J.M Ward Memorial Lecture 2014 - Writing Memoirs, Writing History

Sheila Fitzpatrick, Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney and Emerita Professor at the University of Chicago

Presented by the Department of History at the University of Sydney

27 March 2014

Reflections of a historian-cum-autobiographer whose recent memoir, A Spy in the Archives, takes her back to Cold War Moscow in the 1960s – territory she would usually enter in her capacity as Soviet historian. What is the difference between the two genres? If (as the Soviets thought) historians are something like spies, ferreting out hidden secrets, does the same apply to autobiographers?

Sheila Fitzpatrick

Sheila Fitzpatrick is primarily a historian of modern Russia. Her recent work has focused on Soviet social and cultural history in the Stalin period, particularly everyday practices and social identity. She is currently working on projects on Soviet society under Khrushchev, displaced persons in Germany after the Second World War, and the Australian Left. In 2002, she received a Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and is a past President of the American Association for Slavic and East European Studies.

"As a historian of twentieth-century Russia, my work has focused mainly on Soviet social and cultural history in the Stalin period, particularly social mobility, social identity and everyday practices. In 2010, I published My Father’s Daughter, a memoir of my father, the radical historian Brian Fitzpatrick, and my own childhood in Melbourne in the 1940s and ‘50s. This generated an interest in subjectivity, memoirs and history, on which I have written several articles. I recently became interested in new approaches to political history, and am currently working on a book on Stalin and his team, attempting to bring an everyday-ethnographic approach to high politics. Other current project are a second book of memoirs, A Spy in the Archives, on my experiences as a young historian researching my dissertation in Moscow in the 1960s, and a study of “displaced persons” from the Soviet Union who came to Australia after the Second World War."

The lecture will be followed by a reception.

The J.M. Ward Memorial Lecture

The Ward Lecture honours the late John Manning Ward AO. Professor Ward was a distinguished historian, serving as Challis Professor of History from 1948 to 1979. He steered the History Department through a period of scarce resources into an era of expansion. Today it is one of the largest and most productive in Australia. Professor Ward took office as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney in 1981 and retired from that position on 31 January 1990.