Graduate Masterclass: 'Material worlds: A deep history approach to your research'

Seminar Room C
Coombs Building ANU

Graduate Masterclass

with Associate Professor Grace Karskens


Ever thought about the material context of your research? The places where events happened, the things people used?   Every historical event, every economic, social and cultural development, every phase of individual and community life, had its material and geographic context. We move from real cradles to real graves, in real places. 

But how do you analyse the nature and significance of the physical contexts, the objects and places in your research?

What can such an approach add to your understanding of the past?  And how can you reconstruct these ‘deep histories’?

This master class will explore the potential of material history research for analysis, interpretation and narrative. Participants will read a sample of Grace Karskens’ award-winning work to familarise themselves with the conceptual and theoretical issues involved in this type of research, and to learn how a range of methodological approaches might be applied in their own research.

Masterclass participants must read Chapter 12 ‘Taking Possession’ from Grace Karskens’ The Colony: A History of Early Sydney, Sydney, Allen & Unwin, 2009.

Participants without access to the book will be sent a pdf or photocopy, or may be viewed here [PDF 2.3 MB].

Please also read the Masterclass endnotes, available here [PDF 1.2 MB].

Participants must also submit a 200-word abstract in advance in order to participate. The abstract should explain how you envisage using material history research analysis in your thesis.


Grace Karskens teaches history in the School of Humanities at the University of New South Wales. Her research areas include Australian colonial history, urban history, cross-cultural history and urban environmental history. Grace is interested in promoting historical understandings and awareness to wide audiences and is currently a Trustee of the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales and the Dictionary of Sydney. Her books include Inside the Rocks: The Archaeology of a Neighbourhood and the multi-award winning The Rocks: life in early Sydney. Her latest book, The Colony: A History of Early Sydney won the 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for non-fiction. Grace was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 2010.

Associate Professor Karskens is the 2012 Allan Martin Lecturer in the School of History, ANU.

Date & time

Thu 17 May 2012, 1–4pm


School of History


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