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Level 5

5AAH2013 The History of Australia

Credit value: 30
Module convenor/tutor: Dr Simon Sleight
Teaching pattern: 20 x 2-hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 3 hour examination (60%), 2 x 2,000 word essays (15% each) & 1 x oral presentation (10%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment by the following methods: 1 x 3 hour examination (60%); 2 x 2,000 word essays (15% each); 1 x 1500 word essay (10%)

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

This module provides an introduction to the long history of Australia from the creation of the continent to the present. It asks a number of related questions: What is known about the Aborigines who inhabited Australia for up to 60,000 years before white contact? Who came to Australia in 1788 and why? What has been the impact of more than two centuries of immigration? How have these movements of people been interpreted and influenced the various meanings attached to being Australian? What role has constitutional change played in these shifting and contested meanings? Across time, how have class, gender, age and ethnicity structured everyday experience? To what extent have allegiances to Britain been protected, re-negotiated and critiqued in response to Australia’s geographical location and other factors? And how – and based on what sources – is Australia imagined in Britain today?

The module encourages students to place Australian history within international contexts and to use a wide range of historical evidence to do so. It considers how different groups including artists, novelists and politicians have pictured Australia’s past and examines how the recent ‘History Wars’ have led to the reappraisal of Australian history. Topics including convict society, the gold rushes, self-government and political union, city life, the impact of war, Indigenous rights, youth culture and environmental concerns are explored to reveal the forces that have shaped Australians across more than two centuries. ‘The History of Australia’ explores central themes in Australia’s past and equips students with an understanding of Australia’s place in the world.

Provisional Teaching Plan

1. Introducing Australia
2. Deep Belonging: Pre-contact Aboriginal Societies
3. At Nature’s Mercy? Environmental Perspectives on Australia and its People
4. ‘Dancing With Strangers’: European Foundations and Aboriginal Responses
5. A Strange Mixture of Freedom and Tyranny: Convict Society
6. The ‘Promised Land’: Squatting, the Frontier and Australia’s ‘History Wars’
7. ‘Independence! Plump and Plain’: Free Immigration and the Gold Rushes
8. Imagining Australia: The Bush Legend; Young Australia; White Australia, 1870-1914
9. A Social Laboratory? Women, Workers and the Move Towards a Federal Australia

10. Sea-coast Cities: Cosmopolitanism, Commerce and Modernity, 1870-1920


11. Whose War Was It Anyway? Anzac and the First World War
12. From ‘Men, Money and Markets’ to ‘Weevils in the Flour’: Australia Between the Wars
13. ‘This Land That Is Ours Forever’: World War Two
14. The Seizures of Youth: Post-war Subcultures, Counter-cultures and Protest Movements
15. Menzies, his ‘Forgotten People’ and the Slow Sunset of British Australia, 1949-72
16. Making ‘New Australians’: Post-war Immigration and the Rise of Multiculturalism, 1945-1978 
17. ‘1967’ and All That: The Twentieth-Century Struggle for Indigenous Rights, 1930s-1996
18. ‘End of the Ice Age’? From New Nationalism to Asian Engagement, 1966-96
19. Politicians, the People and the Burden of History, 1996-2009
20. Review Week

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these texts is not mandatory.

  • Stuart Macintyre, A Concise History of Australia (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, Third Edition 2009)
  • John Rickard, Australia: A Cultural History (Harlow: Longman, Second Edition 1996)
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