Skip navigation
The Australian National University

School of History, RSSS, Annual Thesis Proposal Review Day

Date and time

Wednesday, November 23, 2016 - 09:30 - 13:30

Venue

Hedley Bull Building (3)

 

Schedule

Session 1: 9:30 to 11:00

Scott W. Dempsey
Rory McLeod
Lindy Orthia

Refreshment Break: 11:00 to 11:15

Session 2: 11:15 to 12:45

Wilbert Wong Wei Wen
David Roth
Deborah Nance

Lunch: 12:45 to 1:30
 

Abstracts

Dreams of Empire: An Account of British Thought on Empire in the Jacobean Age, 1603-1625
Scott W. Dempsey

Though much has been written on the intellectual origins of the British Empire, little scholarly attention has been devoted to the role that the Jacobean Age (a period replete with imperialist language and imagery) played in shaping these origins. This thesis seeks to rectify this shortcoming by examining British thought on empire during the Jacobean Age, or, more specifically, the period during which James VI of Scotland also occupied the throne of England as James I (1603-1625). In doing so it will explore three key questions: (1) How and why did Jacobean unionist pamphleteers employ concepts of empire in their writings? (2) How and why did Jacobean conceptions of empire differ from Henrician conceptions of empire? (3) How did the Jacobean campaign for union, despite its ultimate failure, influence subsequent British thought on empire? In attempting to answer these questions, this thesis will employ a method that, while indebted to the Cambridge School approach to the history of political thought, will take a more expansive conception of context. This method will be used to examine the published writings of several Jacobean unionist pamphleteers, the most prominent among whom is Francis Bacon. These various unionist tracts will be examined first via online databases such as Early English Books Online, and later in their original form via numerous archives in Britain and the United States. This thesis will test the hypothesis that during the Jacobean Age the term empire underwent a significant shift from its Henrician meaning – as something the relates to supreme monarchical authority – to something that relates to political rule over a large geographical space, and that within the writings of the various Jacobean unionist pamphleteers, one witnesses, for the first time in British political thought, the emergence of empire as a geopolitical concept.

 

The historical imagination, and its effect on imperial practice in eighteenth-century-India
Rory McLeod

Much has been written about the East India Company (EIC) as a defining British imperial institution. My work will examine the ‘historical imagination’ of the late-eighteenth-century EIC, and how it can be used as a tool for understanding imperial practice during what was a pivotal moment in British imperial history, when EIC holdings in Bengal were being transformed into an Indian land empire, from the 1770s to the 1790s. I will examine this from two perspectives: the historical self-imagining of the British in India, its development and its communication; and British conceptions of Imperium as they related to India. So far these have been covered, but insufficiently, by existing scholarship on the late-eighteenth-century EIC. The use of history as a way of deciding, in particular, land rights in India, has been examined by writers like Ranjit Guha, and Robert Travers. I will be focusing on the ways in which historical self-reflection developed, not just as a pragmatic way of deciding on laws, but as a way of changing historical language and imagination. This study examines the ways particular historical notions were thought of, discussed and transmitted within the culture of the EIC. By examining writings and relationships, such as existed between contemporary historians of empire (for example, Alexander Dow, John Bruce, William Jones and the Asiatick Society of Bengal), as well as their interactions with EIC servants and administrators, I will seek to understand the historical imagination’s effect on the rapidly emerging imperial state in India, and therefore changing imperial practice. This work broadly seeks to contribute to a growing understanding of a specific ‘imperialism’ that makes sense within an eighteenth century British-Indian context, by reflecting its own constituent ‘imagination’.

 

Public science culture in the early colonial period: A history of Australian science from below, 1788-1830

Lindy Orthia

What role did science play in New South Wales colonial culture prior to 1830? Most histories describe a penal settlement too concerned with survival to support scientific research. We therefore usually think of science as embodied by a few lonely collectors and explorers, labouring in isolation for elite philosophical societies half a world away, or making short-lived attempts to start a scientific tradition here. In this project I will examine science in the colony from a different perspective: as public culture instead of primary research. I will examine science ‘from below’, by which I mean from the perspective of people not formally recognised as contributors to research, including convicts, soldiers and others. I seek to understand how such people thought, felt and talked about science, both in the narrow sense of an emerging, institutionalised movement, and in the broad sense of knowledge about nature and its manipulation via technology. Previous research has explored how ‘non-scientists’ participated in natural history drawing, painting and collecting for pleasure or profit. I will expand on that by examining less studied sources, including colonial periodicals and private correspondence, which reveal rich evidence of colonists’ interest in all kinds of science. As was the case in parts of Europe at the time, public communication about science was a lively part of community life, even with little infrastructural support for formal research. I will approach the project from a cultural and social history perspective, and will attempt the first comprehensive survey of public engagement with science in the early colonial period. The project will contribute to colonial Australian history and to the history of science field, within which public science has become an important focus in recent years.

 

British Colonial Knowledge of the Malay Peninsula from the Beginning of British Rule to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century
Wilbert Wong Wei Wen

My study analyses British writings about the Malay inhabitants of the Malay Peninsula during the colonial period by examining their developments and patterns, from the beginning of British rule in 1786 to 1907. I seek to understand the general characteristics of British discourse about the Malays during the period, by asking how British ideas about them were developed; in what ways global intellectual currents and events influenced the manner in which British writers understood the Malays; and how British understanding of the Malays and Malayness changed over time. Scholars have argued that the concept of “Malay” as an ethnicity was a construction. By examining Malay writings, I will also highlight the ways in which the Malays engaged with and responded to British imperial discourse. Scholars have yet to explore British imperial writings about the Malays of the Malay Peninsula at the level and scale that I am engaging in. Sandra Khor Manickam’s thesis, “Ideas of Nation and Malayness in Malaya 1809-1942”, has only engaged with the role of British discourse in promoting the idea of a “Malay” nation. I will not only examine British perspectives of the inhabitants of the region, but how they formed their ideas as well. This will be accomplished with my analysis of British publications on the region in parallel with the personal correspondence and intellectual exchanges of the authors with other individuals, where possible. Using a world history approach will further help me achieve this goal by enabling me to observe how knowledge produced across the empire influenced the way British ideas about the Malay Peninsula’s populace were formed. My research method, within the broader context of imperial and global history, will connect the region’s inhabitants to the intellectual networks of the British Empire, underscoring the region as one of the hubs of imperial knowledge.
 

Life, Death and Release at Callan Park Hospital for the Insane, 1877 to 1920
David Roth

This will be the first historical study which examines in detail the most important factors contributing to patient mortality and discharges in a large Australian mental institution, Callan Park. My hypothesis is that such institutions had multiple roles in public welfare provision, which were perceived differently by staff, patients, their relatives and the general public. Mental health historian Stephen Garton claims that asylums in this era had ‘an excellent record of success.’ To test this claim, I will examine the most significant factors affecting life expectancy and discharge outcomes around this period. Therefore my study will be a work of both social and medical history. In order to understand these factors, I need to analyse treatment outcomes and make comparisons with other contemporary institutions in Australia and abroad. To this end, I have set up two parallel case studies drawn from the patient records held at the NSW State Archives Collection. The first is based on a one in twenty sample of deceased patients and the second on discharged patients. Previous relevant Australian studies, including Garton’s, have been predominantly qualitative and not focussed on mortality and discharges, leaving the various claims of success and failure contestable. This obscures historical understanding of the functions and effectiveness of a mental institution of this kind. I need to look to the international literature for detailed analyses of mortality and discharges in comparable periods. Such comparisons are difficult because of differing diagnostic procedures and cultural practices, but the methodologies used in the overseas studies will inform my analyses. I will reinforce my arguments by examining the influence of financial management, nutrition and medical treatments on patient health, aspects which are little discussed in the historiography of institutional mortality. This thesis will substantially broaden and deepen our historical understanding of mental health care in Australia.

 

Creative Partnership: the slow transition to national marriage law in Australia
Deborah Nance

This project is about getting married in Australia and the regulations that govern it.  Its focal point is the enactment of the Marriage Act in 1961, which marked the culmination of a slow and hesitant transition by Australia’s federal government to assuming control over marriage law.  Why did the federal government take over marriage law in 1961, rather than earlier, and what were the forces that drove this change?  What was the nature of the regulation that was enacted?  I address these questions through an approach encompassing political, social and legal history, using a wide variety of primary source material from government archival records and personal papers to legal cases and newspapers.  I seek answers to the questions I have posed by studying the interaction between the political and social forces at work in the history of the 1940s-1950s and deeper structural factors, such as the effect on domestic politics and policy development of Australia’s increasing international engagement and the long-term relationship between religious bodies and the state.  I hypothesise that the nature of the regulation that was enacted may best be analysed through the examination of at least two forms of ‘partnership’: the nature and parameters of marriage itself as revealed in its regulation, and the implementation of that regulation through a partnership between religious bodies and the government.  I anticipate that the exploration of this little known area of Australian history will aid in explaining the creation of a system of regulation that remains largely unchanged since 1961.  By examining the way the regulation of marriage operated in practice, I aim to also provide a fresh perspective on a key Australian historical debate concerning the relationship between religious bodies and the state.

 

Updated: 20 July 2017/ Responsible Officer:  Head of School / Page Contact:  Web Publisher