Skip navigation
The Australian National University

Research

The School of History's members conduct and supervise research that focuses on a range of historical periods and geographical areas, including: pre- and post-contact Australian and New Zealand history; British and European early-modern and modern history; and nineteenth and twentieth-century North American History. In addition the School has research strengths in the following fields:

Biography: The School is the outstanding national centre for biographical studies, especially of Australia, but also including the analysis of transnational lives. We work closely with historians across the College in developing this research strength of the ANU. The launching of the ADB Online in 2006 introduced a sophisticated electronic research database that will be a tool of unprecedented value for prosopography, thus expanding the practice of biography and bringing that practice closer to other social science disciplines that combine case studies in systematic data sets. Networked data sets are the way of the future and the ADB Online is pioneering this innovation in Australia.

Indigenous History: The School hosts Australia's only Centre for Indigenous History, as well as the premier journal in the field, Aboriginal History. The Centre's focus is on Indigenous modes of historical practice in an international comparative context. Projects in this area include the investigation of history-making in museums, visual and performative arts, tourism, the courts, film, television and multi-media. Scholars affiliated with this Centre also provide critical insight into the historical and contemporary dimensions of Aboriginal policy, both within Australia and beyond. Australian Centre for Indigenous History website

Australian public policy history: Expertise in Australian public policy history is a significant component of the School's research strengths. A recent ARC-funded research project launched in this field concerns the comparative history of Indigenous statistics in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, a joint initiative with scholars in History and Demography, RSSS. Another project, on old age, ill-health and death is a further example of the relationship we are building between fine-grained historical scholarship and contemporary social and economic policy. This work is demographic, attitudinal, cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary, and draws on medicine, psychology and sociology as well as history. It is relevant to the consideration of policy on an aging population, euthanasia, cancer and palliative care.

Environmental History: The ANU boasts a world-leading concentration of expertise in environmental studies. Scholars in the School of History and the Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies are among the nation's leading scholars in environmental history, landscape change and the ecological humanities. Current projects include a detailed and innovative study of food in world history; an historical analysis of the dynamics of environmental consciousness and regulation on the south coast of NSW; and a history of environmental ideas in twentieth-century Australia. The Centre for Environmental History was established in 2010, and numerous projects are underway under its aegis, including an environmental and political history of Australia’s involvement in the Antarctic Treaty System and the Victorian Bushfire Research project.

The historical construction of gender: The School's gender historians are specialists in cultural, social, labour and legal history. Several innovative projects funded by the ARC are currently under way. One tacks between large-scale social, economic and political movements and individual agency by focusing on the lives of feminist innovators during the twentieth century in Australia, Britain and the United States. Another uses a biographical approach to interrogate the role of the speaking voice in the development of a new, international sensory culture; the development of modern emotional repertoires; and the inter-related roles of theatre and film as carriers of these new ideas and practices across borders. The changing nature of Australia’s cinema circuits and their audiences, 1956-1984, is another project, approached from an interdisciplinary perspective and conducted with a multi-university team. 

The histories of settler societies in countries comparable to, or historically linked with, Australia: This research focuses especially on Britain, the United States, the Caribbean and the Antarctic. It includes enquiries into the history of Australian engagement with matters deemed to be of ‘international' significance as well as into Australia's diplomatic, social and scientific influence in international territories such as Antarctica.

The electronic archive: With the Australian Social Science Data Archive and the ANU's Supercomputing Facility, the Program is collaborating in the digitisation of the Historic Census Microfiche. Considered alongside the ADB Online, this initiative demonstrates the Program's eager exploration of the potential of e-research in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Emotions in Research. Emotions are an essential component of human experience, but for many years they remained outside the scope of scholarly research. Emotions, or passions as they were known in the past, have recently come to the fore of scholarly attention, and are the growing focus of social, intellectual, cultural, artistic, and literary research in a range of fields. Emotions in Research is a cross-campus interdisciplinary workshop which meets once a month to discuss the study of emotions in different fields of research. Convened by members of the School of History, the workshop attracts participants across CASS, CAP, Law and the Sciences who explore a range of theoretical and methodological questions relating to the study of emotions across the disciplines. Participants examine recent scholarship and analyse their peers’ work-in-progress. The workshop is held monthly and is open to scholars at all stages of their career. The workshop’s past program, along with links to presenter profiles, readings and related organisations, may be found here.

Updated: 10 November 2016/ Responsible Officer:  Head of School / Page Contact:  Web Publisher