Thursday, July 13, 2006

History summit letter

I sent the following letter to The Australian on the government's history teaching summit and Gregory Melleuish's role:
As a historian I wonder if Gregory Melleuish's paper for the history summit will highlight the truly distinctive aspects of Australian political history: the high levels of industrial conflict in the late 19th century, the unique industrial arbitration system and the extremely high levels of union membership and left party voting that emerge from around 1910?


At 7:23 AM, Blogger Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks for drawing my attention to this, Geoff. While I am not sure that I would classify all the things you mention as "the" truly distinctive features of Australian political history - I think other things are important as well - I take your point. I do not think that you can teach Australian history fully without bringing them in.

Did you read Don Aitkin's recent book looking at changes in Australia from the second world war through the eyes of the Armidale High School class of 53? I found it a fascinating book. Among other things, Aitkin refers to the destruction of the Deakonite social contract that formed a core unifying element for much of the twentieth century.

At 3:59 PM, Blogger Geoff Robinson said...

Aitkin's book is on my list and it looks very interesting but currently most of my reading is on tourism on which I have to write a unit. he is a good writer Aitkin.

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Jim Belshaw said...

Geoff, when you get to it I think that you will find it very useful. On tourism, I have a story on a different site on building local tourism - - that you might find of some use depending on the course focus.

At 1:47 PM, Blogger Jim Belshaw said...

A late further post on this one because I wanted to share a frustration with you, one that is relevant to the history stuff as well as to tourism.

I spoke to a friend last week. She asked why Regional Living Australia - - was featuring the wool industry. In disussion, I mentioned squatters. She thought squatters were people who lived run down urban buildings.

She had no conception of the importance of wool,no understanding at all.

You know that I come from a diffrent political background to you. Still, when I was at school - a day boy at a traditional country largely boarding school (The Armidale School) - I was taught in modern history about the importance of the union movement movement. I learned, for instance, of the importance of the London Matchgirls strike.

If you look at wool, this industry has some of the most iconic labor moments. Given my political background, I may challenge Labor historical interpretation. But none of this stops the way in which specific things thrill me.

We are all inwardly focussed. I was concerned about the way in whcih change affected some of the things that I love. I did not realise the extent to which different perceptions affected exactly the same thing on the Labor and trade union movement side.

The point? In the past the story tellers and elders kept the past alive. Today there is no real equivalent. I think that it is the responsibilty of all of us - and especially of bloggers - to pick up the slack.

At 6:28 PM, Blogger Geoff Robinson said...

Good point on history. I gave a lecture today partially on squatters and some students had heard of them. Given that the current rural policy vision is a return to the early 19th century vision of big export focused farms we can learn something from this period.


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