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Detain from the Battle of Anghiari, a 15th century Italian painting,
Faculties and schools_

Department of History

Exploring the variety of human experience
Encountering other times and other cultures helps us understand change and see the world from different perspectives.

Studying history helps us understand the origins of the modern world and to uncover forgotten people and their paths. History encompasses every aspect of human life in the past. We work with diverse kinds of evidence and each valuable skills in interpretation and analysis.

We are the largest history department in Australia, with units of study on particular cities, nations and regions, especially Europe, Australia, China and North America, as well as thematic and comparative units on topics ranging from scandal to epidemics. Each year we offer a rich array of study options and we continually review and renew our curriculum.

Many of our staff have won awards for their teaching and research. We are committed to giving our students a highly regarded education and a gateway to life beyond university.

Study areas

Our research

Historians in the department work on a wide variety of times and places, with particular strengths in the history of the United States, Australia and the Pacific, China and Europe. Many of us work in the areas of international and transnational history that have energised and transformed the study of the past. One unifying thread is a curiosity about ideas in action – that is, how ideas and ideals were developed, challenged and lived with in particular situations. How were concepts of freedom tested in practice by African Americans in US cities in the 19th century? By diplomats and international lawyers or by Indigenous people navigating the judicial system?

Our research covers the following areas:

  • Australia and the Pacific
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • Americas
  • Cultural 
  • Intellectual 
  • Political 
  • Social
  • International 
  • Imperial and colonial 
  • Legal
  • War and conflict 
  • Science and medicine
  • Urban 
  • Gender and sexuality 
  • Religion 

2018 J M Ward Memorial Lecture

Research centres

Our people

  • Professor David Armitage, FAHA
  • Professor Alan Atkinson
  • Dr Robert Austin
  • Professor Alison Bashford
  • Dr Catherine Bishop
  • Dr Judith Bonzol
  • Dr Alexander Cameron-Smith
  • Professor Ann Curthoys, FASSA, FAHA
    Professor John Docker, FAHA
  • Emeritus Professor Helen Dunstan
  • Professor Brian H Fletcher OAM, FAHA
  • Dr Judith Godden
  • Professor Janet Golden
  • Associate Professor Judith Keene
  • Emeritus Professor Roy MacLeod FASSA, FAHA
  • Dr Jim Masselos FAHA
  • Assoc Prof Neville K Meaney
  • Dr Janet Merewether
  • Dr Marianna Moustafine
  • Dr Geoffrey A. Oddie
  • Dr Lynette Olson
  • Dr Jayne Persian
  • Emeritus Professor Roslyn Pesman AM, FAHA
  • Professor Peter Read
  • Dr Anne Rees
  • Dr Kathrine M Reynolds
  • Dr David Robertson 
  • Dr David Rollison 
  • Dr Ricardo Roque
  • Dr Ben Silverstein
  • Dr Julie Smith
  • Dr Daniel Spence
  • Dr Lynne Swarts
  • Dr Blanca Tovias de Plaisted
  • Professor Richard Waterhouse FASSA, FAHA
  • Dr Paul Werskey
  • Assoc Prof Richard White
  • Associate Professor Christine Winter
  • Emeritus Professor John Wong FASSA, FAHA
  • Dr Zdenko Zlatar

Our seminars

For a full list of our upcoming events, please visit the University's What's On calendar.

Run at lunchtime most Wednesdays, this series features talks by members of the department and visitors from overseas and other universities in Australia. All students, colleagues from throughout the University and members of the public are all welcome.

  • Wednesday, 12.10–1.30pm 
  • Woolley Common Room, Woolley Building A22
    Enter Woolley through the entrance on Science Road and climb the stairs in front of you. Turn left down the corridor, the common room is at the end of the hall.
    Click here for map
  • Seminar coordinators: Dr Andrés Rodriguez and Professor Kirsten McKenzie

Semester 2 2018

1 August

Deborah Cohen, Northwestern University
The Geopolitical is personal: American foreign correspondents, India and the British Empire in the 1930s and 1940s

15 August

Professor Andrew Fitzmaurice, University of Sydney
Hobbes, democracy and the Virginia Company

22 August

Dr Charlotte Greenhalgh, Monash University
Women and Social Research in Australia, 1940-1970

12 September

Dr Hélène Sirantoine, University of Sydney
The Saint and the Saracen: Iberian hagiographical material and Christian perceptions of Islam in the Middle Ages

3 October

Dr Chin Jou, University of Sydney
Prison Food in the United States, Past and Present 

17 October

Catie Gilchrist, University of Sydney
Call the coroner! Investigating sudden death in colonial Sydney

31 October

Laura Rademaker, Australian Catholic University
Found in translation: language and translation in Aboriginal history

The J M 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. Professor Ward was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney from 1981 to 1990.

2018 J M Ward Memorial Lecture: Brexit, ethnic populism and the end of the British Empire as we know it

Monday 10 September 2018

General Lecture Theatre (A14)
The Quadrangle, University of Sydney

Please join us for a reception in the Nicholson Museum from 5pm.

View full details and how to register.

For more information on the J M Ward Lectures please contact Elia Mamprin.

Outreach program

We conduct an outreach program to increase the number of students from low socio-economic and diverse backgrounds studying history at the University of Sydney.

The program initiates and strengthens connections between partner schools and the University. We work with high school students from Mount Druitt, Parramatta, Granville, Campbelltown, Auburn, Liverpool, Coonabarabran and Broken Hill to familiarise them with university life and foster the aspirations within these communities to pursue and excel in tertiary studies. 

Some of our activities include:

  • Historical Investigation Program for Year 11 students
  • Workshops on historical investigations for Year 11 students
  • Workshops on studying history at university
  • Essay prizes
  • Parent talks on studying history and the arts at university
  • Parent talks on subject selection at high school.
More information

If you are a history teacher or school principal interested in a partnership with our department, please email Professor Mike McDonnell, or phone 9351 6733.

Department Chair

Professor Chris Hilliard

School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry