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Trailblazer tales help authors vie for literary prize

16 February 2017
Our authors nominated for Ashurst Business Literature Prize

Two University of Sydney historians are in the running for Australia’s richest business literature prize.    

University of Sydney research fellow and author Catherine Bishop.

University of Sydney research fellow and author Catherine Bishop. 

University of Sydney historians have scooped two of four nominations for this year’s Ashurst Business Literature Prize.

Challis Professor of History Shane White and Kathleen Fitzpatrick Junior Research Fellow Catherine Bishop were nominated by an independent judging panel for books about Wall Street’s first black millionaire, and Sydney’s colonial era businesswomen.

“I am absolutely delighted that my book about forgotten colonial businesswomen is on the shortlist,” said Catherine Bishop, author of Minding Her Own Business: Colonial Businesswomen in Sydney.

“We hear a lot today about encouraging women into small business and into the corporate world, but this is usually seen as a twenty-first century issue.

“It is easy to forget that, in fact, Australian women have always been active in the business world, in an extraordinary variety of enterprises. I hope that my book will challenge some of our assumptions about women in business,” she added.

University of Sydney historian and author Professor Shane White.

Professor Shane White. 

Another forgotten historical figure is restored in Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionairewhich earns Professor Shane White his nomination.

“In the middle of the nineteenth century, an African American named Jeremiah G. Hamilton cut a swathe through the lily-white New York business world and became Wall Street’s first black millionaire,” said Professor White.

“Within 20 years of his death, he had become completely forgotten, relegated to the dustbin of history. However, by dint of combing through the New York legal archives and the city newspapers, I managed to recover enough material about him to write Prince of Darkness.” 

Professor White said he is grateful to be shortlisted and that it is “gratifying to be acknowledged for what I do in the city in which I live.” 

The Ashurst Business Literature Prize was established by law firm Ashurst (formerly Blake Dawson) and the State Library of NSW to encourage Australian literary commentary on business and financial affairs.

“It’s very exciting to see these two nominations,” said Professor Annamarie Jagose, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

“A Department of History is perhaps not the first place one would look for prize-worthy business literature. Yet, in being nominated together for this award, Shane and Catherine evidence the breadth and strength of historical expertise in our Faculty. And they remind us that the things – whether objects, events or, as here, persons – that fall from public memory often richly reward our attention.”

Ashurst Vice-Chairman Mary Padbury said: "Now in its 14th year, the Ashurst Business Literature Prize continues to attract exceptional works and set the standard for business literature in Australia. This year's shortlisted authors have explored a variety of interesting stories in ways that contribute to a deeper understanding of the past and present."

Paul Cleary's Trillion Dollar Baby: How Norway Beat The Oil Giants and Won a Lasting Fortune and Rozzi Bazzani's Hector complete the prize's shortlist. The prize-winner will be announced on March 29.