'From Boom to Bust'
Acting Director Professor Katie Holmes and several others from the Centre for the Study of the Inland braved the cold and presented papers at the recent Australian Historical Association conference in Ballarat.
The theme of the conference was 'From Boom to Bust' and over 300 historians and associated professionals from the galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM) sector presented papers over a jam-packed five days.
Katie presented on a panel, 'Rethinking Agricultural Booms and Busts: More-than-Human Perspectives' with Emily O'Gorman and Andrea Gaynor. All three papers examined the impact of human settlement on the environment and in particular the connections between intense agriculture and pastoralism and large outbreaks in the natural world. Whereas Emily and Andrea concentrated on insect plagues (mosquitoes and locusts), Katie explored the impact of human settlement on the breeding habits of the house mouse, specifically the devastating mouse plagues in the eastern Mallee lands of Victoria and South Australia from 1900 to the present.
Key CSI researcher Professor Susan Lawrence presented two papers: one with Anita Smith (Archaeology La Trobe) titled 'Understanding the International Heritage Significance of the Victorian Gold Rush' and another with Peter Davies (Archaeology La Trobe) and Jodi Turnball (consultant archaeologist) on 'Sludge: Water and Landscape Change in the Victorian Goldfields'. Both papers originate from Susan's current ARC Discovery Project 'Rivers of Gold'.
Charles Fahey and Karen Twigg (from the Centre) and Kerry Nixon (from the History program) presented on the panel 'Inheritance and Land Holding in Victoria'. All three papers examined the problems of inheritance and succession in rural Victoria and how ideas about family, gender and the environment shaped rural land ownership in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. David Harris, also from the History program, presented on commercial fishing in colonial Victoria, in particular, the debates about commercial fishing in the 1890s.
One of the highlights of the conference was Katie's launch of Tom Griffith's latest book The Art of Time Travel: Historians and Their Craft. Griffiths, an eminent environmental historian, and award-winning author, examines 14 writers of environmental history including Inga Clendinnen, Judith Wright, and Henry Reynolds, and traces how our understanding of the past has evolved. The book has already received much acclaim and the launch was a great success.