Pathways to the Past

A range of primary historical resources for undergraduate research in Australian History. Modules investigate concepts and methods of historical research using images, objects, maps, places, and manuscripts. It is designed to introduce a range of primary historical resources to undergraduates studying Australian History.

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.


  1. Optional recommend: Download a print version of the narration (30kb pdf)
  2. Begin the module.
  3. Open the module at Image 1
  4. Open the module at Image 2
  5. Open the module at Image 3
  • 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