Australian & NZ Publishers Release New Histories During Covid-19

Australian governments don’t want people to wear masks outside for numerous reasons. However, if you are even slightly unwell and travelling to a testing centre to be tested for the virus you must wear a mask. This is a photo of us on the way to get tested for Covid-19. We live within walking distance from a testing centre but were told to drive there and wear masks. Our test results were negative.

In the upside-down world of the Covid-19 pandemic business have closed or are running with skeleton staff, queues of newly unemployed people have stretched around the block from Centrelink offices and people have stopped spending money. Well-functioning economies require a healthy population. The economy declines if a rampant disease is affecting society.

In times like these many bookshops are struggling and have had to close their physical shops due to the stringent social-distancing regulations introduced. We may be reading more now that we are confined at home, but buying books is the kind of discretionary spending that you would think that people who are worried about their jobs would be cutting out.

Running a business is very difficult under the new regulations and in the current economic climate. I would understand if publishers were pausing the publication of new books so I was delighted when I saw news this morning that Australian publishers are continuing to publish new Australian history books and even sign up new authors!

Now more than ever, authors, bookshops and publishers need to be supported. In this post I highlight some new histories which have been published by Australasian publishers this year that you may want to consider buying. I include New Zealand publishers because I think Australians should support New Zealand as they support us. New Zealanders have made a wonderful contribution to Australian arts and our society generally. Continue reading

Birthday of Literary Luminaries – Miles Franklin, Katherine Mansfield, Hannah Arendt,

Drawing of a woman in early 19thC dress carrying a suitcase approaching a home with extensive verandahs.

Google Doodle in honour of Miles Franklin, 14/10/2014.

Today, 14th October, marks the birth dates of three literary luminaries of the twentieth century – Miles Franklin, Katherine Mansfield and Hannah Arendt. These three women have made a big impact on western cultural life and thought and continue to do so.

Miles Franklin’s, novel, My Brilliant Career, has a secure place in Australia’s literary canon. This is extraordinary for a book written by a woman, first published in 1901 and coming from the pen of a twenty-one year old. Miles Franklin threw herself into life and writing, taking herself off to live in the United States before World War I, moving to England, nursing soldiers in dangerous circumstances in Macedonia before moving back to Australia. In the words of her biographer, “Miles was no wimp”. She did not make her fortune but through frugal living she conceived and endowed Australia’s premier literary award through her will. Continue reading

Violence and the Intimate Frontier

In my continuing series of posts about the Australian Historical Association today I write up some notes I made at two plenary panels. These notes are not a comprehensive overview of the panels; rather they are a handful of the thoughts presented which particularly resonated with me. 

Conflict in history is the theme of the Australian Historical Association conference which was held in Brisbane last week. Held just weeks away from the centenary of World War I, the immediate assumption is that this conference would be about the history of wars in other places such as the world wars. However, a plenary panel and other papers presented throughout the conference demonstrate that historians are continuing to research conflicts on Australian soil.

Book cover, Out of the Silence

Out of the Silence: The history and memory of South Australia’s frontier wars, by Robert Foster and Amanda Nettelbeck (Wakefield Press, 2012)

Australia has a history of conflict on this continent which goes well beyond the bombing of Darwin during World War II. As Australian historians over the last twenty to thirty years have found, the settlement of Australia by Europeans was not peaceful. Violence and conflict can also be expressed in many forms.

Military aspects of frontier violence have taken away from inter-cultural violence on the Australian frontiers observed Professor Amanda Nettelbeck of the University of Adelaide. When we think of conflict between two peoples we think of armed conflict between two groups of strangers who do not know each other. Yet conflict between two peoples can be waged between people who know each other, who perhaps grow up with each other and even live under the same roof. Nettelbeck reminded us that when thinking of conflict between Aborigines and settlers we should also consider the intimate and everyday aspects of the violence. Continue reading

Te Papa: the national museum of New Zealand

New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa.

The Museum of New Zealand/Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.

‘Overwhelming’, is the word that sums up my experience of New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa.  It is all that it promises to be but I could not possibly comprehend everything that was exhibited in one visit.  This museum reminded me that New Zealand is quite a different country to Australia both culturally and physically.

The indigenous people make a significant contribution to the unique persona of any nation. The exhibitions about the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori, opened a new vista to me. I became absorbed, slowly moving through each exhibit learning new words, different ways of living, histories unfamiliar to me. Continue reading

Public Education: It’s Not Just About Schools

Mildura Carnegie Lirary

Mildura’s Carnegie Library with WWI memorial tower.
Photo by Mattinbgn (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

When we talk about public education we immediately think of schools. Increasingly we are recognising that education is a life-long endeavour and with the explosion of the internet learning outside of the classroom and formal education systems is gaining increasing prominence.  Last week at the Buildings, Books and Blackboards conference in Melbourne we were encouraged to recognise that ‘public education’ throughout the last two hundred years has always encompassed more than the activities conducted in a school classroom.

This conference was about public education in the true sense of the word ‘public’.  Schools and libraries were considered important sites of learning. The libraries of the mechanics institutes played an important part in the education of many people.  This conference covered it all; the history of schools, libraries and mechanics institutes.

A highlight of the conference was the session about the Carnegie Corporation in the Antipodes.  Andrew Carnegie founded the corporation in order to “promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.”  Rockhampton’s Morning Bulletin observed, “[t]he corporation will take from the shoulders of its founder the task of personally attending to his pet hobby of founding libraries here, there, and everywhere.”  The Morning Bulletin went on to note that the Corporation would also fund “technical schools, institutions of higher learning” etc. (Morning Bulletin, 23/12/1911, p. 6). Continue reading