History past research projects

Past Discovery projects

Slavery in British Guiana in the Age of Abolition, 1804-1834 (2015-2017)

Professor Trevor Burnard

British Guiana became the most important slave colony in the British Empire following the abolition of the slave trade. Its history and the experience of the slaves who made up the majority of its population is the focus of this project, designed so that rich archival sources will be used to enable slaves to speak directly about their experience. This project is expected to illuminate the character of slavery and slave resistance in an especially profitable but harsh slave society in a late period of slavery. It is intended to explore the alternative kinds of colonisation that were possible in the early nineteenth-century British Empire, to deepen our understanding of slave management in plantation societies and to contribute to the historical analysis of race and slavery.

ARC Australian Professorial Fellowship and Discovery grant: An international history of Australian democracy: the impact of Australian innovation overseas and of international human rights in Australia (2011-2016)

Professor Marilyn Lake

This project will chart the international career of Australian democracy and the impact of innovations such as manhood suffrage, the Australian ballot, women's rights and industrial arbitration overseas. It will also investigate the impact of new international definitions of human rights on re-shaping Australian democracy after World War Two.

Sounds of War (2013-2016)

Professor Joy Damousi

Hell Sounds will explore how the experience of war is mediated by sound. Drawing on diaries, memoirs and contemporary accounts, this project will for the first time explore how war sounds of the battlefield and the homefront during the First and Second World War have shaped the experience and memory of these events by civilians and combatants. Through a history of the technology of modern warfare during the twentieth century such as bombings, shelling, explosives and air sirens, this project will re-conceptualise the history of the two world wars through the auditory landscape created by inflicting violence on the senses.

The origins and effects of the Unified National System of higher education (2013-2015)

Professor Stuart Macintrye, Mr Gwilym Croucher, Professor Stephen Garton, Professor GlynDavies, Dr Julia Horne

The project will provide the first systematic and fully documented account of the genesis, aims, authorship, design, negotiation, carriage and implementation of the changes introduced to Australian higher education from 1987 to 1992. In addition, it will evaluate the immediate and long-term effects of these changes in reference to the purpose and rationale of the reforms as presented in the policy documents of the period. The project will undertake detailed case studies of four Australian universities, tracing how they were affected by the creation of the Unified National System of higher education. This account and analysis of the changes orchestrated by Minister John Dawkins will help inform future higher education policy debate.

Graham Berry and the making of colonial democracy (2013-2015)

Assoc. Professor Sean Scalmer

This project offers the first major biography of Graham Berry - Victoria's leading statesman of the nineteenth century. It uses Berry's life and career as a parliamentarian, newspaper proprietor, party-builder, radical orator, and federationist as a means of better understanding the development and significance of Australian colonial democracy.

Rationality and modernity: a history of fortune telling in modern America (2013-2015)

Assoc. Professor David Goodman

This project will produce the first scholarly history of commercial fortune telling in modern America, told from the point of view of customers as well as practitioners. The history of the persistence of the trade in prophecy well into the twentieth century will shed new light on the relationship of rationality and modernity in United States history.

The fate of the artisan in revolutionary China: tailors in Beijing, 1930s - 1960s (2013-2015)

Professor Antonia Finnane, Dr Peidong Sun and Professor Chien Yu

This study of tailors and garment production in mid-twentieth century Beijing explores the effects of Communism on the city's foremost handicraft industry and it practitioners, shedding light on the history of a state, society and industry which were to become surprisingly important to Australia.

Designing Australian schools: a spatial history of innovation, pedagogy and social change

Professor Julie L Willis, Professor Kate Darian‑Smith, Professor Philip J Goad, Assoc. Professor Hannah Lewi, Dr David G Nichols, Dr Elain Harwood, Professor Julie E McLeod

This project will provide understanding of the design, educational and environmental motivations underpinning modern Australian schools in the twentieth‑century, thus informing current ideas about the school as a centre of the broader social and local community fabric.

Globalising the Magic System: a history of advertising industry practices in Australia 1959-1989 (2012-2014)

Professor John Sinclair, Assoc. Professor Robert Crawford (UTS), Professor Linda Brennan (RMIT), Professor Susan Smulyan (Brown University), Dr Sean Nixon (University of Essex), Senior Research Associate Dr Jackie Dickenson

The project aims to shed light on the complex relationship between advertising and Australian society by recording, for the first time, the impact of globalisation on the work practices of this significant but under analysed industry. Most advertising studies concentrate on the analysis of the end product, the advertisements. This project is significant because it examines the processes through which these advertisements are produced, including hiring practices, agency hierarchies, client/agency relations, and technological change. Expected outcomes include a monograph, numerous scholarly articles, a website, an oral history archive at the National Library of Australia, and, eventually, Australia's first advertising archive.

Rethinking the history of Soviet Stalinism (2012-2014)

Professor Stephen Wheatcroft

This project will provide a more sophisticated understanding of the complexities of Stalin's Russia by considering critically the data now available in Soviet archives. It will explain how the system evolved in response to real social, economic and international problems, rather than exclusively in response to individual or psychological factors.

Making Torture Unthinkable: The International Campaign Against torture, 1967-1984 (2011-2014)

Dr Ara Keys, Dr Bradley R. Simpson (Princeton University, USA)

The project aims to explain why international outrage about state-sponsored torture in Greece, Latin America, and Indonesia in the 1970s coalesced into a powerful global movement to eradicate torture, and how the focus on torture shaped and spurred the popularization of human rights as a universal moral language of global activism.

Narrating Trauma and Displacement: Historical and Cultural Experiences of Iran-born Men in Australia (2011-2013)

Dr Sara J. Wills, Dr Mammad Aidani

This project aims to understand the trauma facing Iranian men who have settled in Australia in the last 30 years, and to contribute to programs for their recovery and care. It provides the first social, cultural and historical study of this phenomenon, and aims to strengthen social cohesion by promoting new knowledge about refugees and migrants.

Reading the Signs: disaster, apocalypse and demonology in European print culture, 1450-1700 (2009-2013)

Professor Charles Zika, Dr Jennifer Spinks and Professor Susan Broomhall (UWA)

Violent religious conflict, apocalyptic speculation and heightened fears of diabolical threat were critical themes in the stories and images of natural disaster that rolled off German, French, Dutch, Austrian and Swiss presses in the first two centuries of print. This project will provide the first systematic and comparative study of the representation, meaning, impact and control of such disasters in early modern European culture. Significantly, it will assess the resilience of religious frameworks in a period when views of nature were becoming more secular. The project will result in several book-length studies and a major public exhibition

LP0883232: Suburban archaeology: approaching an archaeology of the middle class in 19th century Melbourne (2010-2012)

Professor T. A. Murray, Assoc. Professor S. E. Lawrence, Assoc. Professor A. J. May, Dr S. C. Hayes, Dr L. E. Young

Greek war Stories: Trans-nationalism, war, trauma and migration (2010-2012)

Professor Joy Damousi

Australian history is dominated by stories of populations who have fled or migrated from war zones. Understanding the adjustment of such groups and the place of war memories and stories within these communities is crucial to understand their experiences and the challenges they confront in adapting to a new society. This study will assist in further enhancing our understanding of the ways in which many lives have been fragmented by this experience and by the emotional impact of migration. It will also make a contribution towards broadening our comprehension of the enduring legacies of war migration on the second generation.

Reading the Objects: Developing online personal stories from Australia's 'Museums of Madness', 1870-1980 (2009-2012)

Professor Elizabeth Malcolm

Suburban archaeology: approaching an archaeology of the middle class in 19th century Melbourne (2010-2011)

Associate Professor Andrew J. May

This multidisciplinary project engages archaeologists, historians and museologists in an investigation that places material culture at the centre of understandings of suburban middle-class life in Australian cities. The project responds to recent work on consumption, identity, and class formation about the need to investigate the material conditions of the urban middle class during the crucial period of its emergence in the nineteenth century. It will integrate analysis of excavated archaeological assemblages, museum collections, documentary sources, and spatial information, to advance understandings of the growth of modern cities and the construction of middle-class identities in the colonial world

DP0984223: Cultural Sustainability in Australian Country Towns: Amenity, Mobility, and Everyday Life (2009-2012)

Professor Kate Darian-Smith, Dr C. A. Driscoll, Dr K. Bowles; Assoc. Professor C. R. Gibson, Dr D. Nichols, Assoc. Professor G. Waitt

LP0776803: Conciliation Narratives and the Historical Imagination in British Pacific Rim Settler Societies (2007-2012)

Professor Kate Darian-Smith, Dr J. Evans, Dr P. Edmonds (APDI) and partner organisations: National Museum of Australia, Museum Victoria and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Past Linkage projects

Comedy - no laughing matter: identifying and preserving the history of comedy in Melbourne from the 1960s through the 1980s (2013-2015)

Professor Joy Damousi, Assoc. Professor Robyn J. Sloggett, Ms Judy Morton, Ms Janine Barrand, Dr Susan L. Bye.

Industry partners: Victorian Arts Centre Trust, Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Arts Victoria

The project aims to identify, rescue and restore the physical materials, and record the oral histories, that inform our knowledge of the development of comedy in Melbourne. The period to be studied saw a wave of invention and creativity that reflected Australian society and culture, yet it has been severely under researched in spite of the wealth of material still in existence. It is important that this research is carried out now, while most of those involved are still alive to contribute. The expected outcomes would involve the preservation of material culture in this area and the mending of a substantial gap in the knowledge of Australia's cultural history.

LP120200458: A History of Press Photography in Australia (2012-2015)

Professor Kate Darian-Smith, M. Gawenda, Dr F. Anderson, Dr S. Young, with National Library of Australia and Walkley Foundation
Industry partners:
National Library of Australia, Walkley Foundation

Press photography has long influenced how Australians have understood themselves and their world. In collaboration with the National Library of Australia and the Walkley Foundation, the project explores the evolving role of photographs in breaking news, and historical shifts in photographic technologies, media practices and ethics.

LP0883232: Who Am I? The archive as central to quality practice for current and past care leavers (Forgotten Australians) (2008-2011)

Professor C. F. Humphreys, Professor S. L. Swain, Mr G. J. McCarthy, Assoc. Professor A. J. May, Ms C. Clare. Mrs M. Bamblett, Ms C. Asquini

Past ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRA)

Memory and Authoritarianism: The Struggle for the Past in Putin's Russia (2015-2017)

Dr Julie Fedor

Over the past decade, the Russian state has reasserted a role in shaping how the past is narrated and represented, both within Russia and beyond. This project critically examines this phenomenon, drawing on close readings of sources including history textbooks, monuments and mass media. The project aims to enhance understanding of how narratives about the past are being mobilised in contemporary dynamics between the Russian state and Russian civil society.

Creating the Atlantic World: transnational relationships and family ties in trading networks and voyages of discovery, 1480-1580 (2014-2016)

Dr Heather Dalton

This project will investigate the part played by transnational family-based trade networks in laying the foundations of the Atlantic World. It will focus on merchants from the British Isles who cooperated with merchants from the Italian and Iberian Peninsulas in the South Atlantic from 1480 to 1580. This project will examine these merchants' trading reach and the extent to which their relationships transcended national ties and traditional boundaries relating to gender, class and religion, and it will place families and hybrid networks at the heart of this neglected area of global history. It will demonstrate their influence on locations in Europe and across the Atlantic, and on emerging ideas of trade, 'discovery', settlement, colonisation and race in Britain.

Australia-Japan relations between 1945 and 1957: the Japanese perspective (2012-2014)

Dr Ai Kobayashi

This project reassesses Australia-Japan relations by analysing the Japanese perspective during the period of normalisation of bilateral relations between 1945 and 1957. It sheds new light on the understanding of the nature and scope of Australia-Japan relations.

Past ARC Future fellowships

Dancing to Whose Tune? Indonesian Transnational Political Activism in the Shadow of the Cold War (1949-1966) (2013-2017)

Dr Kate McGregor

Since the 1990s there has been a boom in memory and in human rights activism relating to historical injustice in Indonesia. Using an innovative framework of the concept of 'regions of memory' this project examines how human rights activists located within and outside Indonesia use memory for the purposes of achieving human rights outcomes. Through national and international collaborations this project will analyse why transnational activism concerning crimes from the Japanese occupation (1942-45), the independence struggle (1945-1949) and the 1965 mass violence escalated at particular points in time and deepen our understanding of the relationship between memory and human rights.

Spare Parts: The Cultural History of Organ Transplantation (2011-15)

Dr Helen MacDonald

The remarkable ability to harvest organs from the dead and transplant them into the living is being commemorated as a miracle of twentieth-century medical science. Yet transplantation has also always been a controversial undertaking. This major study examines the complicated past of 'spare part' surgery in England, Scotland and Australasia, mapping the ripples left in the wake of transplantation's celebrated moments. It analyses the dilemmas these raised, contributing to contemporary understanding of the ethical, legal and public policy issues surrounding a biomedical endeavor that continues to be haunted by its past.

McKenzie postdoctoral fellowships

Remembering Houses of Cloth: Workers' Histories of Textile Production in Bengal, 1590-2015 (2014-2016)

Dr Samia Khatun, McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow

This project offers a timely opportunity to produce a historical resource base about textile workers in Bengal that will inform and strengthen contemporary labour rights campaigns in the garments industry, addressing some of the most pressing social equity issues in the Asian region. Presenting a history of globalisation from the perspective of the textile worker, the analytical aim is to tackle a question of central importance to the discipline of history: How are articulations of the past actively used to fashion imagined futures? The twin objectives are to firstly piece together an episodic workers' history of textile production in Bengal from the sixteenth century to the present day, and secondly to generate insights into how workers across different epochs have actively employed narratives about the past in their struggles for the future. This project will produce outcomes 'Remembering Houses of Cloth' that explore the contested politics of memory and contribute significantly to the global visibility of textile workers.

International research grants

Luxury and the Manipulation of Desire: Historical Perspectives for Contemporary Debates (2013-2015)

Network partners: Dr Catherine Kovesi with Professor Giorgio Riello - Network Co-director, University of Warwick; Dr Rosa Salzberg - Network Co-director, University of Warwick; Mr Glenn Adamson, Museum of Art & Design, New York; Dr Marta Ajmar, Victoria & Albert Museum; Professor Peter McNeil, University of Stockholm and UTS Sydney; Professor Maria Giuseppina Muzzarelli, University of Bologna.

Funded by the Leverhulme Trust

Luxury is no longer seen as the pastime of a small wealthy elite. Today's luxury industry is one of Europe's most dynamic sectors; consumers are allured by luxury brands and services; and nation states heavily tax luxuries. Yet, luxury is not just a product and outcome of the twentieth century. There is a long, complex and well documented role for luxury within history. The business, marketing and creative sectors are also keen to consider 'luxury' within its historical framing, allowing for a better understanding of the genesis, evolution and transformation of this material and psychological phenomenon.The Leverhulme International Network "Luxury & the Manipulation of Desire" aims to connect the long history of luxury with the importance that luxury has assumed in contemporary society. It does so by fostering dialogue between academics and curators based in partner institutions as well as experts, journalists and business people working in the luxury sector internationally.