'In Print or Prospect': Historians talk about their books

Book and Sea

Venue
SOPHI Common Room,
822 Brennan-McCallum Building A18
University of Sydney
4-6pm

A talk of approximately 45 minutes will be followed by general discussion and light refreshments.

More Information
For more information please contact Mark McKenna


2016 Semester 1

Wednesday 6 April
Masters of Empire: The Anishinaabeg of Mackinac and the Making of America
Mike McDonnell

This talk will draw from Mike McDonnell’s recently published work which reveals the pivotal role played by the native peoples of the Great Lakes in the history of North America. Though less well known than the Iroquois or Sioux, the Anishinaabeg who lived along the shores of Lakes Michigan and Huron were equally influential. The book charts the story of the Odawa who settled at the straits between those two lakes, a key center for trade and diplomacy throughout the vast country west of Montreal known as the pays d’en haut.


2015 Series

  • Wednesday 29 July, 4-6pm
    'On Stalin’s Team: How late in the Game I Found Out
    What My Book Was Really About'
    Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick
    Abstract
  • Wednesday May 27, 4-6pm
    'To Colombo – via Sydney, Paris, Taormina and Tangier: Voyages in Gay History'
    Professor Robert Aldrich
    Abstract
  • Wednesday April 29, 4-6pm
    'The Land is Our History'
    Dr Miranda Johnson
    Abstract
  • Wednesday March 25, 4-6pm
    'How I came to be standing in the Brancacci Chapel'
    Dr Nicholas Eckstein
    Abstract

Abstracts


'On Stalin’s Team: How late in the Game I Found Out What My Book Was Really About'
Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick
In August 2014 I gave a talk on the book manuscript I had just finished, On Stalin’s Team: The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics, doing my best to give you my sense of the book and its significance. Then I went off to Europe, gave a number of talks to academic audiences from London to Moscow, and found out what the book is really about, or at least how it is likely to be understood as a scholarly intervention. That revised understanding is my subject this time round.



'To Colombo – via Sydney, Paris, Taormina and Tangier: Voyages in Gay History'
Professor Robert Aldrich
In this, our third 'In Print or in Prospect' seminar, Robert Aldrich will discuss a trilogy that he never knew he would write: Cultural Encounters and Homoeroticism in Sri Lanka: Sex and Serendipity (2014), Colonialism and Homosexuality (2003) and The Seduction of the Mediterranean: Writing, Art and Homosexual Fantasy (1993). Robert will explain his work in the broader context of the development of gay history, both in general and at Sydney University, from the 1980s onwards.



'The Land is Our History'
Dr Miranda Johnson
In this talk I discuss my book, The Land is Our History: Indigenous Rights and the Space of Law, under contract with Duke University Press. The manuscript’s development has been long and winding, not least because the argument follows indigenous legal cases from Australia, to Canada, and finally to New Zealand, beginning in the late 1960s and ending at the turn of the twenty-first century. The book intervenes in a number of debates in indigenous and settler colonial studies, and it is to the politics of those fields that I will turn in this talk.
Specifically, I discuss how my historical research redirects arguments
in critical theory; and why I think it is important for historians
to make such interventions.



'How I came to be standing in the Brancacci Chapel'
Dr Nicholas Eckstein
Even before setting foot in an archive or scanning the faded print of a digitised newspaper in search of evidence for a new project, historians usually have an imagined book firmly in their sights. History is, above all, a narrative discipline: we give meaning to our research through the craft of writing. In this seminar series, historians from the department of History at the University of Sydney talk about the challenges and struggles, insights and triumphs that mark their writing life. They talk
about books just published, just completed, or still only dimly imagined, and share the strategies of plotting, shaping, crafting and polishing that turn their research into history.


Inaugural series, Semester 2 2014

Even before they set foot in an archive or scan the faded print of a digitised newspaper in search of evidence for a new project, historians will have an imagined book firmly in their sights. History is a narrative discipline: we give meaning to our research through the craft of writing. In this new seminar series, historians from the Department of History at the University of Sydney talk about the challenges and struggles, insights and triumphs that mark their writing life. They talk about books just published, just completed, or still only dimly imagined, and share the strategies of plotting, shaping, crafting and polishing that turn their research into history.

Contact

Penny Russell
E

Abstracts


'On Stalin's Team: How late in the Game I Found Out What My Book Was Really About'
Sheila Fitzpatrick
We know a lot about Stalin but less about the team – Molotov, Kaganovich, Mikoyan and the rest of a group whose membership was roughly but never quite equivalent to the Politburo – that surrounded him in the Soviet leadership for 25 years. They went with him through collectivization, the Great Purges, the Second World War, and the travails of the postwar period, coming through the purges relatively intact but, in the case of Molotov and Mikoyan, barely surviving Stalin’s attempt to oust them in his last years. There can be no doubt that Stalin was the team’s boss, but what was the function of the rest of the team? Were they just yes men? If so, how do we explain their success, as the new “collective leadership,” in achieving a practically blood-free political transition, complete with a consensus reform programme, when he died?



‘Miss Swan’s Bad Language’
Chris Hilliard
I am writing a book about a miscarriage of justice in 1920s England. Tensions between neighbours in the coastal town of Littlehampton escalated into a campaign of anonymous obscene letters. The dispute found its way to the courts, and one of the women involved went to prison. Later her convictions were overturned and the real culprit identified but not before months of surveillance from sculleries and sheds, a sting operation using stamps specially marked with invisible ink, and two more trials. The book is an attempt to use the conventions of detective fiction and true-crime to explore family dynamics and daily life in a working-class community. And, because the crime in question was libel, the case opens up questions about the uses of literacy. Crucial moments in the case turned on writing styles and the migration of phrases from overheard conversations to abusive letters. The detective at the centre of the case interviewed the inhabitants of Western Road, Littlehampton, about their neighbours' vocabularies, whether they swore, what their handwriting was like. The remarkable dossier he generated is a way into a lost world of everyday language.



‘Sydney Stories: The Thompson Family’
Penny Russell
It is not as easy it sounds to build a book from a rich array of stories. With a single, but extensive, commercial family of colonial Sydney to supply both my sources and my frame, I plan to show the interplay between multiple facets of social existence, including migration, family, religion, commerce, class, speculation, politics, philanthropy, education, mission, gender, sexuality, love, loss, memory, culture and city living. Many stories, of many different genres, cluster around the Thompson family, ranging from scattered hints of illegitimate birth to full accounts of public office. How do I choose which stories to tell, and where? How do I determine their key significance, and how do I narrate and intertwine them to best effect? Equally importantly, where do I stop? The boundaries of ‘family’ are porous indeed; networks of kin stretch infinitely through place and time. This paper on a work in progress will consider these challenges, and the solutions I have reached so far.



‘Sovereignty, Property and Empire, 1500-2000’
Andrew Fitzmaurice
This talk is on my recently completed book Sovereignty, Property and Empire, 1500-2000. I will be speaking about difficulties of engaging in a project with a broad temporal and geographical scope that took me out of my original field. I will also talk about the tensions in bringing contextual methodologies to bear on such a project. Is it possible to write meaningfully about understanding ideas in context when those ideas are placed in increasingly broad scope? Are there certain kinds of ideas that can best be understood when examined over great expanses of time and space?