Abstracts – JRAHS Vol 97, Part 2 December 2011

Necessary and urgent’? The politics of Northern Australia, 1945-75

Lyndon Megarrity

Between 1945 and 1975, there was strong support for the notion that isolated Northern Australia was Australia’s most pivotal region, entitled to special consideration from the Commonwealth because of its strategic and economic significance. During this period, Labor used the example of Northern Australia to highlight the benefits of an increased Commonwealth role in matters traditionally dealt with by the states. As fear of invasion declined during the 1960s and 1970s, it became difficult to sustain the idea that Northern Australia was a region whose needs deserved priority over other regional areas.


‘No common corrobery’: the Robert Burns Festivals and identity politics in Melbourne, 1845-59

Alex Tyrell

This article traces the series of Robert Burns Festivals in Melbourne between 1845 and 1859 to their origins in Scotland as expressions of an ideology known as ‘unionist nationalism’. It shows the Scottish settlers devising the Festivals as a ‘corrobery’ or platform during the 1840s which placed them at the centre of a campaign to confer the status of a separate colony on the Port Phillip District. Responding to the changed circumstances of the gold rush during the 1850s, the Melbourne Scots adapted the Festivals to demonstrate their continuing influence in the new colony.


Richard Dawson: colonial ironmaster, engineer, merchant, and agent of technology transfer

Harry Irwin

Richard Dawson, after bringing with him when he arrived in 1833 from Bristol a background in marine engineering and foundry work, became the colony’s first important iron founder and, later, one of Sydney’s leading ironmasters. This article tracks Dawson’s work in establishing a thriving ironworks on the shore of Port Jackson when no local supplies of iron were available and fuel supplies were unreliable; his entry into coastal and island shipping and merchant trading to supplement and complement his foundry work; and his movement from ship smith work to marine, steam, general and mining engineering. Particular attention is paid to Dawson’s role as an agent of knowledge, process and product technology transfer into the colony and his work as an innovator and improviser in pioneer engineering work.


The origins of a white Australia: the coolie question 1837-43

Tony Ohlsson

The Australian population – excluding Aborigines – after fifty years of British settlement was overwhelmingly white. When transportation to New South Wales ended in 1840, settlers who had lived in the East argued that Asian coolies would be cheaper to import and employ than assisted emigrants from the United Kingdom. Other colonists pointed out that New South Wales possessed the materials for a political and social state similar to that of the mother country. The campaign from 1837 to 1843 to preserve the British character of New South Wales laid the foundations for the White Australia Policy later in the nineteenth century.


Theatre, amphitheatre and circus in Sydney, 1833-60

Mark St Leon

In London in 1768, a former cavalryman, Philip Astley, gave displays of trick riding in a field on the south side of the Thames. Within a few years, he erected a building on this location within which to present not only equestrian exhibitions but clowns, jugglers, ropewalkers and acrobats. He called his edifice ‘Astley’s Amphitheatre’ – a combination of a circular arena and an adjoining theatre stage – but the establishment was popularly known around London as ‘the circus’.

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