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Contemporary Histories Podcast Series

Contemporary Histories Podcast Series

Contemporary Histories is a Deakin University Centre for Contemporary Histories podcast.


The Centre for Contemporary Histories (CCH) is located within the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI) hosted by Deakin University. It is a dynamic, diverse and distinctive research centre that delivers and translates high-quality research into outcomes that are relevant and meaningful to contemporary society. 

Our seminars have been recorded at Deakin University on the unceded lands of the Wadawurrung people, the Wurundjeri people and the Boonwurrung people. We pay our respect to Elders past and present.  

Planetary Boundaries and Planetary Psychology: Beyond the Limits to Growth 

In 1972 the first Club of Rome report, Limits to Growth, invoked and further popularised a certain spatial logic in environmental governance: the human species must remain within a set of external limits. This logic was again invoked in the 2009 Planetary Boundaries framework: there was a ‘safe operating space’ for the human world. But a critique of this spatial thought emerged from within the limits framework, when three of the four original authors fed new data into their computer simulations for a 20 year update. Dana Meadows, lead author, saw that the human world’s lurch into the condition of overshot – an unsafe space – required an overhaul of the basic logic. There was no safe operating space for humanity until the internal boundaries that separated humans semantically and practically from other forms of life were torn down. What was needed, then, was a new psychology.
James Dunk is a historian of science and medicine currently working on the way the physical environment has figured in mental health and psychology. His first book, Bedlam at Botany Bay (NewSouth), is a study of mental health in colonial New South Wales, and his edited collection with Barbara Brookes, Knowledge Making: Historians, Archives and Bureaucracy (Routledge) explores the intersection of archives, paperwork, and historical narratives.

Just a quick note about the audio – as this seminar was recorded on Zoom, you may hear some of the audio quirks that are unique to this platform. We thank you for your patience and hope you enjoy the episode!


The theme music is called Casual Loop #1 and it’s by ispeakwaves.


Climate-changed parenthood: reproduction, childrearing and environmental crisis

Climate change is now widely recognised as having devastating impacts in the present moment, not in some hypothetical future, particularly in terms of more frequent and more intense disasters. But our understandings of this climate crisis tend to focus on the tangible. We are learning to measure the impacts of climate-fuelled disasters on physical infrastructure such as housing, roads and community facilities; on human health in both the immediate time of crisis and in the aftermath; and on economies in terms of loss, damage and insurance.
We are less adept at comprehending the personal and cultural impacts of the climate emergency – how this age of environmental disasters is changing our human life worlds. This presentation will introduce some of my collaborative research into how climate change is shifting our experiences and understandings of parenthood and childhood. I will explore the ways in which some prospective mothers describe their reproductive decision-making in the context of climate change. I will also analyse how mothers have experienced childrearing amidst climate-fuelled disasters. Overall, my research suggests that climate change has far-reaching impacts on our human lives, including how we understand and experience family.

Carla Pascoe Leahy is a Lecturer in Family History at the University of Tasmania, Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Joint Editor of Studies in Oral History and an Honorary Associate at Museum Victoria. Her research focuses on motherhood and family; children and youth; place, environment and sustainability; and oral history and qualitative research. Her publications include Spaces Imagined, Places Remembered: Childhood in 1950s Australia (2011) and Children, Childhood and Cultural Heritage (2013), Children’s Voices from the Past: New Historical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2019) and Australian Mothering: Historical and Sociological Perspectives (2019).

Just a quick note about the audio – as this seminar was recorded on Zoom, you may hear some of the audio quirks that are unique to this platform. We thank you for your patience and hope you enjoy the episode!

The theme music is called Casual Loop #1 and it’s by ispeakwaves.


The conspiracy of silence around the ABC and its "media proprietor" - the federal government

There is an inherent, unavoidable tension built into the relationship between the ABC and the body that funds it – the federal government. The ABC is required by act of parliament to provide a comprehensive, independent news service. Any such service will need to report on the government of the day and inevitably at least some of that reporting and analysis will be critical. In a very real sense the government of the day is the ABC’s “media proprietor” but however much governments and prime ministers might like to behave like media moguls, they can’t.

So ensues a complicated, gnarled, subterranean relationship where both sides harbour resentments but nobody speaks very openly about it. An added twist is that once you examine the history of the relationship between various governments and the ABC since it became a corporation in 1983 it becomes crystal clear that one major party – the Liberal/National Party coalition – has had long periods of hostility toward the ABC while the other – Labor – has had periods of hostility but rarely as intense as the coalition and often the relationship of the ABC with Labor governments has been harmonious and productive. The problem is, no one party acknowledges this reality. Not the coalition parties who are intently plotting to weaken the ABC. Not Labor which does not want to be seen to be unduly favouring the ABC. And certainly not the ABC which needs to be seen to be apolitical, especially in election years. Nor does the media bother to point this out, partly because sections of the media are hostile to the ABC (think News Corp Australia) and partly because other sections don’t seem to want to probe these questions too deeply.

These issues arose during the researching and writing of a book published this year entitled Who Needs the ABC? Why taking it for granted is no longer an option that Matthew Ricketson co-authored with Patrick Mullins.

Professor Matthew Ricketson is Professor of Communication at Deakin University and author, with Patrick Mullins, of Who needs the ABC. Why taking it for granted is no longer an option (Scribe) and of Telling True Stories (Allen & Unwin).

Just a quick note about the audio – as this seminar was recorded on Zoom, you may hear some of the audio quirks that are unique to this platform. We thank you for your patience and hope you enjoy the episode!

The theme music is called Casual Loop #1 and it’s by ispeakwaves.


(Un)Making the Malayan Nation: Peranakan Chinese Politics at the End of Empire, 1945-1957

Over the course of British colonial rule in Malaya, the Peranakan Chinese of the Straits Settlements of Penang, Malacca, and Singapore attempted to bring to life a complex imagination of nationhood predicated on an inclusive and multi-ethnic approach to integrating Malaya’s plural society. A creolised overseas Chinese community borne of intermarriage between Chinese migrants and indigenous Malays, Peranakan ideas of nationhood and belonging were influenced by their liminality and ability to transcend the boundaries of British Malaya’s colonial society. In word and deed, Peranakan political actors campaigned for the extension of citizenship and its associated rights to all those domiciled in Malaya regardless of race, class, or religion. Yet, this political history has largely been overlooked.

The extant scholarship has focussed on the nation-state that came to pass with Malaya’s independence in 1957: an ethnocentric model that discriminated against citizens on the basis of class, religion, and race. In examining the Peranakan imaginary of the nation, this paper explores one of the many alternatives of a Malayan nation that were imagined—and were possible at one point or another—that have yet to be studied.

Dr Bernard Keo is a lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and History at La Trobe University. He is also the Designer and Developer of Virtual Angkor.He was awarded a 2021 Humanities Travelling Fellowship by the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Just a quick note about the audio – as this seminar was recorded on Zoom, you may hear some of the audio quirks that are unique to this platform. We thank you for your patience and hope you enjoy the episode!

The theme music is called Casual Loop #1 and it’s by ispeakwaves.


'An interesting and animated discussion': The Geelong Ladies Reading Circle 

The Geelong Ladies Reading Circle is one of the longest running reading circles in Australia. The group held its first meeting in February 1907 and members of the group met regularly throughout the 1900s and into the 2000s. The minutes and memorabilia of the Geelong Ladies Reading Circle are held by Kim barne thaliyu (Geelong Heritage Centre). This is an immense collection that is constantly growing—indeed, new materials were donated by current members of the group earlier this year. Despite the longevity of this group and its expansive collection, there have been few historical accounts written about this significant group. My research project aims to address this lack of historicization. This presentation will introduce some of my preliminary research findings. I will focus on the Geelong Ladies Reading Circle from 1907 to 1935 and will consider how local, national and international events effected the reading habits of the group. Ultimately, this research project will reveal how reading practices of women in Geelong changed over time.

When this paper was given, Jacqui Baker was a PhD Candidate who had recently submitted her thesis which examines the history of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Melbourne through the lens of place and space. She was on a career pathways placement as a researcher at Kim barne thaliyu/ Geelong Heritage Centre.

Just a quick note about the audio – as this seminar was recorded on Zoom, you may hear some of the audio quirks that are unique to this platform. We thank you for your patience and hope you enjoy the episode!


New Deals in the Australian Territories in the Mid-Twentieth Century 

US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, coined the term New Deal as a means to sell his economic and social reforms in the wake of the Great Depression. The New Deal was a set of principles and objectives that took material form in various policy reforms and programs. In view of the success of the Roosevelt New Deal and the association of the term with fundamental reform, the Australian Government has at times utilised the term for its own purposes.

The Australian Government utilised the term ‘Aboriginal New Deal’ to sell the reforms to ‘native policy’ in the Northern Territory stemming from the 1937 National Conference on ‘Aboriginal Welfare’. The term is used for propagandist reasons drawing on the goodwill and recognition associated with the Roosevelt New Deal, but adheres to notably different principles and objectives.

Elizabeth Borgwadt asserts the Atlantic Charter of 1941 marks the ‘globalisation’ of the Roosevelt New Deal – or at least the principles thereof – in her aptly titled book, A New Deal for the World. The Atlantic Charter became the blueprint for the United Nations and other international institutions, and contributed significantly in shaping the New Deal for Papua and New Guinea. The New Deal for Papua and New Guinea reflects the principles and objectives of a ‘globalised’ Roosevelt New Deal, by virtue of the influence of the United Nations Trusteeship.

In examining the New Deals in the Australian Territories and the circumstances that shaped them, we can learn a lot about the Australian relationship to its colonial territories in the twentieth century.

Nick Oates is a PhD candidate at Deakin.

Just a quick note about the audio – as this seminar was recorded on Zoom, you may hear some of the audio quirks that are unique to this platform. We thank you for your patience and hope you enjoy the episode!

The theme music is called Casual Loop #1 and it’s by ispeakwaves.


Bleeding Off the Page: A Cultural History of the Political Memoir in Australia

Since the 1990s, forms of political life writing have proliferated rapidly in Australia. Formerly a rarity, the politicians’ memoir or autobiography is now an instantly recognizable product in political discourse and in the local literary marketplace. Though often characterised by vanity, egotism and animosity, politicians’ memoirs and autobiographies have in fact been driven by significant transformations in Australian political culture over time. Drawing on textual and media archives as well as nearly fifty new oral history interviews, this thesis locates the modern memoir boom in its cultural, ideological, emotional and commercial contexts. Summarising the findings of my doctoral thesis, this paper will outline the ways in which the new emotional texture of modern politics, significant ideological disruptions, gendered and professional changes in the political class, and revolutions in the publishing industry have created the “memoir boom”.

Joshua Black is a PhD candidate in the School of History and National Centre of Biography, ANU. He has published and presented historical research on the history of Australia’s political culture in a number of fora and has contributed to public discussion in forums such as the Conversation, Inside Story, the Australian Book Review and ABC Radio. In 2021, he co-edited a special issue of the Australian Journal of Biography and History with Dr Stephen Wilks. He has worked in the field of Higher Education equity and support, and has been active in undergraduate teaching at the ANU and elsewhere.

Just a quick note about the audio – as this seminar was recorded on Zoom, you may hear some of the audio quirks that are unique to this platform. We thank you for your patience and hope you enjoy the episode!

The theme music is called Casual Loop #1 and it’s by ispeakwaves.


'Violent Men Among Us': Psychiatry and American Violence in the Long 1960s

From the early 1960s until the end of the Vietnam War, the problem of abstracted violence acquired new saliency in the political culture of the United States. In this paper I consider the place of psychiatry in public discussions of American violence, as well as how this mobilisation of psychiatric knowledge both reflected and impelled controversies within the discipline.

Elizabeth Roberts-Pedersen is a Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Newcastle, where she recently finished an ARC DECRA fellowship on the uses of psychiatry during the Second World War. She is completing two monographs under contract: on psychiatry and suffering during the Second World War, and on the history of the idea of mental health.

Just a quick note about the audio – as this seminar was recorded on Zoom, you may hear some of the audio quirks that are unique to this platform. We thank you for your patience and hope you enjoy the episode!

The theme music is called Casual Loop #1 and it’s by ispeakwaves.


Flying into the future: Children's imaginations, aeroplanes & utopian dreaming in interwar Australia

The dream of flight has a long history. Over centuries it has inspired legend and myth, adventure and scientific discovery, fiction and art. For many children growing up in interwar Australia the development of aviation technologies not only revolutionised their understandings of mobility but catapulted their imaginations into the future. Children recognised that this was a technology that belonged to the ‘rising generation’ and affixed their own dreams and futures to aeroplanes. Examining children’s writings and drawings from the interwar years, this paper explores the imaginative power of flight for those growing up in Australia between the wars. Children’s imaginings of aeroplanes, though influenced by international and imperial currents, were framed by local conditions. They were also shaped by the politics of age.

Young people’s responses to aviation reflected the unique investments they had in aeronautical technologies. Without dismissing the darker futures heralded by aeroplanes, a principle of hope, stretching from cautious optimism to unbounded enthusiasm, underpinned their dreams. By using the aeroplane as a vector to explore children’s imaginings of the future, this paper recognises children as utopian dreamers who often responded to technological innovation on their own terms. They embraced the promises and possibilities of modernity and brought their own imaginations to bear on the modern world.

Emily Gallagher is a PhD Student in the School of History at The Australian National University. She trained as a teacher before commencing her studies at the ANU where she is working on a history of children’s imaginations in Australia in the half century between 1890 and 1940. Emily is also currently the digital media officer for the Children’s History Society UK, co-convenor of the A&NZ Children’s History Reading Group, and a research assistant for the National Centre of Biography.

Just a quick note about the audio – as this seminar was recorded on Zoom, you may hear some of the audio quirks that are unique to this platform. We thank you for your patience and hope you enjoy the episode!

The theme music is called Casual Loop #1 and it’s by ispeakwaves.


Becoming Unhinged: Political Anxiety and Racist Fantasy 

Jean Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints (1975) [1973] is perhaps the most influential racist book in the world today. It is the book that inspired the Great Replacement conspiracy theory, the fantasy narrative guiding today’s neofascism in America and France (and beyond). Reportedly Steven Bannon’s favourite book, it impacted on Trump administration immigration policy, and it is set reading for the English-speaking Alt-Right. In this paper, I propose that the novel tells us something about rightwing authoritarian radicalization that is otherwise difficult to detect. By presenting the racist fever dream in the form of a narrative fiction, The Camp of the Saints provides crucial insight into how the fantasy scenario and political anxiety are related. I analyse the novel, concluding that the paradox according to which racist fantasy increases, not decreases, anxiety, clarifies why such representations are important recruitment tools. It also explains something about the logic of “pre-emptive retribution” involved in racist violence. 

Note: This paper includes direct citation of passages of racial vilification from this racist novel. 

Dr Geoff Boucher is an Associate Professor in Writing and Literature. He is the author of several books on literature and society, including The Charmed Circle of Ideology (2008), Understanding Marxism (2012) and Adorno Reframed (2012). He is also the author (with Matthew Sharpe) of The Times Will Suit Them (2008) and Zizek and Politics (2010). His most recent book is Habermas and Literature (Bloomsbury Academic, 2021). Geoff’s expertise is in Frankfurt School Critical Theory, Marxism and post-Marxism, and Lacanian psychoanalysis. He is working on projects on authoritarian politics, fantasy literature, Shakespeare after Zizek and retrieving Althusser. 


Return to Vietnam: veterans’ journeys, memory myths, and the Anzac legend in contemporary Việt Nam 

In this paper, I explore the links between veterans’ memories, their returns to Việt Nam, and the Anzac legend. I show how Australian veterans’ return journeys have echoed the pilgrimages to Gallipoli, unpack widespread memory myths about the Vietnam War among veterans, and reveal how veterans’ return experiences in contemporary Việt Nam are framed to continue the Anzac story.  I conclude by reflecting the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in Vung Tau, where veterans’ claims to Anzac threatened the spirit of reconciliation between Vietnamese and Australian veterans. 

Dr Mia Martin Hobbs is an oral historian of war and its legacies. Her research interests include the Vietnam War, the War on Terror, memory, trauma, place, gender, peace, and security.


Virtue Capitalists: the professional class and the rise of new class conflict c.1870-2008 

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, members of an established, English-speaking middle class built a new category of work for themselves.  This paper argues that the rise of the professions made middle class morality into economic matter. It was an investment in settler colonisation, for which they expected social and economic profit, accruing to themselves as well as society. By the mid-twentieth century, this ‘virtue capitalism’ governed the world. In the 1970s, however, it was subject to the same disruptions as the rest of the economy. This, combined with decolonisation and civil rights activism, meant the professional class experienced a moral, as well as economic, crisis, encouraging them to reject their old virtues and collaborate with a strengthening group of managers – long their allies, linking ‘knowing’ to ‘doing’ – to codify the ethics they still needed to do their job. But in the 1980s, this managerial class had interests that diverged from the professional class, bringing a new form of class conflict into 21st century capitalism. 

Associate Professor Hannah Forsyth is a historian of work, education and capitalism at ACU where she has taught global history, historiography, history of capitalism, politics and Australian Indigenous History. She was an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow 2017-2019. She is the author of A History of the Modern Australian University and is currently working towards a new book Virtue Capitalists: the rise and fall of the professional class in the Anglo world c.1870-2008 contracted to Cambridge University Press. 


‘Gentlemanly young Australians’ and ‘”Cawtholic” snobs’: the liminal nature of middle-class Catholic identity in Victoria and New South Wales prior to the Great War 

The period between the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries saw the Australian-Catholic middle classes grow in both size and confidence. Those developments were aided in part by the temporal progress of élite Jesuit schools in Sydney and Melbourne. These colleges performed the dual role of facilitating the entry of young Catholic men into the universities and professions, and further assimilating educated, respectable Catholics within cultural spaces otherwise defined by Protestant, or secular, elements. Such social and economic mobility was threatened, however, by opposing forces that sought to temper Catholics’ acceptance within normative middle-class society in Australia. This opposition came from defensive, often extreme, Protestant voices, but also from insular, Irish factions in the Australian-Catholic community. In navigating these tensions, the Jesuit colleges became symbols for the liminality of middle-class Catholicism, at once straddling a distinctly British, Protestant, public-school privilege, and an irrevocable, Irish-Catholic otherness. This paper will explore these developments, and place them within the wider context of my PhD thesis’ research into middle-class Catholic identity, and that community’s navigation of social and sectarian divisions in Australia between the 1890s and 1920s. 

Scott McCarthy is a PhD student in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University. His PhD research examines the Australian-Catholic middle class in Victoria and New South Wales through the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. 


Persistent Knowledges: fieldwork in the museum and on Menang Country 

This paper reflects on recent teamwork in both the UK and on Menang Country on the dispersed collection of animals, artefacts, and archives that Robert Neill made with the assistance of Menang Noongar people in Albany, WA in 1841. This fieldwork, which brought together Menang Elders and knowledge holders with fish scientists and curators, enabled new understandings of the collection through workshopping language words, understanding fish habitats and through touch. In the museum, our work is beginning to challenge the dominance of western science taxonomies in databases and displays, while historical research reveals that Menang taxonomies were more persistent all along than previously understood. Our workshopping of the collection occurs within larger conversations around Menang people’s symbiotic relationships with animals and the collapsing and division of “nature-culture” that were present in the museum in the 19th and 20th centuries. These new understandings and debates are changing the scope of our project as we bring these ideas back to Menang Country via a series of non-traditional research outputs. 

Associate Professor Tiffany Shellam works collaboratively with the Nyungar community of Western Australian, historians, museum curators, and archivists to unearth hidden and alternative histories of 19th century encounters. She is interested in the ways in which collaborative work can unsettle the surety of archives, and the ways in which ethnographic and biocultural collections offer different narratives of past events. Tiffany has worked at Deakin since 2009.  


Heritage diplomacy and soft power competition between Iran and Turkey: competing claims over Nowruz and Rumi 

In this paper, we examine the use of intangible cultural heritage as a vehicle for soft power in the service of geostrategic competitions between Iran and Turkey—two regional powers in West Asia. We focus on two significant trans-regional cases of intangible cultural heritage, namely, Nowruz, a celebration that has evolved through millennia to become Persian New Year but is subsequently claimed by Turkey, and the thirteenth century mystic poet Rumi who wrote in Persian and, while born in Balkh (Afghanistan), migrated to the city of Konya in southern Turkey where his present day shrine and museum are located. Drawing on theories in political science and heritage diplomacy, and a host of sources in Persian, Turkish, and Azerbaijani, we demonstrate how heritage is mobilised concurrently as a nation-building device and a tool for soft power in international relations. 

Ali Mozaffari, PhD, is Australian Research Council (DECRA) Fellow and Senior Fellow with the Alfred Deakin Institute, Deakin University, Australia. His current research interests include geopolitics of the past, culture and the built environment with a specific focus on West Asia. His publications include Heritage Movements in Asia: Cultural Heritage Activism, Politics, and Identity (edited volume with Tod Jones, Berghahn 2020), Development, architecture and the formation of heritage in late-twentieth century Iran: A vital past (Manchester University Press 2020), World Heritage in Iran; Perspectives on Pasargadae (Routledge 2016), and Forming National Identity in Iran: The Idea of Homeland Derived from Ancient Persian and Islamic Imaginations of Place (IB Tauris 2014). Mozaffari is the founding co-editor of Berghahn’s series Explorations in Heritage Studies. 

Also involved in the research but not speaking is Dr. Ali Akbar, a Research Fellow with the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University and Fellow at the University of Melbourne, where he received his PhD in Islamic Studies. He is an expert in the fields of Islamic studies and Middle Eastern politics as well as Iranian politics.  


Revisiting Experiences of War: Negotiating personal experience and public disclosure in Australia after the Great War 

Delivered by This week’s seminar will be given by Alexia Moncrieff (University of Leeds) and Bart Ziino (Deakin University) 


‘My Dear Mother – I am not Dead’: Australian Spiritualism in the Interwar Era 

Spiritualism originated as a Victorian-era craze centered around communicating with the dead, featuring parlour séances, renowned mediums performing on stage and the rapid formation of associations and societies advocating its principles. Contrary to the hopes of its numerous critics, this phenomenon did not wane over time. Instead, in the interwar period in Australia, Spiritualism experienced a remarkable flourishing. Its followers established numerous new congregations, acquired properties for their churches, lobbied for government recognition, and endeavoured to establish state and national-level organisations. 

Although a few studies have investigated the resurgence of Spiritualism in Britain after World War I, the Australian context remains largely unexplored. The loss of soldiers intensified the longing to communicate with the departed. However, its appeal extended beyond the bereaved. Spiritualism not only offered solace but also furnished its adherents with spiritual guidance, a sense of purpose and a community. Its allure extended to those who felt disillusioned with traditional churches, emerging as an important source of spiritual insight and communal support during a challenging period. 

Crucially, the movement presented women with avenues for leadership, authority and financial independence. In this presentation, I employ photographs, spirit art and maps to portray the vibrant influence of Spiritualism in interwar Australia. 

Andrew is Professor of Sociology and Social Research in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin. Andrew is also a member of the CCH Executive. His research interests include spirituality, young people, new religious movements (including Spiritualism), global Christianity, secularisation, non-religion, religious change, and contemporary survey methods.  


Sounding out the archives 

In this seminar Dr Alice Garner will discuss her research into the life and times of Mavis Robertson AM (1930-2015), a political and social activist who became a pioneer figure in Australian industry superannuation. Mavis Robertson recorded a whole-of-life interview for the National Library of Australia in 2003, an interview that will form the backbone of an audio documentary Dr Garner intends to produce about Robertson’s activism across different life stages. Dr Garner will discuss how her approach to the papers of Mavis Robertson has been shaped by an attention to sound and music. 

Dr Alice Garner is a historian, writer, performer, and a former French and humanities teacher in the Victorian secondary school system. She has published in social, environmental and educational history and is currently based in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, working on an interdisciplinary project on trade union education in Australia with colleagues in history, adult education and labour law.


Archive of the Archivist: Phyllis Mander-Jones and Australian Pacific History, 1901-1957. 

Phyllis Mander-Jones, undated (State Library of NSW) 

Much historiographical analysis is concerned with how historians approach ‘the archives’, especially how documents are curated, maintained and accessed through the policies and procedures of a particular institution. Less has been written of the people functioning at an individual level, employees like Phyllis Mander-Jones, who developed the foundations of Australia’s archival profession.  In this seminar, Dr Deborah Lee-Talbot discusses some highlights from her research project, Archive of the Archivist: Phyllis Mander-Jones and Australian Pacific History, 1901-1957. Doing so, she considers how women like Mander-Jones were crucial contributors to the policies and procedures of archives and record-keeping in modern Australian libraries. 

Deborah is a professional and academic historian fascinated by religion, gender, archives, libraries and community engagement. With financial support from a scholarship at Deakin University, these interests were expressed in her PhD thesis ‘Kaleidoscopic Archives: finding hidden histories in the Pacific Records of the Australian Joint Copying Project’. This year she is conducting research at the State Library of New South Wales as CH Currey Fellow with the project the ‘Archives of the Archivist: Phyllis Mander-Jones and the Keeping of Australian-Pacific records, 1896-1957. She received a National Library of Australia Summer Scholarship in 2022 to analyse records concerning the Australian Joint Copying Project. Her research paper regarding women’s leadership in Pacific missions was highly commended at the Pacific Historians Association conference in 2021.  


Number One Realist 

This seminar will be based on Nate’s recent book, Number One Realist. 

In a 1965 letter to Newsweek, French writer and academic Bernard Fall (1926-67) staked a claim as the ‘Number One Realist’ on the Vietnam War. This is the first book to study the thought of this overlooked figure, one of the most important experts on counterinsurgency warfare in Indochina. Nathaniel L. Moir’s intellectual history analyses Fall’s formative experiences: his service in the French underground and army during the Second World War; his father’s execution by the Germans and his mother’s murder in Auschwitz; and his work as a research analyst at the Nuremberg Trials. 

Moir demonstrates how these critical events shaped Fall’s trenchant analysis of Viet Minh-led revolutionary warfare during the French-Indochina War and the early Vietnam War. In the years before conventional American intervention in 1965, Fall argued that–far more than anything in the United States’ military arsenal–resolving conflict in Vietnam would require political strength, willpower, integrity and skill. 

Number One Realist illuminates Fall’s study of political reconciliation in Indochina, while showing how his profound, humanitarian critique of war continues to echo in the endless conflicts of the present. It will challenge and change the way we think about the Vietnam War. 

Nathaniel L. Moir is a research associate in the Applied History Project at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, a former senior research fellow at the Naval Postgraduate School, and a former Ernest May Postdoctoral Fellow in History and Policy at the Kennedy School. 

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