Digital Pick: History Detective

Written by Elizabeth Heffernan, RAHS Intern

Our Digital Pick for the latest edition of the RAHS e-newsletter is the History Detective podcast, the perfect companion for Sydney’s extended lockdown. Created by history teacher Kelly Chase, each episode of History Detective delves into a new historical ‘case’ not typically covered by textbooks or in the classroom. Chase then reimagines each story through an original song. Although designed primarily as a classroom tool with accompanying reflection questions and additional educational materials, History Detective is a valuable resource for anyone interested in listening to a unique perspective on the past.

The podcast is in its second season with 15 ‘cases’ so far. Most focus on women and Indigenous Australians: people who have been consistently forgotten in traditional retellings of history. Did you know women fought in the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, and in the Imperial Russian Army before the revolution of 1917? Have you ever heard of the World War II Torres Strait Light Infantry, or the Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit for Aboriginal troops? History Detective shines a light on these important yet overlooked stories.

Prevention of Plague pamphlet

Prevention of Plague pamphlet issued by the NSW Department of Public Health on 1 March 1900. Image courtesy Australian Museum, Rare Books Collection.

If you are listening in lockdown, you might be particularly interested in case 8: ‘Roses are Black’, or the plague in Australia. Not COVID-19, or the Spanish influenza of 1918-19, but a turn-of-the-century enemy with eerie similarities to both later pandemics: the bubonic plague. Best known as the source of the Black Death that swept Europe in the 14th century, the bubonic plague arrived in Australia by sea in the early months of 1900. Fascination with news reports of a disease spreading throughout the Pacific Islands in 1899 turned to fear when it was on our doorstep: parents pulled children from schools, hospitals were overwhelmed, and amateur rat-catchers were offered rewards for killing the animals deemed responsible for the outbreak. Though only 535 people died in the 10 years the plague was in Australia, it left a scar on the country that had still not fully healed by the time Spanish Flu reared its terrible head.

Listen to the full story of the bubonic plague outbreak on the History Detective website and most podcast streaming services.

Read the full Prevention of Plague pamphlet on the Australian Museum website.