Abstracts – JRAHS Volume 104, Part 1 June 2018

‘At all events on the through lines’: The century-long journey to Australia’s rail gauge unification – Scott Martin

This article examines the influence on Australian railway policy in the 20th and 21st century of three key events in 1889: the completion of the bridge over the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney that linked the rail networks of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia into an intercolonial rail network (albeit separated by breaks of gauge); the report into the defences of Australia by Major-General James Bevan Edwards C.B. at the invitation of the colonial governments, and; the subsequent impetus toward Federation of the Australian colonies ignited by NSW Premier Henry Parkes on the basis of Edwards’ report. Apart from its recommendations on the defence of the Australian colonies, Edwards’ recommendations on the unification of disparate railway gauges and the reorganisation of the colonial rail networks into a national rail network by connecting the inter capital ‘through lines’ effectively formed the centrepiece of post-Federation Australian railway policy.

Prayer and Carbolic: Reactions to the Plague in Sydney in 1900 – Malcolm D. Prentis

Historians’ accounts of the outbreak of and reactions to the bubonic plague in Sydney in 1900 have been seriously deficient and misleading in one particular aspect. That is with regard to the reactions of the churches. It is alleged that they pronounced a simplistic ‘God’s wrath’ explanation; that they stood in the way of ‘scientific’ solutions to it; and that they were cowardly with regard to caring for plague victims. The evidence for these assumptions is scant indeed, as the much wider range of evidence examined in this article shows. In doing so, it also attempts to provide a more accurate, balanced and nuanced account of the variety of community responses to the plague.

Tension among friends: Internationalism in Sydney in 1923 – Les Hetherington

A public meeting in Sydney in September 1923 and a subsequent exchange of correspondence in December in the Sydney Morning Herald demonstrated the disparate attitudes towards conflict resolution existing between the New South Wales branches of the League of Nations Union (LNU) and the London Peace Society (LPS), the two principal local organisations pursuing internationalist and peace agendas. But while their disagreement over ultimate recourse to military means to resolve international disputes may have encouraged the two organisations to preserve a distance between them that hindered rather than advanced joint effort, it did not eliminate such activity. And exposure of the LNU’s support for military solutions to intractable international problems likely did it no harm within the wider community.

James Ralfe and the Early Surveys at Port Macquarie – Tony Dawson

Lying at the mouth of the Hastings River about 300 kilometres north of Sydney, Port Macquarie—a place long known to the Birpai people, the original custodians, as Guruk—was established in April 1821 as a remote penal settlement. It was intended as a place of secondary punishment, one to which prisoners convicted within the colony of offences normally punishable by transportation could be sent. Yet within a few years of its establishment it had become too insecure for its original purpose.

In 1828 Governor Darling received permission to open Port Macquarie to free settlers, but before he could do so it was necessary to make a proper survey of the district. The man assigned to the task was James Ralfe who spent two years conducting the survey prior to the official opening in August 1830, and who afterwards remained in the district measuring farms and town allotments as well as extending the general survey and contributing in other ways to the growing community.

Crime Pays: Women Transported for Forged Bank Notes – Carol Liston and Kathrine Reynolds

Quick thinking, versatility, organisational skills, teamwork, courage, numeracy and familiarity with the retail trade – these are not the usual attributes used to describe convict women but these are characteristics useful in a life of crime. Ironically, they were also a good foundation for colonial life. Many histories record that Australia was a colony of thieves. One form of theft that has been largely overlooked concerned forged bank notes. The major wave of bank note forgeries in Britain was between 1800 and 1820 but New South Wales convict records before 1826 rarely record crime, thus rendering invisible the proportion of convicts transported for these crimes. Most of these convicts arrived during the administration of Governor Macquarie, a period recognised for the expansion of opportunities for emancipated convicts. Subsequently they had to negotiate the rules of the tougher administrations that followed.

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