Pathways to the Past

This site introduces a range of primary historical resources for undergraduate research in Australian History. Pathways to the Past is a virtual gateway to modules which will investigate concepts and methods of historical research across a range of sources such as images, objects, maps, places, and manuscripts.

These modules do not replace existing lectures and classes, but make possible structured individual instruction that parallels face-to-face teaching and enriches student skills and knowledge of the past.

Current modules


This module requires the Flash player, audio capacity and a minimum monitor resolution of 800 x 600 pixels. Please allow approximately an hour to complete.

Headphones are recommended for use in a class room situation.

Step one:

Step two:

  • Summary of key points
    • Images are essential sources of evidence about the past, much underated by historians
    • Images can reveal unique aspects of the past that texts cannot
    • Images come in many forms including photographs, paintings, cartoons, sketches, posters, postcards, illuminated addresses and engravings
    • Like any other evidence, historians can read images with a critical eye
    • Paintings are unique texts which give the historian valuable information (about material culture, what people wore, technology, what cities looked like); but they might also distort social reality as much as reflect it
    • The way artists distort reality is evidence of their personal identity, their ideologies and the mentalities and preoccupations of their age
    • Image-makers have a tendency to idealise and satirise the world they depict
    • Images can be more usefully and reliably read if they are part of a series or collection
    • What is absent from an image can be as important as what is depicted
    • Images can be read in multiple contexts:
      • What was their function and how has this changed?
      • What is the biography of an image over its lifetime?
      • How has it performed as a rhetorical device? Was it created at the time, or after the events it depicts?
      • What were the contemporary artistic conventions relating to particular subject matter?
      • What were the interests of the patron or client?
  • References and further reading

    Key reference

    • Burke, Peter. Eyewitnessing: the uses of images as historical evidence. London: Reaktion Books, 2001

    Module references and further reading

    • McDonald, John. Federation: Australian art and society 1901-2001. Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 2001
    • Bonyhady, Tim. The colonial earth. Carlton South, Vic.: The Miegunyah Press, 2000
    • Davison, Graeme, '"A vote, a rifle and a farm": unnatural rights and invented histories,' in The use and abuse of Australian history. St Leonards NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2000, pp. 238-257
    • Annear, Robyn. Nothing but gold: the diggers of 1852. Melbourne: Text Publishing, 1999
    • Russell, Roslyn and Chubb, Philip. One destiny!: the federation story, how Australia became a nation. Ringwood, Vic.: Penguin, 1998
    • Twomey, Christina. "Without natural protectors: responses to wife desertion in gold-rush Victoria," in Australian Historical Studies, 28, 108 (April 1997): 22-46
    • McQueen, Humphrey. Tom Roberts. Sydney: Pan Macmillan, 1996
    • Goodman, David. Gold seeking; Victoria and California in the 1850s. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1994
    • Maynard, Margaret. Fashioned from penury: dress as cultural practice in colonial Australia. Cambridge [England]; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994
    • Downer, Christine and Phipps, Jennifer. Victorian vision: 1834 onwards: images and records from the National Gallery of Victoria and the State Library of Victoria. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1985
    • Fletcher, Marion. Costume in Australia, 1788-1901. Melbourne; Oxford University Press, 1984
    • Joel, Alexandra. Best dressed: 200 years of fashion in Australia. Sydney: Collins, 1984
    • Smith, Bernard. European vision and the South Pacific, 1768-1850. London: Oxford University Press, 1969
    • Thompson, Patricia (ed.,). A lady's visit to the gold diggings of Australia in 1852-3 written on the spot by Mrs Charles Clacy. Melbourne: Lansdowne Press, 1963, first published 1853.

    Photography, postcards, visual culture, critiques of social documentary photography

    • Lee, Anthony W. Picturing Chinatown: art and Orientalism in San Francisco. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001
    • Manguel, Alberto. Reading pictures: a history of love and hate. Bloomsbury, 2000
    • Sobieszek, Robert A. Ghost in the shell: photography and the human soul, 1850-2000: essays on camera portraiture. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, c. 1999
    • Hirsch, Marianne. Family frames: photography, narrative, and postmemory. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, c. 1997
    • Koop, Stuart (ed). A small history of photography. Fitzroy: Centre for Contemporary Photography, 1997
    • Wells, Liz (ed.,). Photography: a critical introduction. London; New York: Routledge, 1997
    • Elkins, James. The object stares back: on the nature of seeing. New York: Simon & Schuster, c. 1996
    • Green-Lewis, Jennifer. Framing the Victorians: photography and the culture of realism. Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1996
    • Greenwald, Maurine. "Visualizing Pittsburgh in the 1900s: art and photography in the service of social reform," in Greenwald,  aurine W. and Anderson,  argo (eds.,). Pittsburgh surveyed: social science and social reform in the early twentieth century. Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, c. 1996, pp. 125-152
    • Petro, Patrice (ed.,). Fugitive images: from photography to video. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, c. 1995
    • Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales. Sydney vistas: panoramic views 1788-1995. Sydney: Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, 1995
    • Bertram, Alexandra and Trumble, Angas. Edwardian Melbourne in picture postcards. Carlton South, Vic.; The Miegunyah Press, 1995
    • Samuel, Raphael. Theatres of memory. London; New York: Verso, 1994
    • Brilliant, Richard. Portraiture. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991
    • Solomon-Godeau, Abigail. Photography at the dock: essays on photographic history, institutions, and practices. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, c. 1991
    • Spence, Jo and Holland, Patricia (eds.,). Family snaps: the meaning of domestic photography. London: Virago, 1991
    • Sennett, Richard. The conscience of the eye: the design and social life of cities. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990
    • Trachtenberg, Alan. Reading American photographs: images as history, Mathew Brady to Walker Evans. New York: Hill and Wang, 1989
    • Stange, Maren. Symbols of ideal life: social documentary photography in America 1890-1950. Cambridge [England]; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989
    • Journal of Urban History 15, 3 (May 1989), issue devoted to Photography and Urban History
    • Curtis, James. Mind's eye, mind's truth: FSA photography reconsidered. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, c. 1989
    • Bolton, Richard (ed.,). The contest of meaning: critical histories of photography. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, c. 1989
    • Tagg, John. The burden of representation: essays on photographies and histories. Basingstoke, [England]: Macmillan Education, 1988
    • Bate, Weston, McGillivray, Euan and Nickson, Matthew. Private lives - public heritage: family snapshots as history. Hawthorn, Vic.: Hutchinson, 1986
    • Davidson, James and Lytle, Mark. "The mirror with a memory," in Davidson, James West and Lytle, Mark Hamilton. After the fact: the art of historical detection. New York: Knopf: Distributed by Random House, c. 1986
    • Morris, Bede. Images: illusion and reality. Canberra: Australian Academy of Science, 1986
    • Sekula, Allan. "Reading an archive: photography between labour and capital," in Holland, Patricia; Spence, Jo and Watney Simon (eds.,). Photography/politics: two. London: Comedia Pub. Group; New York, U.S.A: Distributed in the U.S.A. by Boyars, 1986
    • Davies, Alan and Stanbury, Peter. The mechanical eye in Australia: photography 1841-1900. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1985
    • Mattison, David. "In visioning the city: urban history techniques through historical photographs," in Urban History Review, XIII, 1, June 1984, pp. 43-52
    • Hales, Peter B. Silver cities: the photography of American urbanization, 1839-1915. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1984
    • Stein, Sally. "Making connections with the camera: photography and social mobility in the career of Jacob Riis," in Afterimage, 10, 10, 1983
    • Burgin, Victor (ed.,). Thinking photography. London: Macmillan, 1982
    • Sontag, Susan. On photography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, c. 1977
    • Martin, G. H. and Francis, David. "The camera's eye," in Dyos, H. J. and Wolff, Michael (eds.,). The Victorian city: images and realities. London, Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973

    Cartoons, caricature, satire

    • Kerr, David S. Caricature and French political culture, 1830-1848, Charles Philipon and the illustrated press. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000
    • Atkinson, Diane. Funny girls: cartooning for equality. London: Penguin, 1997
    • Clabburn, Anna. The relationship between caricature and concepts of Australian national identity, 1900 to the present. MA Thesis, University of Melbourne, Department of Fine Arts, 1997
    • Donald, Diana. The age of caricature: satirical prints in the reign of George III. New Haven: Yale University Press, for Paul Mellon Centre, 1996
    • Lindesay, Vane. Drawing from life: a history of the Australian Black and White Artists' Club. State Library of New South Wales Press, 1994
    • Douglas, Roy. Great nations still enchanted: the cartoonists' vision of empire 1848-1914. London and New York: Routledge, 1993
    • Christiansen, Peter Norman. Bohemian artists and the new woman: the representation of gender identity by Australian black and white artists during the period 1890-1908. MA Thesis, University of Melbourne, 1992
    • Carretta, Vincent. George III and the satirists from Hogarth to Byron. Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1990
    • Cowling, Mary. The artist as anthropologist: the representation of type and character in Victorian art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989
    • Fabian, Suzane (ed.,). Mr. Punch down under: a social history of the colony from 1856 to 1900 via cartoons and extracts from Melbourne Punch. Richmond, Vic.: Greenhouse Publications, 1982
    • Wechsler, Judith. A human comedy, physiognomy and caricature in 19th century Paris. London: Thames and Hudson, 1982
    • Lindesady, Vane. It's moments like these … cartoons behind a nation's catchcry. Melbourne: Sun Books, 1979
    • Coleman, Peter and Tanner, Les. Cartoons of Australian history. West Melbourne: Nelson, 1978
    • Mahood, Marguerite. The loaded line: Australian political caricature, 1788-1901. Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1973
    • Stone, Walter. 50 Years of the newspaper cartoon in Australia 1922-1973. The News in association with the Art Gallery of South Australian Adelaide, 1973
    • Geipel, John. The cartoon: a short history of graphic comedy and satire. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1972
    • Curtis, Lewis P. Jr. Apes and angels: the Irishman in Victorian caricature. Newton Abbott: David & Charles, 1971
    • Lindesay, Vane. The inked-in image: a survey of Australian comic art. Melbourne: Heinemann, 1970
    • Shikes, Ralph E. The indignant eye: the artist as social critic in prints and drawings from the fifteenth century to Picasso. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969
    • Mahood, Marguerite. The Australian political cartoon in Victoria and New South Wales, 1855-1901. MA Thesis, University of Melbourne, 1965
    • Getlein, Frank and Getlein, Dorothy. The bite of the print: satire and irony in woodcuts, engravings, etchings, lithographs and seriagraphs. London: H. Jenkins, 1964
    • Arts Council of Great Britain. Cartoon and Caricature from Hogarth to Hoffnung. London, 1962
    • Klingender, F.D. (ed.,). Hogarth and English caricature. London: Transatlantic Arts Ltd, 1946
    • Low, David. British cartoonists: caricaturists and comic artists. London: William Collins, 1942.
  • Credits

    Project director

    Advisory team

    • Fay Anderson, Michael Piggott, Sue Fairbanks (University of Melbourne Archives)
    • Tony Birch, Professor Kate Darian-Smith, Associate Professor Alan Mayne
    • Jane Rhodes and the students of Resettling Australia 131-003 (2001)



    This production was made possible with a University of Melbourne Faculty of Arts IT & MM Project Grant 2000.


    Lycette Bros