goyder: Surveyor, environmentalist, visionary, Wakefield Press, Kentown, South Australia, 2013.
Sheldrick succeeds in combining the infrequently matched genres of environmental history and biography. This eloquently written biography thereby advances Donald Meinig’s classic study of the line of reliable rainfall by revealing much more about the extraordinary life of the far-sighted George Goyder. Sheldrick makes a powerful case that Goyder was as important to Australia’s environmentalism as John Muir was to American environmentalism and early conservation. Goyder played a critical role as surveyor-general in establishing forestry, protecting native forest and overseeing the settlement of South Australia as well as much of what later became known as the Northern Territories. Unlike most of his contemporaries he realised that agriculture was not viable beyond certain points because of the variability of South Australia’s climate. Some settlers ignored his advice while various commentators ridiculed him, but the difficulty of farming such country proved Goyder right. He also acted as an engineer overseeing both drainage and irrigation schemes and became in Joe Powell’s arresting phrase a ‘landscape author’. Although ‘sustainability’ is a relatively recent concept Goyder was intuitively working his way towards some such notion. Even more important, this attractively produced, scholarly and comprehensive biography shows that this remarkable surveyor and engineer stood above most of his contemporaries and later day equivalents because of his ability to think long term and gaze deep into the future. This book is, therefore, of interest to environmental historians and environmentalists everywhere.
Bruce Scates, ANZAC Journeys: Returning to the Battlefields of World War II, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 2013.
This compelling and scholarly book builds and improves upon Scates’ earlier Return to Gallipoli: Walking the Battlefields of the Great War (2006). In this second volume Scates greatly extends the range of his inquiries from more familiar European battlefields to Asian, African and Pacific sites of battle as well as naval battles, and men lost fighting the war in the air. Equally impressive is his use of interviews of both veterans and family members to capture the emotion of travelling to long inaccessible graves of loved ones and mates. By interviewing wives, daughters and sweethearts, Bruce (and his collaborators – Alexandra McKosker, Keir Reeves, Rebecca Wheatley and Damien Williams) break down the narrow masculinist perspective of most books on war and loss. This passionate account of journeys thereby reveals much about commemoration, pilgrimage and memory as well as military history. Scates adds to the important work of scholars like Ken Inglis and Jay Winter as, in his own words, this books traverses ‘emotional’ as well as physical landscapes. This senior historian gets the tone of commemoration about right without descending into glib glorification or careless celebration. Even if the book fails to live up to its Anzac title by not mentioning New Zealanders it remains an important and powerful piece of Australian historical writing on universal themes that will appeal to a wide range of readers.
Paul Moon, Encounters. The Creation of New Zealand. A History, Penguin Books, Auckland, 2013.
This volume engages with a wide range of source material especially imagery, narratives and sites to explore how New Zealand has been imagined across two centuries. The very different ways migrants, visitors, settlers and Maori experienced and interpreted the landscape reveal competing visions which shaped New Zealand’s future. While it has resonances with Richard White’s Inventing Australia (1981) and Ross Gibson’s earlier research on the southern lands that were the subject of rich mythologising by Europeans, The Diminishing Paradise (1984), this volume draws on two more recent areas of scholarship to create a very different and innovative work. The first is research in environmental history and the cultural construction of landscape which has led Moon to examine ideas about ‘wild’ New Zealand, environmental ‘purity’ and the concept of the sublime utilised to understand and explain the magnificence of New Zealand as a place of encounter. The second is the field of heritage tourism and popular historical consciousness, which allows Moon to explore memory that is ‘more of a cultural practice which drifts into the imagination’ or nostalgia for objects and ruins that has sometimes ossified Maori traditions and romanticised the colonial past. The result is a richly evocative study which should be read by all who value the distinctiveness of this country.