Farewell to Miranda Johnson

Dear Colleagues and friends of History,

Because we may not all get an opportunity to see Miranda before she formally takes up her new post at the University of Otago, I wanted to say a few words before she leaves. It goes without saying that her departure will be a huge loss to the Department, SOPHI and the University.

Miranda started with Warwick Anderson in REGS in August 2012 as one of the first PDRAs in the Laureate program. As Warwick often has said, she proved to be not only a wonderfully engaging and productive colleague and collaborator, she intellectually transformed the program, especially though her ideas about Indigenous racial modernities. It was during this period that she wrote The Land is Our History (2016) and organised a very successful international  conference resulting in the co-edited collection Pacific Futures: Past and Present (2018). She worked hard to build programs in Pacific and Indigenous histories in the Department and across the University, a valiant effort she redoubled on taking up a teaching position in the Department in July 2015, where she immediately excelled.    

In 2017, Miranda’s teaching was acknowledged with a FASS ‘Excellence in Teaching’ Award, particularly for her hands-on engagement with students and guests in her unit entitled The Pitcairn Project (where you can read about some of the students’ work).

In the same year, The Land is Our History, was shortlisted for the General History Prize in the NSW Premier’s History Awards. The judges described Miranda’s work in glowing terms:

‘The Land Is Our History’ is a superb example of the power of comparative, transnational historical research. It explores indigenous rights movements, from the late 1960s onwards, across three Commonwealth settler states — Canada, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. Miranda Johnson draws on a rich array of source material, including legal cases, petitions, interviews and media reports, to create an engaging and path-breaking book.

In 2018, The Land is Our History was awarded the W.K. Hancock Prize of the Australian Historical Association, and it is worth quoting the citation in full:

Miranda Johnson has produced an ambitious, original and imaginative history exploring land, indigeneity, legal rights and activism across three settler-colonial nations. Thinking transnationally, Johnson explores legal and public discourses to draw together a raft of distinctive events and personalities into a vast and coherent canvas. She weaves nation-based histories of indigenous-settler conflict over land into wider networks and power structures, making sense of seemingly disparate developments in indigenous activism. Archival documents and oral accounts highlight the strength and moral authority of indigenous leaders who worked to gain acknowledgement of traditional ownership of land, and to interrupt and influence public debates around national identity. Johnson writes with precision, flow and economy. The work has a compelling argument, convincingly showing the complex and sophisticated ways indigenous activisms functioned to change settler attitudes towards land and indigenous belonging. An exemplary history, The Land Is Our History brings important new insights to a significant topic in both the past and the present.

Miranda talked about her work with student Ryan Cropp.

More recently, Miranda showcased some of her new work on legal history and Native identities in an essay in the internationally renowned journal, American Historical Review, entitled “The Case of the Million Dollar Duck: A Hunter, His Treaty, and the Bending of the Settler Contract.”

I’ll always remember co-teaching ‘Frontier Violence in Modern Memory’ with Miranda in 2017. There’s probably no better way to get to know your colleagues! Working closely with Miranda allowed me to see first-hand what a brilliant teacher and scholar she is. I heard nothing but praise and appreciation from students for her teaching and I picked up quite a few tips watching her lectures from the front row.

Miranda’s commitment to her students, the Department and the broader University community is on graphic display in her recent reflection on online teaching, published online in Meanjin.

It’s a plea for ‘the poetics of in-person classroom teaching, not as a value-added extra for an elite cohort, but as the essence of what we do’. It’s also a reminder of what her students and colleague will miss when she goes. 

We need to establish respectful and generative classroom dynamics quickly with and among our students, many of whom do not know each other. These dynamics must be subtly but firmly maintained. How do you draw out the shy ones? Put them in small-groups, often awkward in many of the classrooms we are working in, but achievable if the chairs or tables can be moved around. How do you moderate the domineering over-talker in class? Sit beside them. Make eye contact with everyone during the session, although not too much. Help them be seen. Notice the one who pushes his chair back, angling his body back from the desk, his gaze directed anywhere but here. Bring him back. Watch for the over-anxious, fastidiously taking notes in order to avoid answering questions.

I’m sure that I speak for everyone when I wish Miranda and her family well for their future lives and careers in Aotearoa NZ.

All best wishes,

Mark McKenna, Chair, Department of History

Miranda Johnson

History of University Life Seminar

History of University Life

2020 Sydney Research Webinar Series in Higher Education
Wednesday 5 August 2020 | 4:00-5:00pm

What do we learn from a history of international students at Australian universities?  

To examine this question and others about the social and political economy of international students in Australia since the 1960s, join our second 2020 History of University Life online seminar with panellists Julia Horne, University Historian at the University of Sydney, and Gaby Ramia, Associate Professor in Public Policy at the University of Sydney.   We will also hear from international students about their experience in Covid-19 times.  

Chaired by Matthew A. M. Thomas, Senior Lecturer in Comparative Education and Sociology at the University of Sydney and co-convenor of History of University Life.  

Julia Horne is Associate Professor in the Department of History who works on the history of higher education in Australia from 1850 to the present-day. Her books include Sydney the Making of a Public University (Miegunyah Press, 2012, co-authored with Geoffrey Sherington) and Preserving the Past: The University of Sydney and the Unified National System of Higher Education 1987-96, (Melbourne University Publishing, 2017, co-authored with Stephen Garton). In 1999-2002 she created a substantial archive of in-depth surveys and interviews with international students about their Australian experiences in the 1950s and 1960s (for UNSW Archives).

Gaby Ramia is Associate Professor in Public Policy in the Department of Government and International Relations and Theme Co-Leader, Smart and Working, in the NSW Institute of Public Policy, at The University of Sydney. His books include Governing Social Protection in the Long Term, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) and Regulating International Students’ Wellbeing (Policy Press, 2013, co-authored with Simon Marginson and Erlenawati Sawir). Gaby is currently one of three Chief Investigators on an Australian Research Council funded study on international student housing precarity.
Matthew A.M. Thomas is a senior lecturer in comparative education and sociology of education at the University of Sydney. He has worked as a public school teacher in the United States and as an educational researcher, educator, and consultant in Australia, Mali, Nigeria, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Zambia. His research examines educational policies, pedagogical practices, teachers’ lives, and the changing roles of teacher and higher education institutions. Most recently, Matthew is the co-editor of Examining Teach For All (Routledge, 2020) and the Handbook of Theory in Comparative and International Education (Bloomsbury, 2021).

Future seminar dates for your diary in this special series 23 September @4-5pm 14 October @4-5pm 4 November @4-5pm 2 December @4-5pm 

These online seminars are brought to you by History of University Life Sydney Research Seminar in Higher Education. History of University Life began in 2008 as a joint forum between the University of Sydney and St Paul’s college to discuss the history and role of universities in Australian life.  

Many thanks for the support of St Paul’s College since 2008. And thanks, too, for the wonderful assistance for the 2020 online series provided by the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, University of Sydney.  

For more information about the series please email the History of University Life convenors Click here to email.
Registration The Zoom webinar link will be sent as an email and calendar invite on the Monday prior to the event. If you registered for the entire series when you registered for the last seminar, you won’t need to register again. You will receive an invitation to this webinar automatically.

New registration? please click here to RSVP Missed the first seminar? If you missed the first seminar, or would like to watch it again, the webinar in this special series is now available online on the SOPHI talks site.

HUL on Social Media Please use the hashtag #UniKeeper for your social media posts. You can follow the History of University Life on Twitter @HULseminar.

Other social media
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Follow St Paul’s College on Twitter See the Department of History blog

Image by Max Dupain reproduced courtesy of the University Art Collection, University of Sydney.

University Education is a Pathway to Employment

History of University Life II Sydney Research Seminar in Higher Education

You can now listen to and watch a recording of the full session above, here.

On Wednesday 24 June 2020, History of University Life* held its first live online seminar with an audience of 90 people. Professors Ariadne Vromen (ANU) and Susan Goodwin (University of Sydney) joined a panel with University Historian Julia Horne to discuss the importance of public investment in our public universities.

Just days before, the Commonwealth Minister of Education Dan Tehan announced far-reaching changes to HECS fees and university funding for teaching. The announcement prompted the panel to focus even more sharply on what exactly needs to be reformed and why.

Ariadne Vromen argued that we owe young people citizenship, employment and economic security. Ariadne explained that “the individual and social costs of young people’s exclusion from employment and education are profound and long-lasting”. We need as a nation, Ariadne said, to acknowledge that responsibility to create jobs lies with governments, industry and businesses. The government’s idea of “job ready” graduates subverts that greater responsibility.

Susan Goodwin unveiled UniKeeper, the social democratic plan to support public higher education. This plan has 3 planks: more affordable public higher education places; universal income support payments for higher education students and a proper plan to fund the public sector higher education teaching and research workforce.

Only 1 out of 3 university students receive any form of student income support and 82% of university students depend on paid employment to support them while they study.

This last figure is not surprising since Australia’s mass higher education is now one of the largest systems in the world (on the basis of population parity). Susan explained how “in Australia, young people’s citizenship is denied and eroded by enforced financial dependency on families.”

The questions flowed thick and fast. What do young people think? Should student income support be means-tested? How is higher education a public good? Who should lead the discussion on how to reshape higher education? Is ‘job ready’ a useful term in the discussion of higher education? These and more questions will be explored in the rest of this series. See SOPHI Events for further details.

* History of University Life II Sydney Research Seminar in Higher Education. History of University Life began in 2008 as a joint forum between the University of Sydney and St Paul’s college to discuss the history and role of universities in Australian life.

University Education as a Pathway to Employment was held as an online seminar on Wednesday 24 June 2020. Follow the link above for further details about this event including information on the panellists and to sign up for future webinars in this series.

History Student Prizes

Every year, the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI) holds a ceremony to recognise the brilliant endeavours of our students – both undergraduate and postgraduate.

This year we had to adapt to the virtual circumstances of the pandemic, so we celebrated both our Prize and Scholarship winners by holding the Award Ceremony as a Zoom webinar.  

The fabulous SOPHI team, working with Tiffany Brittan from FASS, worked incredibly hard to come up with what we believe was a positive, engaging and fun event for our students, their families, and our donors. It was also a pioneering effort for the Faculty, as it was one of the first fully online Prizes night.

Over 135 people joined together to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of our students across the School, including many of our wonderful History students.

The History Prize Winners are listed below, followed by a note about what each prize recognises. You can also watch the speech of the History Department Chair, Professor Mark McKenna here, in which he congratulates the prize winners, and notes the special importance of History and the Humanities in times of crises.

The full program, including the award winners from each of the Departments of Archaeology, Classics and Ancient History, Philosophy, Gender and Cultural Studies, and the Scholarships awarded in International and Global Studies, can be found here. The full details of the History prizes listed below, are on pp. 17-19.

Many congratulations to all our Prize and Scholarship Winners.



AE (Tony) Cahill History Prize

Robert Stone

Aisling Society of Sydney Prize for an essay on Irish or Irish-Australian History

Siobhan Ryan

Australasian Pioneers’ Club Scholarship

Elizabeth Heffernan

Charles Brunsdon Fletcher Prize for Pacific History

Robert Mason

Charles Trimby Burfitt Prize for the Study of Australian History Prior to 1900

Nicole Leong

George Arnold Wood Memorial Prize for History I

Clio Davidson-Lynch

George Arnold Wood Memorial Prize for History II

Samuel Goldberg

GS Caird Scholarship in History II

Imogen Harper

Siobhan Ryan

Helen Newbon Bennett Memorial Prize for Senior History

Briony Moore

History Department Prizes – For an outstanding essay on a subject relating to social justice and/or social inclusion

Sarah Blencowe

Samantha Whaitiri-Faitua

History Department Prizes – For outstanding work in HSTY3901

Samuel Lewis

History Department Prizes – For outstanding work in HSTY3902

Amanda Armstrong

History Department Prizes – For outstanding work in HSTY3903

Siobhan Ryan

Isabel M King Memorial Prize for History III

Georgia Horsley

J H M Nolan Memorial Prize for Proficiency in History

Pola Cohen

Philippe Erdos Prize in History

Elisabeth Barber


Undergraduate Equity Scholarships in History

Aisha Allazze

Micaila Bellanto

Darcy Campbell

Lydia Fagan

Theresa Moran

Laura Sole

Trent Taylor

God Save the Queen?

Sculpture in wood representing Queen Victoria.
AFRICA. Nigeria / Lagos [?]. Cultural Group: Yoruba Aku [?] Saro [?] Local Name: Unknown. Materials: Wood Plant / ?.
Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. Acc. No. 1965.10.1.
For more details, see Pitt Rivers Museum

The recent decision by the High Court on the ‘palace letters’ – correspondence between Governor-General John Kerr and Queen Elizabeth II and her staff at the time of the dismissal by the Governor-General of Gough Whitlam as Australian Prime Minister in 1975 – has again focussed interest on relations between Australians and the monarchy.  Though a referendum on a republic was defeated in 1999, largely because of disagreement about the mode of election of a non-royal Australian Head of State, the issue of the republic remains a live topic in political debate.  Meanwhile, the British royal family remains constantly in the news, from reports about Harry and Meghan’s flight to the United States to accusations of sexual misconduct by Prince Andrew.

A major collaborative project in the Department of History, led by Professor Robert Aldrich and Dr Cindy McCreery, has shed new light on the history of monarchy in the modern world, and in particular, on crucial links between monarchies and colonies and on the role of monarchies in the process of decolonisation.  Aldrich and McCreery have edited three volumes of papers on colonialism and monarchy, the most recent of which was published in June 2020, Monarchies and Decolonisation in Asia.  It followed Crowns and Colonies: European monarchies and overseas empires (2016) and Royals on Tour: Politics, pageantry and colonialism (2018), all three books published in Manchester University Press’ prestigious ‘Studies in Imperialism’ series.

With a total of 45 chapters and 919 pages, these three volumes include contributions by Aldrich and McCreery, as well as by the Department’s Professor Mark McKenna and Dr Jim Masselos (a now retired member and current Honorary Reader), as well as a cohort of scholars who have studied history at the University of Sydney – Jean Gelman Taylor, Matt Fitzpatrick, Susie Protschky, Emmanuelle Guenot and Bruce Baskerville.  Contributions to the volumes have come from specialists at several Australian universities and also from institutions in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, the United States, Canada, India, Myanmar, Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

In addition, Aldrich and McCreery have edited a special issue of the Royal Studies Journal on visits to the Dominions of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa by British royals in the twentieth century.  They have also engaged in individual work on modern monarchy, including Aldrich’s Banished Potentates: Dethroning and exiling indigenous monarchs under British and French colonial rule, 1815-1955 (2018).  McCreery is currently completing a major study of the world tour of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s son, in the 1860s and 1870s.  They have organised three conferences at the University of Sydney on monarchy and colonialism, with SOPHI financial support. Along with Dr Falko Schnike, Aldrich and McCreery organised an international conference on ‘Global Royal Families’, for which SOPHI provided partial funding, that was held at the German Historical Institute in London in January 2020 and that will also lead to publications.  In first semester of this year, they taught an honours seminar on ‘modern monarchy’ in the Department of History.

For Aldrich and McCreery, monarchy is often wrongly seen only as an anachronism in the twenty-first century world, or just as a theme for series such as ‘The Crown’ and tabloid news stories.  However, several dozen countries around the world, including Australia, still have a monarch as a head of state, and in some countries, the sovereign rules as well as reigns, even wielding absolute power.  Even in ‘constitutional monarchies’, hereditary sovereigns have ‘reserve powers’ (including the power to dismiss prime ministers directly or through their vice-regal representatives), even if they are rarely exercised, and other constitutional prerogatives.  They are frequently seen as symbols of historical continuity and national unity, and as exemplars of national values.  Many have enormous wealth, grand palaces and priceless collections of art, and they are at the centre of a large group of aristocrats, courtiers, providores, military personal and servants.  They are celebrities, their private lives the subject of almost unbounded public curiosity. 

Monarchy is one of the oldest and most widespread forms of government in the world, and in recent years there has been a renewed current systematic scholarly research on the subject to which Aldrich and McCreery and their collaborators have made a major contribution.  They have provided new Australian perspectives on monarchy and, with new materials and approaches, have discovered the key role played by the crown and sovereigns – both indigenous and foreign – in the processes of colonialism and decolonisation.  Through their publications, they have investigated monarchy across the world, including in Australia and the Commonwealth, and revealed the potency of the crown as institution and symbol, and of individual royals as key actors in international affairs.  In undertaking this work, they have also positioned the Department of History at Sydney as a leading centre for studies in modern monarchy and as a link in an international network of scholars examining the cultural, social and political history of an institution that continues to retain relevance – and also to provoke debate – in current affairs.

Want to learn more? Listen in to the “Hour of Power Podcast” with Robert and Cindy: “Monarchies really aren’t as simple as we think.”

Sydney University Historians Respond to the Pandemic

Despite the demands of the rapid shift to online teaching and new child care responsibilities, academic staff in the Department of History, University of Sydney, have been applying their expertise to help us understand the Covid-19 pandemic and its implications. Historians are revealing the social, cultural and political dimensions of the disease outbreak, especially in relation to racism and inequality, as well as illuminating its impact on international relations, economies, human rights and university learning.

Sophie Loy-Wilson has eloquently connected the Australian response to Covid-19–the so-called ‘China virus’–to our country’s long history of racism, and explained how our leaders should combat viral panic, ignorance and prejudice.

Turning to the United States, Thomas Adams considers the damage neoliberalism and health care privatisation are doing to workers’ health. In collaboration with the Greater New Orleans Coalition for a Fair Hospitality Fund, Adams is critically examining how economic aid is distributed in the pandemic. Meanwhile, Pamela Maddock, a recent Ph.D. graduate, is writing on the history of militarisation of American reactions to crises such as epidemics.

Sophie Chao is productively exploring how Covid-19 makes us think about our bodies differently, and reshapes intimacy and domesticity. A further article has just come out with Thesis Eleven, along with a special issue of Oceania, on the pandemic in the Pacific, co-edited with anthropologist Ute Eickelkamp.

In a similar cultural vein, Warwick Anderson has written on how to have philosophy in a pandemic, why the iconic Australian beach was re-imagined as a special space of contamination, and what the controversies over mask wearing mean for ‘face work’ in a time of Covid-19, particularly in the United States. Isis, the leading history of science journal, commissioned him to take a ‘second look’ at Charles Rosenberg’s The Cholera Years (1962) in the light of the pandemic, and he is writing an essay review for Public Books of three forthcoming epidemic histories. Additionally, he spoke with Christopher Lydon on U.S. National Public Radio’s Open Source–along with Jim Kim, former president of the World Bank–about national responses to Covid-19.

Others in History are explaining the pandemic’s implications for governance and international relations. Glenda Sluga looks closely at how the Coronascene has licensed xenophobia and nationalism, with dire consequences for international order. She has spoken widely on global aspects of the response to the pandemic and the recovery from it. In numerous articles, James Curran urges Australia not to use the excuse of Covid-19 to erect permanent walls against the rest of the world. He explores the pandemic’s impact on our relations with China and the United States. Marco Duranti is working with data scientists to conduct ‘text mining’ in order to illuminate what reactions to the new coronavirus might mean for human rights

Within the University sector itself, Julia Horne is writing on how Covid-19 has exposed Australian universities’ reliance on international students. While Miranda Johnson reflects thoughtfully on the pedagogical meanings of the shift toward online learning. Postgraduate student Robin M. Eames and undergraduate (and University disability officer) Margot Beavon-Collin have written a statement on behalf of the University of Sydney Disabilities Collective, explaining how epidemic diseases such as Covid-19 historically have disproportionately affected those with disabilities. Frances Clarke is helping history students create and curate materials, especially oral histories, for the Fisher Library’s new Covid-19 archive. And postgraduate student Hollie Pich has analysed such archive work—Covid history in the making, or capturing the pandemic for posterity—in the Guardian.

Finally, for some upcoming analysis and discussion about different aspects of the relationship between Universities and the current crisis, please join us online for the History of University Life seminar, starting with a discussion about what would it take to have a university-led recovery in the post-Covid world. Chaired by Julia Horne, University Historian at the University of Sydney and co-convenor of History of University Life, an invitation and full program details can be found here.

Sydney historians are entering the Coronasphere through diverse routes, but with the common goal to employ the methods and insights of the humanities and social sciences to better understand and engage with our global predicament.

Warwick Anderson

June 2020

Congratulations to Jamie Dunk

Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of the History Department, I’d like to congratulate Jamie Dunk. His recent book, Bedlam at Botany Bay, has just been shortlisted for the Ernest Scott Prize.

The prize is awarded annually to “the book judged to be the most distinguished contribution to the history of Australia or New Zealand or to the history of colonisation published in the previous year”.

This is a wonderful achievement as evidenced by the judges’ comments below. Well done Jamie!

All best,

Mark McKenna

Chair, Department of History

James Dunk, Bedlam at Botany Bay, New South, 2019

It’s the history of New South Wales, but not as we know it. The names are familiar, as are the events – Macarthurs, Wentworths, Blaxland, Bligh, rebellion, inquiries, select committees – but by paying close attention to the ‘strong personalities’, ‘eccentricities’ and ‘unfortunate endings’, Dunk puts us in the mirror house, where all that was familiar now feels strange and illuminating of quite a different colony. This is more than a collective biography, a history of whitefella madness, or the bureaucratic and jurisdictional journey to self-government. Dunk’s book reminds us that there is nothing inevitable about how things turn out: this is a rare feat in history-writing.

Mentoring Help

Dear First-Year students,

Feeling a bit lost as Uni starts? Worried about how to manage your workload? Nervous about speaking up in tutorials? Anxious about assessments? Unsure of who to ask for advice? 

We are here to help!

This year, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) has introduced a new peer mentoring program“Communities of Support”, designed to offer you guidance and support as you as you navigate your first full year of university study.

Communities of Support offers all FASS first years regular mentoring sessions with senior undergraduate students who have volunteered to provide you the benefit of their experience, enthusiasm, and encouragement as you settle in to life at university. By participating in the program, you will learn a lot about how University works, what skills, strategies, and ‘life-hacks’ might help you to do well in your studies, and be guaranteed the support of a university peer who is invested in your general welfare and wellbeing.You will also get the chance to meet other first year students in a friendly and supportive environment.

Mentoring sessions begin in Week 3 of Semester 1 and will take place in small groups for one hour per week. (Semester 2 mentoring will take place fortnightly.) The day and time of your session will be scheduled according to your availability.

To sign up for this valuable mentoring experience, register your interest here: https://sydney.au1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8j0mwXwmiTE83kx. Spots are limited, so we recommend you register as soon as possible.

Once you have registered, we will be in touch with the time, day, and location of your first mentoring session and contact details for your assigned mentor.

Thanks in advance for your participation. We hope you find the experience rewarding, and please do feel free to contact our CoS Project Officer, Mr Simon Wyatt-Spratt if you have any questions (simon.wyatt-spratt@sydney.edu.au).


Dr Kieryn McKay | LINK Project Manager

Department of English | The University of Sydney

Room S353 | John Woolley Building A20 | The University of Sydney | NSW | 2006

t: +61 2 9036 9957; f: +61 2 9351 2434; e: kieryn.mckay@sydney.edu.au

Student Volunteers Needed

Dear students,

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney would like to invite you to become a volunteer mentor for a new Faculty-wide first year mentoring program in 2020. Entitled “Communities of Support”, th​is extended mentoring program aims to address student transition, support, and retention issues among some of our most underrepresented cohorts ​as they enter and undertake their first year of study. ​We also hope to contribute to student well-being and satisfaction ​by encouraging stronger communities among our FASS student cohort. 

About the Communities of Support (CoS) Program

Transitioning to life at University can be challenging. How do change your timetable? How do you keep on top of your workload while working a part-time job? How do you prepare for exams or undertake research for your assessments? How do you make new friends in a Faculty as big and as broad as FASS? First year students are often overwhelmed by the difficult task of adjusting to the many new experiences they encounter in their first year of study. Those students who are among the first in their family to attend university or who come from low-socioeconomic backgrounds are also less likely to have members of their family or community who can provide effective support as they transition to higher education. We would like to do more to help. 

The FASS Communities of Support Mentoring Program offers extended peer support to first year students across their first year of study. Open to all FASS first year undergraduates but designed to cater specifically to those of low-socioeconomic backgrounds and/or first in family, the program offers weekly mentoring throughout Semester 1, fortnightly mentoring in Semester 2, and follows a structured schedule of topics that progress in-step with the first year experience. 

Your Involvement

As a Communities of Support (CoS) Mentor, you would be helping to enrich the first year experience for our ‘mentee’ program participants. As a second year, third year (or beyond!), you have already learned a lot about how life at University works, and what skills, strategies, and ‘life-hacks’ help you to do well in your studies. We be thrilled if you could offer your general knowledge, experience, and your support to those who are just starting out at University. 

Mentoring is a very rewarding experience, and your involvement in the CoS program will help to develop your leadership capacity, communication skills, and your own cultural competencies in working with diverse student groups. We also hope that the program will offer a stronger sense of community for all of our Mentors and Fellows across the Faculty. Finally,  all volunteer mentors will receive will receive a $100 shopping voucher on completion of the program. 

If you are willing to participate as a CoS Mentor, you will be matched with 2-4 first year participants who will become your ‘mentee group’ across the year. We will provide you with mentoring training, as well as a calendar of topics and relevant ‘talking points’ to help guide your mentoring sessions. You will also be paired with a postgraduate CoS Leadership Fellow who you will meet with once a month to consult on your progress, ask questions, and who will offer you general support. Please note that your time commitment to the project will involve one hour per week throughout Semester 1 and one hour per fortnight throughout Semester 2 for your small group mentoring sessions, and one additional hour per month for coffee catch-ups with your allocated Fellow. All mentoring sessions and Fellows coffees will be arranged according to your availability. 

CoS Mentor Registration

All FASS students who are second-year ​undergraduates and above are invited to apply to become a volunteer ​CoS Mentor. We particularly encourage students who are themselves E12 scholarship recipients, are among the first generation in your family to go to University, ​are from diverse cultural backgrounds, come from a regional/rural area​, and/or belong to other under-represented cohorts at the University. Please note that if you have already signed up for an existing mentoring program, you can still enrol for this program, but we expect you to honour your original commitment as well.

You can apply by completing the CoS Mentor Registration at this link: https://sydney.au1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8CGryCDGz83RFB3. Applications are due by 9:00 pm, on Tuesday, March 3.

If you are selected for the program you will be asked to attend a welcome and training ​session on Friday, March 6, from 10am – 3pm. ​Alternative arrangements can be made for those who cannot attend. 

Thanks in advance for your help and participation, and please do feel free to contact our CoS Project Officer, Mr Simon Wyatt-Spratt if you have any questions (simon.wyatt-spratt@sydney.edu.au).

Associate Professor Melissa Hardie (English)

Professor Michael McDonnell (History)

Dr. Kieryn McKay (Project Manager)

Simon Wyatt-Spratt (Project Officer)

Global Royal Families

Global Royal Families: Concepts, Cultures, and Networks of International Monarchy, 1800-2020.

Conference held at the German Historical Institute London (GHIL), 16-18 January 2020. Conveners: Falko Schnicke (GHIL), Cindy McCreery (University of Sydney), and Robert Aldrich (University of Sydney).


Conference Report

Co-financed by the GHIL and the University of Sydney, the event brought together scholars from four continents and eight countries to discuss the timely issue of global monarchies. Over the two and a half days there were nearly forty attendees and nineteen speakers presenting ideas spanning royal families across two centuries and the continents of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. Despite the wide variance in time periods and geographical locations, there were many overlapping and complementary themes between the papers, including the importance of the visibility of monarchs, the need to secure status on a global stage, as the role of royals as official and unofficial diplomats, and the media’s influence over the public image of a royal person or dynasty. The conference’s main findings could be seen in its constant intertwining of global, national, and regional aspects of royal families and in proving the reoccurring political significance of monarchies in different nineteenth- and twentieth-century contexts.           

The conference opened with Robert Aldrich’s (University of Sydney) introductory talk detailing the coverage of global royal families in history and historiography. Starting with comparative examples from both the early nineteenth century and modern-day marriages between the Napoleon and Habsburg dynasties, Aldrich highlighted the intertwined genealogical, political, and cultural ties between royal families across the world. He maintained that in the nineteenth century European monarchies were affected by empire, which demonstrated their power to conquer and their interest in collections of ‘exotica’, yet simultaneously non-European monarchies were adopting western styles of clothing, architecture, and court culture to be more accepted on the global stage.

The first session focused upon royalty in international affairs and diplomacy and opened with a paper by Moritz A. Sorg (University of Freiburg) which examined the extent to which the First World War damaged royal family relationships across Europe. Sorg provided parallel case studies of Ferdinand I of Bulgaria and Ferdinand I of Romania to demonstrate how the First World War placed related monarchies on opposite sides, and the consequential impact this had on how these royal individuals were viewed in their respective countries and under the condition of increasing nationalism. Next, Michael Kandiah’s (King’s College London) paper focused upon how the British royal family since 1952 has utilized their ‘soft power’ to improve diplomatic relations between countries. Using oral testimonies of British diplomats, Kandiah explored how Queen Elizabeth II has been able to use her royal status, which places her above politics in order to maintain good relationships through official engagements, both internationally and in Britain.

The second session centred on the House of Windsor and their relationship with foreign royal houses. Continuing the focus on Queen Elizabeth II and the current British royal family, Falko Schnicke (GHIL) delivered a paper which analysed the content of speeches given at state visits and highlighted the input that the Government and the Palace had over these. He proved that is was the Foreign Office which inserted the references to personal family remarks within the speeches to demonstrate the network of monarchies and the intensity of the international royal relationships. Thus, the royal family functioned as a collective unit rather than as individuals. Following this Hilary Sapire (Birbeck College, University of London) examined the relationship between the British and Zulu royal families (in South Africa) in the colonial period and through the early twentieth century. She argued that royal events and the links to the British monarchy were used by both Zulu monarchists and nationalists to advance their cause for independence.

The first day closed with a keynote by Frank Mort (University of Manchester), which analysed how the media was used to transform the monarchy under George V and Queen Mary, and Edward VIII into a consumable entity for the public. The increased visibility of the royal family through informal royal visits both in Britain and the colonies helped to make them more accessible to the ordinary public. Mort took a bottom-up approach to judging how the public emotionally responded to different members of the royal family through drawing upon first-hand accounts of seeing royalty. He argued that the rise of human-interest journalism meant that there was a more extensive and global coverage of the royal family, and an attempt to make them more approachable by conducting unceremonious visits. He stressed the differences between George V and Queen Mary helping to solidify the notion of the royal family as a domestic unit, whilst the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII) fostered a celebrity culture around his younger lifestyle.

The second day of the conference began with session three which looked at the global reach of the British monarchy, with John R. Davis (Queen Mary London/ Historic Royal Palaces) beginning with British attitudes towards India in the nineteenth century. Using Queen Victoria’s diaries and royal library catalogues, Davis argued that Queen Victoria was first introduced to German philology through Prince Albert. This early introduction to philology and reoccurring meetings with renowned scholars such as Max Müller, helped to fuel her interest in Indian culture during the latter part of her life. Moving into the twentieth century, Christian Oberländer (University of Halle-Wittenberg) contrasted this with a paper analysing how the British royal family were a model for the Japan’s Imperial house, looking particularly at the role of the Japanese sovereign as a ‘symbol’ emperor after the Second World War. He argued that by effectively adopting the emperor as a head of state and embracing state visits, the Japanese Imperial family was able to open themselves up to the public at home and in the West.  

Session four continued the theme of royal travel through focusing on the Spanish and Austrian royal families. Firstly, Javier Moreno-Luzón (Complutense University of Madrid) explained how Alfonso XIII of Spain (r.1886-1931) fostered closer relations with Latin America through royal visits, celebrations, and a shared culture to create a transnational image of the royal family. He argued that since the late nineteenth century until the end of the 1920s, the royal family successfully promoted Spanish national identity centring on the monarchy through the careful selection of sending different royal individuals to Hispanophone Latin American countries. Thereby they were able to simultaneously promote the historic ties to Spain and highlight a progressive future. Aglaja Weindl (University of Munich) provided a case study of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and how he was an ‘unexpected global royal’ because of his world tour in 1892-3. This extensive travel not only educated the Archduke but provided an opportunity to build better relations with other Protestant and Orthodox countries. Consideration of the routine of ceremonies with bad company whilst undertaking official duties was emphasized and provided a humanistic account of royal life.

Session five focused upon global encounters, with Judith Rowbotham (University of Plymouth) using a range of local, national, and colonial newspapers to analyse the reception of the British royal family within different colonies. With examples of tours through India, Canada, Australia, and beyond from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century, she emphasized the impact that these visits had on global networking and diplomacy. Through specifically tailoring the tone of the visit and the activities, this not only aided relationships with the authorities, but allowed a sense of community to develop in the colonial public. Cindy McCreery (University of Sydney) followed this with a case study of the 1881 visit to Japan by King Kalakaua of Hawai’i and Princes Albert Victor and George of Great Britain, and explored how this occasion was used to foster better relations between the countries. With similarities that mirrored Oberländer’s paper, McCreery argued that the opening up of Japan to royal visits was an attempt for the country to reinvent its global image, appear more welcoming, and encourage trade deals. Such a tour also allowed the King of Hawai’i to develop an international presence. Photographs of the visit demonstrated that there was a clear acknowledgement of the status of foreign royalty, whilst showing differences in hierarchy due to age and position to the throne.

The following session centred around the importance of letter-writing between royals, with emphasis on female family relations. Susanne Bauer (University of Trier) explained her research project cataloguing and analysing the 20,000 letters of Augusta Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Queen of Prussia and Empress of Germany. She argued that Augusta expressed many political opinions within these letters, tried to advise her husband (whether he asked for advice or not), and was a key factor in building relationships with royalty and politicians across Europe and beyond with approximately 230 royal and non-royal correspondents. Mary T. Duarte (Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, USA) analysed the letters between four generations of female royals over the course of the nineteenth century from the line of ancestors of Maria Theresa of the House of Habsburg. She scrutinized the type of advice passed from mother to daughter, and between grandmother and granddaughter, especially pertaining to marriage and sexual life. She contended that as the generations went on the tone of this advice softened, although duty and obedience was still often accentuated.

 The second keynote of the conference was delivered by Irene Stengs (Meertens Instituut/ Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam), who provided an in-depth anthropological analysis of the mourning culture in Thailand following the death of King Rama IX in 2016, and the meaning of the symbolism and rituals in the coronation ceremony of King Rama X in 2019. Taking a step-by-step approach through the elements and stages of the coronation ceremony, Stengs highlighted how this event was used to unite the country through a shared experience and emotions. Whilst there was historical and religious precedent for several aspects of the event, the incorporation of modern technology, such as mass television broadcasting and drones, allowed an increased accessibility and personal quality to the new monarch. She also presented a close analysis of the use of colour by the organizers of the event to mark a new reign, and explained the significance this holds within Thai culture.

The final day of the conference started with a session exploring the regional dynasties and transnational royal families. Aidan Jones (King’s College London) gave a case study of Alexander II of Russia’s visit to Britain in 1874 on the occasion of his daughter Marie’s marriage to Prince Alfred. He analysed the dynastic politics of the marriage arrangement and the wider implications this had for international diplomacy. Priya Naik (University of Delhi) followed this with a paper exploring the consumption of Britishness by Indian Princes in the first half of the twentieth century. She argued that the consumption of goods, language, culture, and customs by Indian Princes was an attempt for them to be accepted within British society and to join an international aristocratic network.

The final session analysed the different international models of monarchy. Nicholas Miller (University of Lisbon), like McCreery, focused on King Kalakaua of Hawai’i (r.1874-1891) but this time comparing him to Sultan Abu Bakar of Johore (r.1886-1895) in the Malay States. He focused upon the two kings’ different approaches to ruling small monarchies and gaining international recognition for theirs states, as well as addressing the issue of labour migration. Charles Reed (Elizabeth City State University, Elizabeth City, USA) closed the conference by returning to India via the Gaekwad of Baroda. Like Naik, he highlighted the Gaekwad’s desire to foster good relations with the British. Reed’s approach was to explore how this was achieved through the lens of royal visits to Britain from the later nineteenth century and the public image they were trying to promote of a princely state in India during the colonial period and after independence.

The conference closed with reflections from the co-organizers who drew out some of the key themes across the papers. The breadth of time period and geographical locations had highlighted that monarchies achieved local, national, and global reaches. Several papers highlighted that royalty was used, often unofficially, for diplomatic reasons to improve relationships between dynasties and nations, which provoked discussions about how individual royal persons perceived their role. It was agreed that monarchy is an evolving concept, and in recent times through embracing modern technology and utilising media coverage, royal families were able to appear relatable and relevant to contemporary society. The importance of the family unit at the heart of the monarchy was understood to be a central factor in emphasizing the longevity and stability of the institution. Finally, the visibility of royalty, either through first-hand accounts of travel, or increased coverage in the press and accompanying images, was a central theme across many of the papers. This increased visibility frequently allowed the royal individuals to appear more personable and enhanced their popularity nationally and globally. The conference illustrated some of the paradoxes of private life and public role for royal families on a global stage. It also confirmed the need for further studies, even in the twenty-first century, continuing and evolving the central position in political, social, and cultural life occupied by monarchs and their royal families in many countries.

Paige Emerick (University of Leicester)