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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.

Our study offering

The study of history equips you to understand change, to look at things from different perspectives, and to assess diverse kinds of information. It offers a variety of topics, from war to politics, culture and sexuality, the history of ideas and the history of food; and it spans the Middle Ages to the present, from Australia to China, the United States and Europe. 


*Available to all students studying the Bachelor of ArtsBachelor of EconomicsBachelor of Visual Arts as well as all combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies degrees.


International and Global Studies gives you a rigorous understanding of the paradoxes and complex interconnections of globalisation. This degree will equip you with the ability to work in global society. 


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 

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 Catie Gilchrist
  • Dr Judith Godden
  • Professor Janet Golden
  • Dr Peter Hobbins
  • Associate Professor Judith Keene
  • Emeritus Professor Roy MacLeod FASSA, FAHA
  • Emeritus Professor Iain McCalman
  • 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 events

Like all the Departments and Programs in the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, the Department of History has a lively research program. 

Reihana image

Wood Memorial Lecture 2019

Imperial Emotions: The Politics of Empathy | Professor Jane Lydon

Thursday 26 September 2019

What does empire have to do with emotion? This lecture explores the place of empathy in relationships between Britain, her Australasian colonies and Indigenous people. It argues that emotions are not universal, but historical: experienced and expressed in diverse ways in different cultures and times. Emotional narratives of the British empire in the early nineteenth century told readers who to care about, whose lives were ‘grievable’ and whose were not. Exploring the sentimental narratives and visual representations that defined imperial identities, the lecture reveals the politicised nature of emotions and reminds us of their high stakes and moral intensity at a troubling period in our colonial past.

Click here for more information and to register

Run at lunchtime most Wednesdays during Semester, 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.

The Biennial Wood Lecture in Australian History is convened by the Bicentennial Professor of Australian History, Professor Penny Russell, with generous support from the G A Wood Memorial Fund and the Joan Allsop fund.

The George Arnold Wood Memorial Lecture commemorates the first Challis Professor of History in the University of Sydney, who occupied the Chair from 1891 to 1928. The Wood Memorial Fund was established in 1929 and since 1949 has intermittently supported a series of public lectures embodying research in Australian history. The tradition was revived in 2015 with the Bicentennial Lecture in Australian History, which from 2019 will be merged with the Wood Lecture.

Past Wood Memorial Lectures:

  • Professor F. L. W. Wood (1949) The Historian in the Modern Community
  • Professor J. M. Ward (1953) Australia's First Governor-General, Sir Charles Fitzroy, 1851-1855
  • Professor R. H. Tawney (1955) Social History and Literature
  • Professor G. S. Graham (1958) 'Peculiar Interlude': The Expansion of England in a Period of Peace, 1815-1850
  • Professor A. G. L. Shaw (1965) Heroes and Villains in History: Governors Darling and Bourke in New South Wales
  • Professor J. C. Beaglehole (1970) Cook the Writer
  • [I can’t find any others – but am checking with Richard Waterhouse]
  • Bicentennial Lectures in Australian History:
  • Professor Penny Russell (2015) Honourable Intentions: Reflections on a Colonising Culture
  • Professor Lynette Russell (2017) 60,000 Years of Australian History: A Plea for Interdisciplinarity

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.

Our most recent Ward Lecture (September 2018)
Professor Bill Schwarz
'Brexit, ethnic populism and the end of the British Empire as we know it'

Held in conjunction with Sydney Ideas
Click here to listen to the podcast.

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

School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry


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