Behind the Scenes at #OzHA2018

Samuel Furphy at the lecturn on the left with 7 people lined up on the right

Conference convenor, Samuel Furphy thanking those who worked behind the scenes to make this such a good conference. Event manager and historian, Dr Karen Downing is third from the right.

This week I have given you some snippets from the fabulous program at this year’s Australian Historical Association conference, known on Twitter as #OzHA2018. But while it is important, it is not just the program that makes a conference enjoyable. There are two other factors in a successful conference – the manner in which it is organised and administered, and the attitude and behaviour of the participants. We had a fabulous conference not only because of the thought-provoking papers, but also because of the attitude and work of the organisers behind the scenes and the particpants.

How Thoughtful! – the organisation of the conference

Everyone that I spoke to at the conference was incredibly impressed with the way that it was organised. I was really impressed that the organisers were using the conference hashtag to promote it on Twitter months before the start of the conference. This ensures that historians on Twitter (#twitterstorians), knew about the conference and what the conference hashtag was. The conference program had a good section on Twitter etiquette, details about the university wifi for us to log into, and the wifi access worked right from the start.

But for many people the first indication they had that this conference took organisation and thoughtfulness to a new level was when they pulled out their name tags. The lanyards were made by women at the ‘Welcome House’ in the Philippines which helps young women who have been caught up in people trafficking for the sex industry. These are sold in Australia by a not-for-profit organistion called The Trading Circle. I have never seen so many photos of conference name tags on Twitter. Conference participants were delighted to be supporting such a worthy cause. How thoughtful. Continue reading

War, Masculinity and Belief – day 2, Australian Historical Association Conference

Banner of Australian Historical Association

2018 Australian Historical Association conference, 2nd to 6th July.

At the end of the day I sat down to write up a post about the sessions I had listened to at the Australian Historical Association conference but I struggled to find a common theme in all of them on which I could develop a coherent post. But of course, I chose these sessions because they all said something about my current interests in war, masculinity and belief.

I heard some great papers yesterday. Both Rosalie Triolo’s paper on ‘Statehood, Strength and sorrow in Australian and German school Songs, 1870-1918’ and Michael Gladwin’s, ‘Preaching Australia: Sermons, emotions and religious sensory practice in Australian history’ examined different historical aural experiences – one secular and the other religious. Triolo drew on the fact that singing was compulsory in early 20th century Victorian school classrooms. “Rote learning through rhythm”, was the advice of educational experts. Through careful examination of the Department of Education’s regular publication for schools, The School Paper, Triolo analysed the songs that were published for use in schools. She noted that before the Great War, the songs were British in origin, but with the onset of war, songs were also drawn from outside the Empire. La Marseillaise, the Belgian and Russsian national anthems were published as sentiment towards the suffering of those countries developed during the War. Triolo noted that no songs were published in 1917, but publication of songs resumed in 1918. She did not speculate on the reason for this. I wonder if this was reflective of the depressed state of Australia as the casualties mounted and no end was in sight? It was also the year of horrendous strikes and the divisive referendum on conscription.

Pianos were an important technology in the early 20th century classroom.

Continue reading

War, Business and Orchids – the Smith Story

 

We did it! I was part of an international research project that has led to the publication of this book. No Substitute for Kindness: The Story of May and Stanley Smith (May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust, 2017).

Stanley Smith was an Australian businessman, WWII operative in China and expert horticulturalist. His life took him from a comfortable Brisbane upbringing to the danger of war and finally to a life half-way across the world. His Chinese-born wife, May Wong, grew up during the civil war in China and the fighting against Japanese occupation. May and Stanley met through their work for British propaganda and intelligence in the Chinese wartime capital of the city then known as Chungking (Chongqing).

Together the lives of Stanley and May Smith make a gripping read in the newly published book, No Substitute for Kindness. Commissioned by one of the philanthropic funds established by the couple, a team of researchers and writers from the United States, England and Australia have pieced together a fascinating biography.

I was one of the historians who worked on the book. My principal task was to research the early years of Stanley Smith’s life. He was born in Brisbane in 1907 and was a student at Eagle Junction State School. Stanley then won a state scholarship to the Church of England Grammar School or ‘Churchie’ as it is commonly known. Continue reading

Topics that Interest Historians in Australia

Coloured words of varying sizes

This word cloud shows frequency of words used in the abstracts of papers delivered at concurrent sessions at the 2017 Australian Historical Association conference. Generated using Voyant.

The annual gathering of historians in Australia is big. This year there were nearly 300 papers delivered in concurrent sessions. Yesterday I blogged about the keynotes and plenary panels. Today I will have a look at the masses of papers delivered by over three hundred historians. Before you recoil in horror at the prospect of a very lengthy post, I assure you that I will be giving a very broad overview with a closer look at a few topics. Continue reading

The Big Sessions at the 2017 Australian Historical Association Conference

Stage taken from the back of the hall

The main venue of the 2017 Australian Historical Association conference was at the Newcastle City Hall Concert Hall. I liked this evocative tweet by Mike Jones.

If you want to know what history excites historians living in Australia and the latest historical research, you should follow the annual Australian Historical Association conference held each July. This year’s record conference Twitter stream together with the conference program and abstracts gives us a peek into the vibrant conference held recently at the University of Newcastle.

Today I will just focus on the keynotes and the plenary sessions at the conference. Continue reading

Debut Author Chat: Jayne Persian and the Beautiful Balts

Today I am delighted to publish a post written by Jayne Persian, lecturer in history at the University of Southern Queensland, and author of Beautiful Balts: From displaced persons to new Australians. Her book was published this month by Small Publisher of the Year, NewSouth Books. This post is part of my ‘Debut Author Chat‘ series where authors who have recently published their first history discuss their book. 

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Head and shoulders of Jayne Persian

Jayne Persian, author of Beautiful Balts and lecturer in history at the University of Southern Queensland.

Beautiful Balts: From displaced persons to new Australians tells the story of the first mass intake of refugees accepted into Australia: the 170,000 Central and Eastern Europeans who arrived in Australia between 1947 and 1952. Characterised as ‘Beautiful Balts’, they were recruited in Europe by the Australian government, under the slogan of ‘populate or perish’: migrants were needed to bulk up the Australian population, and to solve a post-war labour shortage.

I open the book in Austria’s Drau Valley in May 1945. A 70,000-strong Russian Cossack force was waiting to discover its fate. They had fought with the Germans against the Soviet Union, had surrendered to the British and were hoping to remain in Austria as anti-Soviet refugees. What happened next is now infamous. Many of these men, women and children were forcefully handed over to the Soviets: there are allegations of brutality, automatic fire, suicides. Some people were trampled to death.

Small groups of Cossacks, including Ivan and Nastasia, managed to escape the round-up. Ivan, a Don Cossack, met Nastasia in 1943, when she was working as a forced labourer in eastern Ukraine under the Nazis. Ivan was much older, around 53 years old to her 17, but had offered her an escape from forced labour if she would marry and join him in his journey across Europe. They left Ukraine on 31 December 1943, travelling with the Cossack Army to Italy via Romania, Poland and Hungary. In Italy, in a shed during a bomb attack, her first son was born. Little Maxim died at 14 weeks of age, of malnutrition. From Italy, Nastasia and Ivan journeyed over mountain ranges, evading Italian partisans, to apparent safety with the Cossack camp outside Lienz.  After witnessing the merciless repatriation of their camp, the small groups fled up the snow-covered mountains and hid in ravines, surviving by killing sheep at night, while evading British patrols. After three months of this, Ivan and Nastasia were caught by Austrian police and sent to Kapfenberg displaced persons’ camp. Continue reading

‘Thank you to my wife’ – unpaid work by women

1 man standing holding paper next to a woman typing

This photo from 1950 says it all. For much of the twentieth-century men wrote and dictated while women typed. Photo courtesy of the Museums Victoria. (Museums Victoria has an excellent open access policy and a large collection online – check it out)

Research and writing involves a lot of repetitive time-consuming tasks such as typing, editing, transcribing and formatting data. All the public hears about is the amazing discovery. The bulk of the work is essential but it can be rather monotonous and certainly not news-worthy.

Over the last few of days #ThanksForTyping has emerged on Twitter to recognise the wives of academics who did a huge amount of this unglamorous and unpaid but essential work for their husbands in the past.  Often the only public acknowledgement they received for this was a sentence noting the debt owed to ‘my wife’ in the acknowledgements of the book or thesis.

Bruce Holsinger from the University of Virginia started the hashtag and found some extraordinary examples:

That woman must have been a world champion in multi-tasking and juggling, but how much sleep did she get? She was a part-time lecturer in chemistry. Has she been properly recognised for her expertise in this field? Continue reading