Tag: Advocacy

What Australia’s convict past reveals about women, men, marriage and work

Reading time: 5 minutes
It is not the presence of convicts that matters, but the drastic distortion in the ratio of men to women that came with it. Convict men outnumbered convict women by roughly six to one. These numbers were even more skewed at the start of settlement. Convicts were joined by free migrants, especially in the second half of the 19th century, whose numbers also skewed heavily male. The ratio of men to women was consistently skewed in favour of males in Australia until the start of the first world war.

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African-American GIs of WWII: Fighting for democracy abroad and at home

Reading time: 7 minutes
Until the 21st century, the contributions of African-American soldiers in World War II barely registered in America’s collective memory of that war. The “tan soldiers,” as the Black press affectionately called them, were also for the most part left out of the triumphant narrative of America’s “Greatest Generation.” In order to tell their story of helping defeat Nazi Germany in my 2010 book, “Breath of Freedom,” I had to conduct research in more than 40 different archives in the U.S. and Germany.

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A slave state – how blackbirding in colonial Australia created a legacy of racism

Reading time: 46 minutes
The French historian Ernest Renan described forgetting as “an essential factor in the creation of a nation”, since patriots do not want to remember the “deeds of violence” at the origin of all political formations. In the Australian context, a strange contradiction contributes to the ongoing amnesia about slavery and its consequences. From the very beginning, enslavement shaped white settlement in Australia – and so, too, did abolitionism. That paradox, a peculiar entwinement of two ostensibly antagonistic impulses, makes for a complicated narrative, one that cannot be grasped simply as a local version of the better-known American story.

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Safeguarding our Heritage – Why we must fund Trove

Reading time: 2 minutes
Trove, the National Library of Australia’s (NLA) public online database, has grown to include over 6 billion individual items. These include everything from newspapers and magazines to photographs, parliamentary papers, government and organisational reports, theses and research, audio, video and books. These are items from the NLA’s archives as well as contributions from over 1,000 organisations across Australia. These groups have been contributing thousands of volunteer hours to the task of preserving, collating, digitising and describing important artefacts from Australia’s history. They did this safe in the knowledge that it would then be maintained and safeguarded for future generations.

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Why we must better understand our history

Reading time: 5 minutes
History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme. Mark Twain.
As a society it is vitally important that we understand our own history, as well as the history of other peoples throughout time. This is the only way we can make informed decisions about how we should approach the challenges that we face in the present and the future.

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Popular Histories Have Influenced World Leaders, Sometimes For the Better

Reading time: 6 minutes
Sometimes presidents are influenced by history books. Bill Clinton consulted Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History by Robert Kaplan when dealing with conflicts in southeastern Europe. In 2008 Barack Obama consulted Jonathan Alter’s The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope for ideas about launching a strong presidency. Joe Biden liked The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels so much that he made its author, Jon Meacham, a key adviser. No historian, however, has made a more significant impact on an American president’s thoughts and actions than Barbara Tuchman. President John F. Kennedy drew important lessons from one of her books when seeking a peaceful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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