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Historian wins Ashurst Business Literature Prize

30 March 2017
Award for debut book about Sydney’s colonial-era entrepreneurs

Dr Catherine Bishop of the Laureate Research Program in International History has won a rich business literature prize with her debut book, a ‘refreshing rendering’ of colonial-era women entrepreneurs.

Dr Bishop accepting the award

Dr Bishop accepting her award at a ceremony hosted by Ashurst in Sydney. Image: Brickworks Imagery

An illuminating account of Sydney’s colonial-era businesswomen has earned its author a prestigious $30,000 literary prize.

Dr Catherine Bishop’s Minding Her Own Business: Colonial Businesswomen in Sydney counters stubborn representations of women of the era as wives and mothers, to focus on female entrepreneurs’ small businesses and commercial acumen.

In awarding the prize, the judging panel described Dr Bishop’s book as a “lively, fact-filled, [and] refreshing rendering” of its subject matter.

“I was so surprised and utterly delighted to win this award, especially as the other shortlisted books were outstanding,” said Dr Bishop, the Kathleen Fitzpatrick Junior Research Fellow in the Department of History.

“I started Minding Her Own Business with an aspiration to challenge preconceptions from our recent history and bring forgotten stories into view. It’s so exciting that the enterprising efforts of Sydney’s colonial businesswomen have been recognised by the judging committee in this way. 

“This is the first book about women to win the Ashurst Business Literature Prize since its inception in 2004 and I gather I am also the first historian to win it. I am particularly pleased because this award underscores both the relevance of history to contemporary concerns and the centrality of women in the business world,” said Dr Bishop.

Dr Bishop walking up to podium

The Ashurst Business Literature Prize was established by law firm Ashurst (formerly Blake Dawson) and the State Library of NSW. Image: Brickworks Imagery


Professor Annamarie Jagose, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, congratulated Dr Bishop for her award.

“This is a fantastic achievement. I’m delighted the Ashurst Business Literature Prize has rewarded Catherine’s important efforts to bring the stories of Sydney’s colonial era businesswomen to wider public attention. This accolade is a yet another example of the calibre of expertise in our thriving Department of History,” said Professor Jagose.

Dr Bishop accepted the prize from guest speaker Catherine Livingstone AO, at a special award dinner hosted by Ashurst in Sydney on March 29.

“Congratulations to Dr Catherine Bishop on her accomplishment of winning the 2016 prize,” said Ashurst Global Vice Chairman Mary Padbury. “We are delighted that the prize, now in its thirteenth year, has been awarded to such a deserving winner.”

Dr Bishop has published extensively on gender and business in an Australasian context. Her other projects include a forthcoming book on New Zealand colonial businesswomen and a biography of female missionary Annie Lock. She is also researching the International Federation of Business and Professional Women and a history of Australian women in small business.

This accolade is a yet another example of the calibre of expertise in our thriving Department of History
Professor Annamarie Jagose, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

The University of Sydney had two authors in contention for the prize, with Professor Shane White of the Department of History shortlisted for Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire.

Rozzi Bazzani's Hector and Paul Cleary's Trillion Dollar Baby: How Norway Beat The Oil Giants and Won a Lasting Fortune completed the prize's shortlist, with the latter highly commended as ‘must-read’ for Australians interested in public debate on government policy relating to mineral wealth and resources.

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. The Chairman of Ashurst Business Literature Prize judging panel is the University’s General Counsel, Richard Fisher AM.

Luke O'Neill

Media and Public Relations Adviser (Humanities and Social Sciences)