Allan Martin Award

Opportunities for external ECR funding are not necessarily plentiful, particularly for those of us without an ongoing affiliation at a university. That’s why the Allan Martin Award is so important, and something ECRs should definitely consider applying for! Applications for 2021 are now open and close on 1 December 2020, so if you’re thinking about applying, it’s time to get to it!

The Allan Martin Award: a research fellowship for early career historians working in the field of Australian history. It’s an award of up to $4000, for an ECR historian to assist and further their research, whether in Australia or overseas. It’s available for all ECRs (within five years of the award of their PhD), whether academic, professional, or public. A more detailed outline of the terms and conditions, eligibility, and application requirements are available here.

(Edit, 5 November 2020: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and associated border closures, the AHA and ANU have agreed to vary the conditions for the Allan Martin Award for 2021. The usual requirement that the award fund a research trip has been waived, so that (for instance) applicants may instead propose to undertake research in lockdown conditions or hire local Research Assistants to overcome interstate and international travel restrictions.)

To give you insight into how winning the Allan Martin Award can help your research and your career development, we spoke to two past winners.

Dr Peter Hobbins Principal Historian, Artefact Heritage Services, Sydney

Twitter: @history2wheeler

Winning the Allan Martin Award helped change my practice as a historian in two major ways. Most importantly, it furthered a desire to embed my historical practice more closely in the community. Secondly–and rather unexpectedly–it dramatically boosted my media profile as a professional historian.

At the heart of my Allan Martin Award application was a simple sentence: “the primary outputs from this project will not be mine”. I felt sure that those words would be my undoing. Instead, the judges understood that my ambition was to step outside of self-interest and share my passion for the past. My goal was to encourage community historians to research and write about the “Spanish” influenza pandemic, over the centenary year of 2018-19. It meant that I did write some outputs, especially a 5000-word footnoted website and–with Alison Wishart and Georgia McWhinney–a community-focused research guide. But more to the point, the funding enabled me to work with the Royal Australian Historical Society to take a series of 3-hour workshops across regional New South Wales to encourage local history projects. This “flu roadshow” was enormous fun, and I learned a huge amount from the community practitioners I met with. They are still contacting me! It was truly inspiring to have been funded to run a project that fostered the writing of history at a grassroots level, far from universities and from large cities.

While I had planned for some media interest during the project, I hadn’t counted on Covid-19. This meant that in 2020, I have been interviewed for well over 50 television, radio and print interviews about the 1918-19 influenza pandemic, including the Australian Story episode which attracted over a million viewers and another 500,000 views on YouTube. I was also pleased to be interviewed for the episodes of the State Library’s “The Gatherings Order” podcast series. One corollary of that exposure is that I now have a regular spot presenting history topics on Sky News. At a time when we are facing massive challenges to history–and the humanities–this is a chance to remind a large audience about the value of what we do, and why.

Having now served as a judge for the Allan Martin Award, I urge all early career historians to put forward a project that not only challenges you, but rethinks what the point of our profession might be.

Dr Ruth Morgan Associate Professor at the Australian National University, and Director of the Centre for Environmental History

Twitter: @ruthamorgan

Winning the Allan Martin Award in 2016 allowed me to delve into the rich holdings of the Mitchell Library and the Daniel Solander Library at the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, where I set out to examine the botanical exchanges between the Australian colonies, British India and Kew Gardens from the late eighteenth century through to the turn of the twentieth century. Having the time and means to explore these materials gave me a greater sense of the range of human actors involved in such exchanges, and the connections between them that facilitated their correspondence. What made the experience even better was being able to learn from librarians, such as the incredibly generous Miguel Garcia, and great friends Jodi Frawley and Richard Aitken, who were kind enough to share their knowledge about these botanical collections.

Having just dusted off my Allan Martin Award application, I’m struck by just how ambitious my research program was! I am currently revising an article based on the Allan Martin Award research for the Pacific Historical Review, in which I consider the proliferation of the Australian blue gum in southern India in the second half of the nineteenth century. Of course, once I was in the Mitchell Library, I was also able to dig into the other environmental exchanges between the Australian colonies and British India. As a result, archival material on the horse trade with India is informing a book chapter on the traffic in camels and horses across the Indian Ocean. I also anticipate looking more closely into the desires for South Asian labour in the Australian colonies, the demand for which became increasingly informed by ideas of climate suitability, particularly in northern Australia.

I recall only too well that when I applied for the Allan Martin Award, I was extremely anxious about my career prospects. My contract was coming to an end and I was yet to hear the outcome of two major grant applications. The Allan Martin Award offered a lifeline of sorts, because it provided the means to get my first post-PhD project off the ground and into the archives. The application process was also important on its own terms, a valuable exercise in crafting the proposal, scrutinising collections, and communicating the aims of the project to librarians and archivists. I’m extremely grateful for the support of the Allan Martin Award and hope to see more early career researchers benefit from this scheme. 

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