Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Digital History
From Cradle to Antipodean Grave: Reconstructing 19th Century Criminal Lives
Hamish Maxwell-Stewart (Tasmania)
8 May 2012


Senate House Paper_Page_18In this session of the Digital History seminar, streamed live on 8 May Hamish Maxwell-Stewart gave a fascinating talk about reconstructing the lives of convicts taken to Australia in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Using digital tools (but not going too much into them) Maxwell-Stewart looks at what the records tell us – and it would seem they tell us a lot.  We have information on rates of illness and life expectancy; we have details about punishments and work-loads for convicts; we also have information about repeat offenders.  More than this, though, the project that Maxwell-Stewart is working on is enabling families in Tasmania to reconstruct their family pasts and reconcile themselves with a history that might well have a criminal basis.

This project has produced the Founders & Survivors: Australian life courses in historical context 1803-1920 website, which, as Maxwell-Stewart notes, is the result of a partnership between historians, genealogists, demographers and population health researchers.  The project seeks to record and study the founding population of 73,000 men, women and children who were transported to Tasmania.  Indeed, Maxwell-Stewart actively encourages similar collaborations believing that University historians still do not take genealogy or family historians seriously despite the amazing evidence that have been collected in those pursuits.

As an example of the information contained in the site I looked up my surname ‘Phillpott’.  There were no items under that spelling, although I am aware that the spelling of the name has changed over the centuries.  Most of my family resided in Kent during this period, and there is one record that contains a place of birth of Hollingbourne in Kent of a John Philpott.  I don’t think he is a direct relation, but his record shows that he was born in 1808, was married to Elizabeth and had one child.  John was a labourer and a protestant.  He was convicted of stealing bim cloths (I’m not entirely sure what those are?  Any ideas?).  Previous convictions are interesting: John Philpott was convicted for releasing a donkey from a pound and for assaulting a constable.  For his various crimes John Philpott was taken from Sheerness to Australia on-board the Westmoreland under John Brigstock.  The journey took 116 days.  It is certainly an interesting and highly useful resource.

 To listen to this podcast or watch the video click here.



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Histories of Home (now renamed Studies of Home)
Practices of inhabitance in large houses: Comfort, privacy and status in Sydney, Australia
Robyn Dowling (Macquarie University)
12 October 2011

Since the 1980s house size has increased by around 50% in Sydney, Australia.  This is a large increase and brings with it a rapid change of lifestyle.  Robyn Dowling examines what happens in these enlarged spaces and what makes them a home.  She also investigates materiality and the impact on the family unit that greater space provokes.

The study is based around interviews carried out in the early 2000s and focuses on a study of 26 Sydney mass-produced houses.  These mass-produced houses are increasingly popular in Australia and in most cases are designed with the nuclear family in mind.  The interviewees were found to be largely in their thirties with children under the age of twelve.  Most were middle class and natural born Australians.

So what did Dowling discover?  Well the most significant change is in the fracturing of the household.  With increased room to create individual spaces the needs of each family member is given greater focus over that of the whole.  The expectation has shifted from a family-focused unit to individual privacy, with specific areas designated for quality family time.

This transformation of the family unit brings Dowling to look into methods of parenting in these enlarged spaces and the perception surrounding homeliness (such as notions of comfort and relaxation).  A home is made up from a mixture of standard possessions and personal touches including family heirlooms.  Identification of status and class (including demonstrating wealth through material accumulation and display) is also still highly sought in the design of rooms.  As a final point, Dowling notes that despite modern lifestyle, women still remain the centre of the home.

To listen to this podcast click here. 


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