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.
A History of Australian Schooling by Craig Campbell and Helen Proctor (Crows Nest, NSW:Allen & Unwin, 2014).
For over a century Australian schools have acted as future-shapers. Since the era of compulsory schooling emerged in the Australian colonies during the late nineteenth-century, every Australian child has spent a number of years in school. Children take at least some of the ideas and behaviours that are developed in the classroom and in the playground with them for the rest of their lives. As such it surprises me that education history is seen as a ‘special interest’ and not a field that is part of the core of Australian history.
A History of Australian Schooling by Craig Campbell and Helen Proctor is a chance for people to catch up on the latest research in Australia’s schooling history in one readable volume. It is long overdue. When I started exploring the history of education in Australia seven years ago I had to turn to books published in the 1970s for the overview I needed to become grounded in this history. Those books were good but forty years later our society has changed and a substantial amount of historical research into many different themes has been conducted. A History of Australian Schooling encompasses a broad range of themes in Australian education history including those that have not been previously collected in one volume. Continue reading →
The executive committee of the Bible in State Schools League. They were all men but this photo fails to convey the importance of the work of women in the campaign. Source: John Oxley Library
My honours thesis, Queensland’s Bible in State Schools Referendum 1910: A Case Study of Democracy, is now available to download from the University of Sydney eScholarship Repository. In it I explore a fascinating era of Queensland’s history where women, Labour politicians and the Protestant clergymen of the Bible in State Schools League were key participants in a public debate about whether Bible lessons should be reintroduced in Queensland’s state schools. These lessons had not been held in public schools since the introduction of Queensland’s free, compulsory and secular education legislation in 1875.
I loved doing the research. At times I was sitting in the Fisher Library at University of Sydney silently remonstrating with the politicians as they were debating the issue in parliament. At other times I was incredulous. The Legislative Council spent twenty-one hours debating the issue and this was after the referendum had been passed by Queensland voters! I was a bit suspicious of the Hansard recorder. The debate was rather sparse at around two o’clock in the morning. Was he taking a cat nap?
Women were instrumental in the campaign for the passing of the referendum. The Bible in State Schools League was in financial trouble and turned to women to help them out. Not only did women rescue the organisation financially through their fundraising, they wrote letters to newspapers, were part of delegations who visited parliamentarians about the issue and were conspicuous as they manned the polling booths on the day of the referendum. However, while researching this referendum I was mindful of the fact that women do not all think the same way. Sure enough newspapers such as The Worker had letters from women who opposed the introduction of Bible lessons and expressed their opposition to the referendum to the Bible in State Schools women at the polling booths. Continue reading →
Records of women's history are often missing or obscured in archives such as these, but with creativity and persistence historians can do a lot to recognise the enormous contribution of women to our society in the past.
Archives are not neutral. We can’t keep everything so choices have to be made and those choices reflect the values of the people making the decisions about what to keep and what to discard. In the past people such as women, non-Europeans, Aborigines, the poor etc were not considered important contributors to our history so their stories are often not portrayed in archival records, or they were obscured in the archives by the social conventions of the time. If the archival records were taken at face value they would reveal a distorted view of the past. It is the job of historians to be alert to this distortion, to question the records and to look for the fleeting clues that indicate that there is something missing.
Women are often the subject of archival silences and diminution. I confronted this when researching for my honours thesis about the Queensland ‘Bible in State Schools’ referendum of 1910. In this article one of Brisbane’s major newspapers attributed the passing of the referendum to the role of women. Just five years previously most women in Queensland had been granted the right to vote at state polls. A statement in the Anglican Church’s newsletter, The Church Chronicle, indicated that women didn’t just vote, they immersed themselves in the campaigning work. This was an era when women were not considered important contributors to politics, yet they were being publicly acknowledged for their significant contribution by major media outlets. I wanted to know more. Continue reading →
We have had lots of fun playing family cricket on the nearby oval these holidays. Here I am wicket keeping while my sister-in-law is batting. Photo by Ian Woolward
Blogs and cricket have something important in common – statistics! This week I’ve enjoyed spending lots of time with my family visiting from interstate and watching the exciting Boxing Day test match between India and Australia. It was a great example of test cricket – four days of see-sawing between the teams until Australia finally won. I tried to write a blog post while watching the cricket but the cricket was way too interesting for me to write anything worth posting. Instead, I thought I would join the other bloggers out there and create a list of the posts on this blog that generated the most hits in 2011. Continue reading →