The Women of Pitcairn and their Descendants

The women of Pitcairn Island were responsible for creating, maintaining, and passing on a number of traditions that were uniquely theirs. Historically, there voices have often been overshadowed by the story of the British men of the Bounty, with whom these women were associated. In 1789 the Bounty set sail from England, crewed by a group of young men, and captained by William Bligh. Their mission was to sail to Tahiti and retrieve breadfruit, to bring back to the West Indies as an economically efficient way to feed slaves. Unfortunately for the men on the Bounty, their journey was not a smooth one.
On their journey to Tahiti, the crew faced inclement weather conditions and illness, and ended up having to stay in Tahiti for five months before it was safe to set out again. During this time, many of the young men came to know the Oceanic women living on Tahiti and the surrounding islands. When they were finally able to set sail again, conditions on board the Bounty did not improve. Indeed, the following events suggest that they worsened. Disgruntled by Captain Bligh’s leadership, a mutiny was organised by Fletcher Christian, a crew member. Christian and his fellow mutineers sent Bligh and eighteen others adrift, and directed the ship back towards Tahiti.
When the group arrived back in Tahiti, they brought on board a number of women and a handful of men from Tahiti and the surrounding islands. While some accounts claim that these women came on board willingly, many suggest that they were captured by force. The British men and Oceanic women then made their way to Pitcairn Island, which was, in 1789, deserted. Pitcairn Island was to become, therefore, a cultural melting pot of sorts. The British and Tahitian cultural traditions mixed in such a way that a unique Pitcairn culture was born.
The community on Pitcairn Island in 1789 was a small one, and the community remains small today. For the people from Pitcairn, this often makes it easy to trace their lineage, and find a sense of pride that comes from both their British ancestors and their Tahitian mothers. Mauatua, for example, was one of the founding mothers of the Pitcairn community that exists today. She was the oldest woman brought from Tahiti, and she married Fletcher Christian, the leader of the mutineers. Later, she partnered with Edward Young, another mutineer, so many people from Pitcairn with the named Christian and Young can trace their ancestry to Mauatua.
Along with the other Tahitian women, Mauatua helped to bring the tradition of the tapa cloth to Pitcairn Island. The tapa is a type of cloth made by beating and decorating tree bark in very particular learned ways. When they arrived on Pitcairn, the Tahitian women found that there was a different variety of materials available to them for tapa-making, and so the practice evolved. The women used tapa for many day-to-day purposes, including clothing and bedding. The knowledge of tapa-making is passed down through the matrilineal line, meaning from woman to woman. Pitcairn tapa is found around the world today. Mauatua’s tapa is found in London, as is her great-granddaughter, Helena Beatrice Young’s, while Mauatua’s daughters, Polly and Dolly, made tapa that is found in New Zealand and Oxford. These pieces of tapa clearly demonstrate the matrilineal process, as they all resemble one another, being fine, pale pieces of cloth. The matrilineality of tapa leaves the power of cultural transference in the hands of the Oceanic women and their descendants, many of whom still practice, or are trying to revive the art of tapa-making today.

New PhD Students in the Department of History

Just a brief note to introduce you to two new-ish postgrad students who joined us a little later in the year than our initial cohort. Matthew and Anne have been participating in the first year seminar with Chris Hilliard and I am sure everyone will join me in welcoming them to the department.
Matthew Sullivan: PhD, part time. Supervisors: Shane White and Thomas Adams. I’m undertaking an examination of the conflict between the Black Liberation Army (BLA) and the New York Police Department (NYPD) during the 1970s. The project will explore the origin, progress and recollection of the conflict in its political and cultural context.
Anne Thoeming: PhD, full-time. Supervisors: Julia Horne and Sophie Loy-Wilson. My thesis is a biographical study of Dr Herbert Moran – Australian medical intellectual, footballer, cancer specialist, prolific author and Mussolini supporter.
For a list of the other students who joined us in late 2016 or early 2017, please see
Mike M.

History on Monday – Seminar Series Semester 2, 2017

The Department of History at the University of Sydney presents:
History on Monday
Seminar Series for Postgraduates and Faculty
Held at 12.10-1.30
in Woolley Common Room, Woolley Building A22
(Enter Woolley through the entrance on Science Road and climb the stairs in front of you. Turn left down the corridor, and the WCR is the door at the end of the hall)
Click here for map
2016 Coordinator:
Professor Dirk Moses
The semester at a glance:
Semester 2 2017
7 August
Ayhan Aktar (Bilgi University, Istanbul)
Remembering and Forgetting: Official Histories and Silenced Memories in Turkey
14 August
Leigh Ann Wheeler (SUNY Binghamton)
Sexual Civil Liberties and the Rise of Gay Rights: An Untold History of Stealth and Wealth
21 August
Phillippa Hetherington (School of Slavonic and East European Studies, London)
Imperial Governmentalities and the Campaign to End the Traffic in Women in the Russian Empire
28 August
Alison Bashford (University of Cambridge)
Gendering Modern World History
4 September
Anna Ross (University of Warwick)
Tetouan: Spanish Imperialism after the Americas, 1913-56
11 September
Frances Steel (University of Wollongong)
Anglo Worlds in Motion and Transpacific Encounters
18 September
Saliha Belmessous (UNSW)
Emancipation within Empire, Algeria, 1945-1962
25 AVCC Common Week
2 October
Labour Day
9 October
Katie McDonough (Western Sydney University)
Public Works Laboratory: Experiments in Provincial Governance in Eighteenth-Century France
16 October
Stephen Macekura (Indiana University Bloomington)
The Rhodesian Quandary: Accounting for International Development in the 1940s and 1950s
23 October
Andreas Stucki (University of Bern)
Engendering the Iberian Empires: Domesticity, Female Cooperation, Violence and Resistance, c. 1955-1975
30 October
Richard Steigmann-Gall (Kent State University)
Star-Spangled Fascism: American Interwar Political Extremism in Comparative Perspective

Three first books by History Department staff launched

Crowd 2.jpg
Dr Anne Rees (right, centre) talks of the impact that Australians in Shanghai should make
On 21 March, the Department of History celebrated a launch of three books by its lecturers before an audience of over 40 colleagues and friends.
* Chin Jou, Supersizing Urban America: How Inner Cities Got Fast Food with Government Help (University of Chicago Press, 2017):
Launcher: Warwick Anderson
* Sophie Loy-Wilson, Australians in Shanghai: Race, Rights and Nation in Treaty Port China (Routledge, 2017):
Launcher: Ann Rees with introduction by Kirsten McKenzie.
* Marco Duranti, The Conservative Human Rights Revolution: European Identity, Transnational Politics, and the Origins of the European Convention (Oxford University Press, 2017):
Launcher: Danielle Celermajer
The Department thanks the launchers and congratulates Chin, Sophie, and Marco on their tremendous achievement.
The Department also thanks Dirk Moses and Natasha Wheatley for generously offering to host the triple book launch.
Warwick and Chin.jpg
Professor Warwick Anderson lauds Dr. Chin Jou’s provocative Supersizing Urban America, while Dr. Jou (middle, left) looks on.

New Reviews for our Latest Published Books

Books by some of our newest members of staff at the History Department are making waves around the world.
The prestigious Times Higher Education Supplement recently reviewed Chin Jou’s book, Supersizing Urban America at
The influential Australian Book Review took on Miranda Johnson’s The Land is our History:
Dissent magazine looked at Marco Duranti’s The Conservative Human Rights Revolution at
And the Times Literary Supplement reviewed David Brophy’s book, Uyghur Nation at
It is a privilege to work with such a talented group of people.
Congrats to Chin, Miranda, Marco and David!

What is the Social Inclusion Program?

The History and CAHS Social Inclusion Program works to address the underrepresentation of students from low socio-economic and diverse backgrounds at the University of Sydney.

The History and Classics Ancient History Social Inclusion Program works to address the underrepresentation of students from low socio-economic and diverse backgrounds at the University of Sydney and in History courses especially. The Program not only initiates and strengthens connections between partner schools and the University, the Program is structured in such a way as to be of service to our partner schools, responding to the needs of both students and their teachers. By familiarising high school students from Mount Druitt, Parramatta, Granville, Campbelltown, Auburn, Liverpool, Coonabarabran, and Broken Hill with the University, the Program aims to foster the aspirations of students from these communities to pursue and excel in tertiary studies. Here is a summary of what we’ve been up to:
First in the Family (FiF)
Created in late 2015 after the schools outreach program prompted new efforts to support students at the University who shared backgrounds with the communities in which we were engaging, we are now spear-heading a Faculty wide effort to create a First-in-Family network among students and staff.
The network meets at least once a semester to invite student membership, with a view of becoming a university-wise, student-run society through the University of Sydney Union. The meetings, as well as promotion online and through student publications Honi Soit and the Student Representative Council (SRC)’s Counter Course Guide, have helped increase the visibility of the network as well as the unique experiences and perspectives of first generation students. In 2017, FiF partnered with a new SRC initiative, the Comprehensive High School Network, to connect first in family students to leadership opportunities in the university community. Run by SRC Education Officers, the Comprehensive High School Network is building a mentoring program where first year students of low SES, first in family or public school backgrounds receive support and guidance from senior students of similar backgrounds. We are currently working on a combined event for FiF and E12 scholarship recipients to help foster a community of support on campus for students from marginalised backgrounds.
School visits to the university
Piloted in 2011, the visits are usually structured around a short learning module consisting of 1-2 sessions. Sessions may involve mini-lectures from university staff and visits to university museum collections. Current postgraduate, honours and/or undergraduate students provide campus tours.
Previous examples include the Medieval Sydney history project (2013) with Granville Boys, Kograh High School and Malek Fahd Islamic School, and the Migrant Sydney history project (2014) with Chifley College. We have just wrapped up this year’s Museum Project Based Learning with Year 7 students from Granville Boys High School where students created virtual museums, presenting what they had learned about curatorial practices to their peers, teachers and parents. Students who give the best presentations receive prizes from the Department of History.
Year 11 Historical Investigation Program
The Department of History has operated the Year 11 Mentoring Program since 2012.
Taking place over 5 sessions, postgraduate research students visit low SES partner schools to mentor students in creating historical projects, with the students visiting the University to learn research and library skills and to present their projects before an audience of their peers, Faculty and students. Students who give the best presentations receive prizes from the Department of History.
This year’s program is currently underway; we have once again partnered with Modern History students at Granville Boys and Ancient History students at Miller Technology High School.
Year 12 History Extension Mentoring Program
Started with 2015 HSC students at Chifley College, this program is similar to the Year 11 Program: university students guide HSC Extension students in the research and writing of their History Projects
For the 2016/17 HSC year, we are working with Chifley College as per previous years. We have also partnered with a new school to the Social Inclusion Program, Cecil Hills High School. Students submit the best essays receive prizes from the Department of History.
Essay prizes to Department of History students
Initiated in 2016, History students are nominated by staff for the best essay on the topic of social inclusion.
Regional Program
Between 2013-2015, the program engaged with the following schools: Willyama High School, Broken Hill High School, Wilcannia Central School, Dubbo Senior College, Gilgandra High School, Coonabarabran High School. The Department of History and CAHS are working on reconnecting with regional schools for late 2017/2018.
We have seen increased enrolments from at least three of our priority partner schools who rarely sent students to Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney in the past. For example, two of the students with whom we worked intensively at Chifley College in Mount Druitt, which has a higher than normal Aboriginal student population, applied for and received E12 scholarships last year. This year, five students applied for the E12 program and have received offers, though not all are enrolling in an Arts degree.
But it is the community engagement aspect of the programs that has driven our efforts most, and regardless of the number of enrolments this engagement might engender, the programs have enriched the experiences of staff, students, and those in the schools while breaking down perceived barriers between an elite University and the communities that it is supposed to serve.
To find out more about the Social Inclusion Program or to get involved in one of its projects, contact Professor Michael A. McDonnell at