The Department of History is pleased to announce some recent news from our postgraduate community. These are a few completions from the past months. Most theses can now be found at the University of Sydney e-scholarship repository:
Elizabeth Miller’s doctoral thesis, “Planting of the Lord: Contemporary Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity in Australia,” analyses one of the most striking but understudied aspect of modern Australian history: the rise of evangelical religion in the last decades of the twentieth century. Utilising archival research and participant observation, her study demonstrates that megachurches emerged in Australia by allowing members to embrace certain aspects of modernity while shunning others. Examining both the lure and internal tensions that mark Pentecostal approaches to modern life, Miller provides the first scholarly treatment of evangelicalism’s rapid expansion in the recent past. Pointing to her “substantial and original contribution to scholarly knowledge” on this topic, examiners praised Miller’s lucid writing, impressive scope, wide grasp of the secondary literature, and imaginative reconstruction of the texture of evangelical services.
Danielle Thyer was awarded her PhD in May. Her thesis, “Reporting the ‘Unvarnished Truth’: The Origins and Transformation of Undercover Investigation in Nineteenth-Century New York,” traces the beginnings of a novel idea of the press as a vehicle for exposing objective ‘truth.’ Delving into a series of undercover investigations into the marriage market, political corruption, abortion providers, insane asylums and more, Danielle considers the evolution of mass media and journalistic practices, depictions of urban life, and changing gender relations. Examiners praised her thesis as “carefully and thoughtfully composed”; “outstanding” in its organisation of new knowledge of Victorian cultural practices; and written with “uncommon grace and verve.” As one examiner noted in congratulating Danielle, “completing a dissertation of this quality is a significant lifetime accomplishment.”
James Dunk was awarded his PhD in June. The examiners noted that his thesis, ‘The politics of Madness in a Penal Colony: New South Wales, 1788-1856’, was ‘an extremely well written and interesting loose cannon of a thesis’ aiming to ‘question, disrupt and blur established narratives’ of the colonial enterprise. ‘A highly original piece of scholarship’ and ‘a mature piece of historical writing’, it ‘uses madness as a leitmotif to explore the complex overlaps between freedom and coercion, individual rights and governmental and institutional power.’ ‘Dunk has worked across a now large and substantial body of historiography in both the international histories of madness, and also the histories of convict society in Australia (and internationally), and the additional historical strands of law, society and politics run through the body of this work …the historiographical mapping of the topic in this regard is exceptional’.
Justine Greenwood was awarded her PhD in August. Justine’s thesis, Welcome to Australia: Intersections between immigration and tourism in Australia 1945-2015, was described by examiners as “conceptually sophisticated, rich in the variety of secondary sources on which it depends, and admirably disciplined in its intellectual focus and sense of relevance.” Her writing was also commended, with one examiner concluding, “Academic writing is not always a joy to read, but this was a real pleasure” and another examiner, “I consider this one of the best theses that I have read in recent years.” All three examiners enthusiastically recommend its publication as a book for its insight into modern Australia.
Felicity Berry was also awarded her PhD in August. Her thesis, entitled, “Keeping the Home Fires Burning?: British Female Settlers’ Ideas of Home and Belonging in Empire, 1826-1860,” was commended by the examiners as an “original and valuable contribution to Australian colonial history and more broadly, to the field of gender and settler colonial history.” “Beautifully written and a real pleasure to readŠit is outstanding.” “An excellent example of the historian’s capacity to return to well-worked material and bring fresh readings and new insights.” “The sensitivity of the reading, and the sophistication of the interpretation, left me feeling satiated. It was a joy to read.” “Keeping the Home Fires Burning makes an original and substantial contribution to historical scholarship on settler patterns of belonging in nineteenth century Australia.”
Garritt Van Dyk was awarded his PhD in September. Garritt’s thesis was entitled “Commerce, Food, and Identity in Seventeenth-Century England and France.” The examiners declared it ‘a fascinating, myth-busting thesis that offers a rich series of insights and analyses into a suite of familiar associations between cuisine and national identity in the case of modern France and Britain’; ‘a compelling narrative account of the history of English and French understandings of food in the seventeenth and eighteenth century’, highlighting his ‘provocative revisionist analysis of the role food played in the making of national narratives in the same period,’ his ‘wonderful observations … about the differences between English and French political …cultures,’ and ‘the transnational origins of national cultures’. They each stressed its originality and the fact that it is ‘beautifully written, demonstrating an impressive ability to produce fluent, compelling historical writing’, ‘very deserving of publication and will be read with great interest by historians and the wider reading public.’ One of them even commented that it was the “most readable thesis in 20 years of marking.”
MA (Research) Completions:
Catherine Perkins received news of her award of the MA by Research in mid-September. Cathy’s outstanding Masters thesis on the life and work of Australian writer Zora Cross was awarded a high distinction. Both examiners praised the high quality of Cathy’s research and writing: ‘As it stands, this study is an accomplished piece of writing in its own right: often witty, highly intelligent, beautifully crafted, and all delivered with a light touch’. ‘The elegance of the prose, together with the candidate’s obvious enthusiasm for her subject matter and her willingness to inject personal experiences into the narrative, made the thesis a pleasure rather than an obligation to read’.