Q&A with Stuart Macintyre

This week’s post from the AHA ECR blog archives is one of our most popular Q&As. In this thought provoking piece, Stuart Macintyre, Emeritus Laureate Professor of the University and Professorial Fellow of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne, talks about the changes that have occurred in academic history. He reflects on the way historians’ choice of subjects are made both by interest and opportunity, and discusses the never ceasing thrill of opening an archive file at the beginning of a day of research.


Stuart Macintyre is Emeritus Laureate Professor of the University and and a Professorial Fellow of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. He was president of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia from 2007 to 2009 and is a life member of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. With Alison Ashford, he edited the Cambridge History of Australia (2013); his most recent book is Australia’s Boldest Experiment: War and Reconstruction in the 1940s (2015).   

1. Was there a moment when you discovered your love of history?

Probably not. Historians are familiar with the dangers of hindsight, and it is when I look back that I can identify various influences. One was family, especially my mother, for she was one of a very large family that liked nothing better than to reminisce. They did so with a fine disregard for chronology. ‘Was that the Crimean War or the Boer War?’ my grandmother pondered late in life when relating how her family had pioneered a farming settlement in the mallee country of South Australian; but that was when I was beginning to seek greater precision for these stories of change and continuity.

Another was reading. At a young age I became absorbed in historical fiction, from G.A. Henty and Arthur Conan Doyle to Scott and Stevenson. Such reading was encouraged at school and I was the beneficiary of excellent municipal and school libraries. I was also blessed to study history in Years 11 and 12 with a singularly gifted teacher of history – a man called David Webster who had been a contemporary of Ann Moyal at the University of Sydney after World War Two. Many undergraduates choose history because of a schoolteacher, and I was one of them.

2. Why did you become an academic historian?

Like many others of my generation, I began a combined degree in Arts and Law with the intention of becoming a lawyer. That intention wavered with the contrast between a stolid instruction in black-letter law and the excitement of learning history. In second year the study of Criminal Law and Torts was tolerable, but the prospect of taking Property and Contracts in third year led me to bale out and make up the missing subjects for an Arts degree.

Since so many others made the same choice, this was by no means a definite career decision, though I recall that when I informed my parents of my decision and they asked what I proposed to do instead of law, I casually replied that I might become a historian. But I was by no means a diligent student, nor did I think about how to pursue an academic career. I was heavily involved in politics at that time and it was in the final honours year that my study of modern European and British history came to inform my participation in the New Left. I proceeded to postgraduate study, principally because I was offered a scholarship so it was the course of least resistance. By the time I finished my M.A., I knew I wanted to be an academic historian (academic in the sense that university employment offered the opportunity to teach and pursue research) and so proceeded to doctoral studies in England.

It was some time later, after completing my doctorate and holding a research fellowship there, that I returned to Australia and began studying Australian history – principally because in that pre-digital era, the capacity to maintain research in British history was restricted to periods of study leave.

3. A lot of your work has been concerned with the relationship between labour and the political system. Is class inequality the primary inspiration behind what you do? Are there other sources of inspiration?

My first two books were exercises in a particular kind of labour history – one inflected by Marxism and social history. Class inequality and exploitation was certainly a major concern, one arising from my involvement in the New Left, and I’d always been interested in the study of politics, though the theories of class with which my generation worked extended to other social relations.

I’ve continued to practise labour history, including studies of particular occupations and unions, the Communist and Labor parties, but my interests have diversified to encompass biography, historiography and intellectual history more broadly.

The choices of subject that a historian makes are partly determined by interest and partly by opportunity. Shortly after returning to Australia in 1979, I was asked to write a volume of The Oxford History of Australia and that took me into a form of general history that I’ve continued to practise.

I have a particular attraction to archival research – the feeling of excitement when I open the first file at the beginning of the day is particularly sharp. I’ve been fortunate to have served terms on the councils of the National Library and the State Library of Victoria, and to have been involved in the fortunes of some major archives. I’ve always been interested in cognate disciplines, especially politics and economic history, and through involvement in the Academy of the Social Sciences I’ve been able to follow work done in those disciplines.

In the closing years of the last century it became common to condemn disciplines as artificial confinements that were an impediment to understanding. History, according to a commonly used taxonomy, was a pure-soft discipline. It was pure in the sense that its knowledge had no practical application, and soft in the sense that it had no hard disciplinary paradigm. But if history is not a form of vocational training, it is eminently practical. And its ‘softness’ enables it to draw on the methods, techniques and understanding of other disciplines more freely than most others. But above all it is a disciplined form of intellectual inquiry with its own principles and procedures.

Taking advantage of the opportunity to seek an understanding of society, institutions and political choice has remained a source of enjoyment throughout my career.

4. How do you think your background has shaped the questions that you ask?

Hard to say. I was fortunate in my family background, friendships, education and timing. I attended a private school whose values I rejected but with the advantages it conferred. I entered the University of Melbourne in a period of unprecedented growth that exposed me to a much greater diversity of fellow-students; and later, at Cambridge, I benefitted from the stimulation of a very talented generation of historians.

The topics I pursue and the questions I ask arise from my interests and are informed by my convictions; but in each case I am seeking to clarify them, to explore aspects that seem to me to be by no means evident or on which my feelings are ambiguous. I am usually attracted to the subject but with reservations I want to resolve. I’m reluctant to think a subject has been exhausted in its implications and possibilities.

5. How has academic history changed since you began your career?

It has changed institutionally with the reconfiguration of higher education and research, a change that we in Australia associate with John Dawkins and the creation in 1988 of a Unified National System, but is evident elsewhere.

Higher education changed at that time from a rarified pursuit restricted to an elite to a mass system that is far more instrumental in its objectives. Research became an adjunct of innovation. These changes had major implications for a discipline such as history that was part of a liberal education, and for historical research as a curiosity-based activity. We see the effects in the replacement of history departments by multi-disciplinary schools, in a funding system that disadvantages our discipline, in the regime of performance management and the disappearance from a majority of Australian universities of a planned sequence of history subjects that culminates in the honours program as an apprenticeship to the discipline.

Academic history has changed in its composition, though perhaps not as much as it should. It is no longer dominated by men, but it under-represents minorities.

It has changed intellectually with the shift from history as a form of liberal education to a service function and the increased reliance on applied subjects suited to vocational courses. And it has changed from denominating the study of the past by place and time to more thematic configurations.

Like all academic disciplines, history is marked by conformity and originality. Its methods of validation (from assessment to peer-review of research proposals and publications, appointment and promotion) make for imitation and tend to reinforce the status quo; but reputations are made by breaking new ground. We have now, as we have always had, clusters of research that are defined by fashion, where the outcome is understood in advance of the research, as well as more independent, innovative work. The current emphasis on research assessment and internationalisation, incidentally, tends to flatten out experimentation.

6. What do you think about the future of state-sponsored academic history? Does it have one?

Government policy on higher education and research is unhelpful, but then it is unhelpful to the humanities disciplines more generally. Even so, the shibboleths of that policy are far from consistent. It proclaims the need for interdisciplinary research, and yet research is still conducted and classified on a disciplinary basis. And as Graeme Turner’s report on the humanities and social sciences indicates, they still make up a large part of the country’s enrolments and research activity.

Government patronage of history beyond the academy is a sorry story. Ever since the establishment of the Prime Minister’s prize for history there has been stacking of the judging panel – except that it is not a judging panel since prime ministers on both sides of politics have overridden the panel’s recommendation. The failure of those who have served on these panels to denounce such interference is a particular disappointment. Much the same can be said about government direction of schools and the forms of public history it controls through cultural institutions and patronage.

Academic history is not well served by the publishing industry – which is still searching for a viable business model – nor by the penumbra of literary festivals, newspaper reviews and the like. We see a bifurcation between popular trade books and scholarly monographs. Too often those seeking to crack the trade market are advised to dispense with the scholarship. Having said that, there is more good history published now than in the past.

My chief worry is that the opportunity to study history freely and properly is becoming restricted to a minority of the more prestigious universities.

7. What is your favourite thing about being an academic historian?

The opportunity to combine a career with a vocation is a remarkable privilege. When, as a postgraduate student, I was able to read and think about the past with a stipend that paid me to do so, I was conscious of an unusual privilege. I have the same feeling whenever I open the new issue of a journal or turn back the covers of a book. It is even sharper as I begin a new project.

Academics are unusual in that they are free to allocate their time to their responsibilities as they choose. We don’t clock on and clock off. Despite the incursions of performance management, management can’t conduct our tasks: we design our courses and conduct our research, we guide our students and interpret the past.

8. Your least favourite thing?

Top of the list would be meetings, which in my experience are conducted in universities without regard to their utility, effectiveness or the time they absorb.

After that would come the increased separation of university management from the real work and purpose of the university. It used to be that the Vice-Chancellor and perhaps a few senior academics exercised management responsibilities on a full-time basis, but now it is deans and, all too often, heads of school. So a Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) conducts no research and her equivalent (Teaching and Learning) no longer teaches but instead they promulgate policies about how the activity is to be conducted.

I was fortunate that my career fell between two eras, one in which collegialism tolerated very lax performance and another in which line management became excessive.

9. Do you have any intellectual heroes? Which historians have had the greatest influence on the way you research and write?

My first hero was Macaulay, especially his essays. I discovered him in Year 10 and, as my history teacher observed, was infected by his purple prose. But I reread Macaulay’s History about every ten years, each time with wry delight. I then went through a Carlylean phase, and at about the same time discovered Marx’s historical essays. They too repay rereading.

Two English historians influenced me greatly as an undergraduate and postgraduate student. Maitland still seems to me to be a remarkable interpreter of institutions and structures, while Tawney’s Religion and the Rise of Capitalism had a lasting effect. Marc Bloch was another influence.

Of those historians working as I established my career, Edward Thompson and Eric Hobsbawm were probably the most influential. And there have been so many producing superb work since that it would be invidious to single any out.

10. What do you think is the role of academic historians? Are we gate-keepers of certain values? Are we using the medium of the past to do similar work to novelists and artists? Are we social scientists?

When I became a historian, the discipline was a more important branch of the social sciences than it is now. I retain that earlier aspiration to understand cause and effect, what happened and why it happened, I see history an essential component of understanding public affairs.

The gate-keeping function is a limited one. It was not until after the Second World War that history came of age as a professional discipline, and even then its capacity to set standards was largely restricted to the academy. We certainly have a duty to judge accounts of the past according to the standards of the discipline – and to criticise those that do not deal faithfully with the primary sources, misrepresent secondary works, overlook important bodies of work, misunderstand context or violate principles of historical interpretation.

It would be myopic to think that we can impose our procedures on more popular forms of history, or to overlook the principles that govern them. No amount of scholarly rectification will alter these uses and misuses of the past; but we have a duty to uphold a disciplined understanding of the past.

11. Have you had mentors over the course of your career? How important are they?

The history profession is marked by a remarkable collegiality that assists newcomers. My greatest debt as an undergraduate was to Alison Patrick at Melbourne. She tolerated my erratic enthusiasms and then arranged for me to tutor in her first-year subject while I completed my M.A. thesis. Both Alan McBriar and David Cuthbert, who supervised it at Monash, were encouraging – Alan later made time to provide a very detailed reading of the draft of the doctoral thesis that I sent him from Cambridge. And my supervisor there, Henry Pelling, went out of his way to advance my career. I’d like to think that we are guided in our obligation to encourage others by the example of those who encouraged us. Even if unconsciously, we draw on the example of those we saw do it well.

Among my later mentors I’m particularly conscious of that group of Old Left historians whom I’d cut my New Left teeth by criticising. Ian Turner went out of his way to accept that criticism, and his friend Stephen Murray-Smith took me up when I returned to Australia at the end of the 1970s, as did Geoff Serle. Above all, I’m grateful to Bob Gollan – and treasure the copy of John Norton’s Australian edition of The History of Capital and Labour that he gave me. Bob assisted me in many ways, especially when I was writing The Reds.

And like all historians pursuing an academic career, I’m grateful to senior colleagues who aided and encouraged me. I think here particularly of Geoffrey Bolton, Pat Troy, Lloyd Robson, Greg Dening and others. Of my contemporary colleagues I owe a special debt to Pat Grimshaw, and have benefited greatly from working with Graeme Davison and John Hirst.

12. What advice can you give to history ECRs about their careers?

It’s risky to give advice when the pattern of academic careers has changed so markedly. There have always been more aspirants than opportunities, and the path from postgraduate studies to a tenurable appointment is now longer and more precipitous than when I took it.

It requires determination, nimbleness, patience, a clear-eyed appreciation of what is on offer. The usual advice applies: take opportunities to present your work in seminars, conferences and publications; time your application for a DECRA; make use of contacts; face to face is better than email; speak frankly to your mentors and ask them to be frank in their guidance.

As in an established career, an ECR has to juggle a number of activities – teaching, administration, research, writing. The first rule of casual teaching is to build a wall around part of the week that is devoted to your own work. The second rule is to adjust time to the task – a doctoral thesis is usually an exhaustive exercise, whereas so many of the activities that follow can’t be exhaustive.

Don’t over-specialise. Don’t restrict your reading to your specialisation; keep an eye on what is happening in other fields. Be prepared to read yourself into a new one; it’s a skill that will serve you well.

13. If you didn’t become an historian, what do you think you would have done?

Between completing my honours year and being offered a postgraduate scholarship, I was interviewed for a job in the Commonwealth public service as an archivist. I was always attracted to libraries. Until I got to know what it entailed, I was interested in going into politics. But I suspect that regardless of these possibilities, I would have continued to practise history.

14. Sam Mitchell or Luke Hodge?

Is there a choice? At my primary school in Hawthorn, the question was not what jumper you wore but what number. I chose 23 for John Peck (nicknamed Elvis), who went on to play full forward in the 1961 premiership side. The number was passed on to Don Scott and then Dermot Brereton; but if I had a free pick it would be Peter Hudson.


How To… Do a Radio Interview

As part of our series revisiting some of our most popular posts, this week we feature ABC RN’s Michael Cathcart sharing the golden rules of giving an engaging radio interview. He takes us through the process of landing a radio slot to the ways historians can enthrall their audience by having a bold narrative, being enthusiastic and above all sharing a love of history!

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Michael Cathcart joined the ABC in 2000 as the presenter of Arts Today, later presenting the Famous Radio National Quiz and Bush Telegraph, Books & Art and now The Hub.
He has a passion for the arts. He has a first-class honours degree in English literature. In the early 1990s, he chaired the board of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival and has been a regular participant in writers’ festivals ever since. He has also worked as a theatre director, dramaturge and script editor. He is married to the playwright Hannie Rayson.
Michael’s other passion is Australian history. You may also know him the history programs which he has presented on ABC TV: Rewind, Rogue Nation and Australia on Trial.
Michael has taught courses in Australian history and culture at Deakin University and at the University of Melbourne, from where he has a doctorate. He is the author of Defending the National Tuckshop (1988), a study of conservative responses to the Great Depression in Victoria. He has also produced an abridgement of Manning Clark’s epic A History of Australia and an anthology of Australian speeches. Michael’s book The Water Dreamers (2009) is an award-winning study of the influence of water and aridity on Australian culture. His most recent book is Starvation in a Land of Plenty (2013), a lavishly illustrated account of the life and death of the explorer William Wills.

So your new book is just out. You’ve written this one with a mass audience in mind. And you’re all primed to do heaps of interviews.

Rule 1. Don’t try to tee up these interviews yourself. It makes you look desperate or self-promoting (which – for some bewildering reason – is a turn-off in the media world). Insist that your publisher arrange interviews for you.

Rule 2. Don’t ever give away your own copies of the book in the interests of publicity. This really looks desperate. Publishers expect to sacrifice a pile of books on the bonfire of publicity and reviews. They budget for this. If you happen to talk to a journalist who expresses interest in your project tell them that you will get your publisher to send them a review copy.

Rule 3. You should help the publicist to write to a press release. This is vital, because most radio interviews are based on the press release. That means you are setting the agenda for the interview. So how do you write a press release which will persuade a radio producer to invite you onto their program? Simple. You need to convince the producer that you have “a story”.

A good radio story has several elements:

  1. The hook. This is simply the reason why we are talking about this today! What makes this story current? (The fact that you’ve just published a book does not, of itself, constitute a hook.) In reality hooks can be quite flimsy. An anniversary is good. (“It is 100 years ago this year, since… “) A link to a current debate also works well.
  2. The second element of a good story is a Big Idea – a proposition which can be stated briefly and powerfully. We all love to imagine that our work is awash with ideas. Which is great. But for the purposes of a radio interview, work out your single, principal contention. And shape all your answers accordingly.
  3. Next, you need a bold narrative. We want to hear an actual story. Not too long. No fussy details. And don’t worry about providing lots of evidence – unless the sources are juicy (such as “Top Secret” files, or a famous person’s private diary). The key to this narrative is big human emotions. You are telling a tale of love, or fear, or suffering, or courage, or betrayal. A powerful human story.
  4. The amazement factor. You want the listeners to respond: “Wow. I didn’t know that!” Tell them something they don’t know. Or convince them of a proposition which has never occurred to them.

Rule 4. So you’ve got your interview. You are now on air. Get the measure of your interviewer early. Very few radio interviewers will have actually read your book. How can they? Some of them are on-air three hours per day! So if you are talking on a Drive show on commercial radio, you will probably find that you can take complete control of the interview. Just do your routine.

If you are talking on ABC Radio National, the presenter or his/her producer will have read a fair bit of your book – and the presenter will conduct a well-structured interview. Even so, always remember that you are in control of what you say. Don’t say anything that you are not prepared to defend later. And make sure that you get your core message across. The earlier, the better. The average interview lasts between 12 and 20 minutes – and your time can be over before you know it.

Rule 5. Talk to your audience. Remember that you are not in an academic gathering. You are talking to listeners who are put off by academic buzz words. So you’re better off avoiding discourse, hegemony, postmodernism, epistemology and so on.

Assume your listeners are smart – but they know nothing about Australian history. (Why should they? They know about other stuff: nursing or accounting or how to grow roses.) Don’t say “of course” when you explain something simple. And introduce all your key players (“Robert Menzies”, founder of the Liberal Party and Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister.” “The Australian actor, Cate Blanchett”. And so on.)

And be enthusiastic. On radio, you don’t have any body language to add impact and emphasis to what you are saying. So you need to add extra energy and emotion to your voice. Really, it’s impossible to over-do this. If you are genuine, it will sound great.

That’s it really. Simple.

And remember to share your love of history. Let that shine through.



Hottest Tips for ECRs from the AHA ECR Blog Archive – Q&A with Christina Twomey

We continue our retrospective of most popular and insightful pieces from the AHA ECR blog archives with this post from Christina Twomey, Professor and Head of History in the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies at Monash University. She shares with us how she became an academic historian and compares her coming of age in the 1990s with the current celebration of the ‘history nerd’. She reminds Early Career Researchers to be intellectually generous and to grow a hide like an elephant!

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Hottest Tips for ECRs from the AHA ECR Blog Archive – How To… Write a Book Proposal with Phillipa McGuinness

This week we continue revisiting some of our most popular and insightful posts from the AHA ECR blog archives with a piece from Phillipa McGuinness. Here she offers some fantastic tips on what and what not to do when writing a book proposal. Phillipa also explains what will catch the eye of a publisher, reminds us to read widely and encourages historians to be imaginative and bold.

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Hottest Tips for ECRs from the AHA ECR Blog Archive – Q&A with Clare Wright

In the lead up to the AHA’s annual conference and as our term as ECR representatives comes to a close, we thought we’d revisit some of our most popular and insightful posts from the past two years. In this post, Clare Wright shares how she discovered her passion for history and what continues to inspire her work. She tells ECRs to find their own voice, to believe in the value of their work, and to not be shy in telling the world about their research!

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Q&A with Melanie Oppenheimer

From prime time television actor to academic, Professor Melanie Oppenheimer describes her varied and fascinating professional life. She discusses the similarities between acting and academic history – both require the capacity to deal with rejection! She recalls tutorials with Russel Ward at the University of New England and describes her pioneering work on the history of voluntarism in Australia. She also gives some wise and heartfelt advice to ECRs.

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Emerging Historians – Dr Jessica Hodgens

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Dr Jessica Hodgens – AHA member since 2014

I’m Jessica Hodgens, and I completed my PhD last year at Monash University. My research is with Dja Dja Wurrung people, the traditional owners of the central Victoria region, which is where I was born and raised. I’m currently revising my thesis for publication as a book, and I work as a researcher with the NSW public service. I’ve been an AHA member since 2014, and earlier this year I was lucky enough to receive one of the AHA-Copyright Agency Early Career Researcher Mentorships.  Continue reading

Emerging Historians – Dr Emily Brayshaw

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Dr Emily Brayshaw – AHA member since 2018

Dr Emily Brayshaw completed her PhD in fashion, performance costume and design history at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building in 2016. Emily works as a lecturer and tutor in Design History and Thinking and Fashion History and Theory at UTS and actively researches and publishes in these fields. In addition to her work in academia, Emily is a theatre costume designer. Her wide interests include: the display and consumption of luxury in fashion, costume, theatre and film; popular culture in all of its vulgar glory; German literature; art and aesthetics of the Weimar Republic; architectural ornamentation; and the viola. Continue reading

How To… Survive in academia until you secure a position (some personal reflections)

In this week’s post, Jatinder Mann offers some personal reflections on his journey to secure an ongoing position in academia. He talks candidly about the personal and financial impact of staying in academia until he was offered a position at the Hong Kong Baptist University. He also gives insights into his experience studying Australian history as someone who is not from Australia and discusses the lack of diversity at conferences in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

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Q&A with Mark McKenna

In this Q&A, Professor Mark McKenna from the University of Sydney describes his varied professional career before taking up academic history, the importance of form as well as substance in conveying a message, and his desire to communicate to a broad audience.

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How To… Survive in academia without permanency (a story from the humanities)

Casual and contract employment pervade the academy, as they do many parts of the contemporary labour force. In this week’s blog post, prolific blogger and tweeter and Research Fellow at Flinders University, Dr Evan Smith, gives us his tips about how to survive being a non-tenured historian.

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Emerging Historians – Dr James Findlay


Dr James Findlay – AHA member since 2012

My name is James Findlay and I’m a historian with interests in media history, convict history, and settler colonialism in Australia.  I was awarded my PhD at the University of Sydney a few months ago.  Before returning to study I worked extensively in film and television production for companies and broadcasters including Beyond Television, Screenworld, Film Australia and the BBC in London. I’m currently sessional teaching with the History Department at USYD. Continue reading

Q&A with Jenny Gregory

In this week’s Q&A, Emeritus Professor Jenny Gregory explains how she discovered her love of history through a happy accident (a timetabling clash!), her desire to research Western Australian history to find out more about the place she lives and the challenges of writing history in Australia’s west. She talks about the importance of mentors, but also of forging your own path, and she encourages ECRs to seize opportunities and do what we love.

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Emerging Historians – Dr John Doyle


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Dr John Doyle – AHA member since 2013

I gained my PhD (on the political history of Australian telecommunications reform) from La Trobe University a few days before last Christmas, which was a rather pleasing way to round out the year. I was very fortunate at La Trobe to receive invaluable guidance and support from my supervisor, Professor Judith Brett, and many other colleagues. During my candidature, I tutored in Australian history and politics, coordinated a parliamentary internship program and also took some time off to consult to the telecommunications industry association, Communications Alliance. I’ve recently became an associate of the Contemporary Histories Research Group at Deakin University.  Continue reading

Q&A with Professor Trevor Burnard

Our Q&A series with senior Australian historians is back with this piece from Professor Trevor Burnard. Trevor talks about the joys and frustrations of academic history and explains how his research is inspired by a desire to explore the ways power operated in the past. He also has some interesting insights into what he terms Early Career Researchers’ “institutionalized privileged insecurity” and reminds ECRs to take advantage of the boom that history is experiencing in public, if not in the academy. And if you want to read more from Trevor, check out his blog!

How To… Use Social Media To Boost Your Research Profile

If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to pimp your research profile, then this post is for you! In our first piece of 2018 we have a special guest post from the wonderful Tseen Khoo of The Research Whisperer blog (check it out if you haven’t already, it’s fantastic!). Here Tseen explains the do’s and don’t’s of social media etiquette and how to make the most out of your social media presence.

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Emerging Historians – Dr Ana Stevenson

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Dr Ana Stevenson – AHA member since 2012

My name is Ana Stevenson and I completed my Ph.D. at The University of Queensland in 2015.  Between 2014 and 2015, I held the honorary position of Visiting Scholar in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh. Since January 2016, I have been a postdoctoral research fellow in the International Studies Group at the University of the Free State, South Africa.  I now live in Bloemfontein, a city I had never heard of before moving here. Continue reading

How To… Be a Teacher Historian

We’re often told that there are options to practice history beyond the academy, but what are they and are they viable? In this wonderfully generous post, Dr Michael Molkentin shares with us his personal experience as a teacher historian and the challenges and highlights of following this career path. He discusses the way having a PhD has influenced his teaching, how teaching has allowed him to broaden his knowledge of the discipline, and the genuine thrill of introducing students to studying the past.

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Q&A with Richard Bosworth

In this week’s Q&A, Professor Richard Bosworth reflects on a long and distinguished career as an historian of Italy, which has taken him from Sydney University to Jesus College, Oxford, via UWA and Reading University. He muses on the ‘great man’ view of the past and the value of history, and delivers a scathing assessment of the state of Australian historiography. On a brighter note, he reminds ECRs to enjoy teaching when it arises and to aim for the world.

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Emerging Historians – Dr Andonis Piperoglou


Dr Andonis Piperoglou – AHA member since 2011

I am Andonis Piperoglou (some people call me Andoni/Αντώνη – it translates to Anthony in Greek). Please don’t confuse me with ‘Adonis’, for I am no modern day representation of classical antiquity. I’m twenty-nine years old, currently live in Canberra, and joined the AHA in 2011. This time last year I was anxiously waiting on my examiners reports, which, lucky for me, arrived in my inbox with a box ticked ‘without amendment or further examination’. I couldn’t believe it – in some ways I still can’t. I completed my dissertation at La Trobe University and was fortunate to have been mentored by a progressive group of La Trobeian historians. This year I have been teaching history at the Australian Catholic University in Strathfield, a cosy campus in Sydney’s inner west. Since graduating I have attended four conferences, engaged with a simulating cohort of Sydney-based historians, and submitted numerous job-applications and journal articles. I have also begun turning my thesis into a book – an exciting process! This is my, slightly politically charged, contribution to the AHA emerging historian series. Continue reading

Q&A with John Maynard

In this week’s Q&A we talk with Professor John Maynard about what inspired his love of history, who he writes for, and the future of academia. He has some fantastic advice for ECRs, reminding us to read widely, work hard and with passion, and to never be afraid to listen and take advice.

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Q&A with Douglas Wilkie

In this Q&A we talk with Dr Douglas Wilkie about his love of solving history puzzles and the difference between writing as a freelance and academic historian. He encourages all of us to do what we love, to research meticulously, and to tell a good story.

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Emerging Historians – Dr Claire Higgins


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Dr Claire Higgins – AHA member since 2014

I completed my DPhil in History January 2014 at the University of Oxford. I am now a Senior Research Associate at the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW. Continue reading

Q&A with Joy Damousi

This month we interview the Australian Historical Association’s Vice President, Joy Damousi, Professor of History in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. Here she discusses what inspires her to write and teach history, encourages Early Career Researchers to give back where they can and reminds us to create and seize opportunities to research history.

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Emerging Historians – Dr Gemmia Burden

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Dr Gemmia Burden – AHA member since 2011

My name is Gemmia Burden (most of the people in my life call me Gemma). I started a PhD at the University of Queensland in 2010 and after 7 years (finally) finished earlier this year. I’m currently working two jobs, full time as a cultural heritage consultant at Australian Heritage Specialists, and as a casual research assistant for Associate Professor Anna Johnston at UQ’s Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities. Continue reading

How To… Navigate the World of History: Some personal reflections and advice

In the latest post in our How To Series, Dr Lyndon Megarrity draws on his own extensive experience to give great tips to Early Career Researchers about how to navigate the world of academic history. Most importantly he advises us to keep the passion alive and be true to ourselves and what we want to achieve as historians.

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Q&A with David Lowe

In this month’s Q&A Professor David Lowe talks about his continuing love of history, why history matters and the intellectual heroes and mentors who have inspired him. He has some fantastic advice for ECRs, encouraging us to publish at both ends of the spectrum and to follow our passion, which he argues is crucial for sustaining our enthusiasm in the long run!

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Emerging Historians – Dr André Brett

Andre Brett

Dr André Brett – AHA member since April 2012

I am André Brett, a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong. I was offered the fellowship in November 2016 and commenced in June 2017 after finishing my employment at the University of Melbourne, where I received my PhD in August 2014. Continue reading

How To… Approach a Job Interview

In Part 2 of how to land your dream job, Associate Professor Martin Crotty talks about the do’s and don’t’s of job interviews. He explains what interviewers are looking for (and what will turn them off!) and gives some fantastic tips on how to make sure you shine in any interview.

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How To… Write a Successful Job Application

For many Early Career Researchers this time of year is job hunting season so we’ve lined up a two part special on how to land your dream job. In Part 1 Professor Kate Darian-Smith takes us through the key steps of writing a successful job application. She advises us to research the position, address the selection criteria clearly and to proof read everything!

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