Monash is among the leading centres for historical research in Australia. It is known widely for its scholarship in several distinctive areas, which include: the history of urban life, religion and culture in a range of different historical periods; the importance of local history and the changing meaning and importance of neighbourhood and place in social, cultural and political terms; biography, memory and life writing, focusing on questions about the relationships between individual lives and broader historical patterns; the relationship between memory, history and community; the study of European empire in Asia; the importance of gender and sexuality; questions about colonialism and race; and the nature of history in public arenas beyond the academy.
SOPHIS researchers have won numerous research grants including twenty ARC Discovery Grants, two Australian Professorial Fellowships, two Future Fellowships, three Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards and several ARC Linkage Grants. Some of these are listed below. They have also received numerous fellowships from leading universities including Cambridge, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Harvard, John Hopkins, the Max Planck Institute, Oxford and Princeton and funding bodies including the Mellon Foundation. This research has resulted in the publication of a large number of monographs, many by prestigious university presses such as Cambridge, Chicago, Johns Hopkins and Oxford. Some recent publications can be seen here. SOPHIS academics also edit leading refereed journals such as South Asia (ranked A* by the ERA) and book series such as I Tatti Studies and Brepols’ Europa Sacra.
Postgraduate students enjoy a rich teaching and research environment and a staff with strong interests in a range of historical subjects. Regular seminars are held, giving staff, postgraduate students and visitors the opportunity to present their current research and learn of the research of others.
ARC Linkage: Imagining Poverty: Conceptualising and Representing Poverty and the Poor in Mendicant Inspired Literature, Preaching and Visual Art 1220–1520
Chief investigators:Professor Constant J Mews (Monash University); Dr Peter F Howard (Monash University); Dr Anne M Scott (University of Western Australia); Dr Janice M Pinder (Monash University); Dr Claire F Renkin (MCD Specialist University); Father Paul R Murray (in collaboration with Dominican Province of the Assumption, Franciscan Friars Province of the Holy Spirit)
This project explores understandings and representation of poverty, both voluntary and involuntary, in literature and art in Europe 1220–1520 that were inspired by mendicant (particularly Franciscan and Dominican) ideals. It will lead to a jointly authored study on the different ways poverty was understood and represented in this period.
ARC Linkage: Australian Generations: Life Histories, Generational Change and Australian Memory
Chief investigators: Professor Alistair Thomson (Monash University; A/Prof Katie Holmes (LaTrobe University); Mr Kevin Bradley (National Library of Australia); Dr Seamus O’Hanlon (Monash University); Dr Christina Twomey (Monash University); Dr Kerreen Reiger (LaTrobe University); Ms Michelle Rayner (ABC Radio National)
As the nation faces dramatic social and environmental change, understanding diverse experiences and memories of Australia’s past becomes increasingly important. This project will strengthen Australia’s social and economic fabric by explaining the experience, memory and significance of the past for different Australian generations. A series of radio programs will make the research widely accessible. Future researchers and educators will benefit from unprecedented online access to an immensely rich national oral history collection. The National Library, ABC, university partnership will ensure that professional innovation in radio history, oral history and digital archiving is cascaded to cultural institutions in Australia and abroad. For details of the project, see here.
ARC Discovery: How Fire Remade the European City, from 1550 to 1850 (DORA)
Chief investigator: Professor David Garrioch
This project examines the fire history of urban Europe from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Seeing European cities as fire environments, largely shaped by the everyday uses of fire and by attempts to manage it, will enable an entirely different understanding of their history.
ARC Discovery: Encountering diversity: Communities of Learning, Intellectual Confrontations and Transformations of Religious Thinking in Latin (DORA)
Chief investigator: Professor Constant Mews
This project will analyse how intellectual confrontations between different communities in medieval Europe (from 1050-1350), including Jews and Muslims, were generated by competition between teachers from different groups, both within and outside formal educational structures and established religious communities, thus helping to transform religious thinking.
ARC Discovery: A History of the Pilbara Aboriginal Strike as Event, Experience and Myth
Chief investigator: Professor Bain Atwood
This will be the first major study of the 1946 Pilbara Aboriginal pastoral strike, one of the most significant events in Australia’s post-war history. It will illuminate the processes of negotiation, accommodation and change involved in the encounter between indigenous peoples and settlers as well as how these have been both experienced and remembered.
ARC Discovery: Historicising Orientalism: the French, the Jews, and the Modern World
Chief investigator: Dr Julie Kalman
This project intends to bring a new approach to what we have come to know as Orientalism. It will be exploring depictions of Jewish populations in the Orient by French non-Jews over the nineteenth century, seeking to challenge the straightforward East/West dichotomy that has dictated this field of research.
ARC Discovery: Cultures of Belief in Renaissance Florence
Chief investigator: Associate Professor Peter Howard
The project asks new questions and employs new methods for understanding the material and cultural development of Renaissance Florence by focussing on the city’s rapidly evolving religious context. It foregrounds the close study of preaching and its generation, and elaborates the oral as a category of historical analysis.
ARC Discovery: Talking slavery in the New Deal: Re-examining the Origins of American Social History
Chief investigator: Dr Clare Corbould
Debate about the nature of American slavery has had a significant impact on American public life, especially ideas about justice, equality, rights and the role of government. By examining a new the archive on which slave history has been based, this project will advance understanding and stimulate new angles in public discussion of slavery’s legacy.
ARC Discovery: Detention: the humanitarian and imperial origins of internment and concentration camps
Chief investigator: Associate Professor Christina Twomey
The project will examine the colonial origins of the concentration camp system and its previously unexplored links with protection policies for Indigenous and immigrant groups. It seeks to contribute to how we understand the history of non-criminal and non-citizen detention, humanitarianism and human rights.
ARC Discovery: War and Memory in European Culture: a Long Perspective
Chief investigator: Dr Megan Cassidy-Welch
This project provides a new account of the integration of the crusades into European cultural memory. As an innovative study of war it offers a long perspective on European history; as a study of religious warfare, it will enrich present-day debates on the consequences of international conflict.
ARC DECRA: Perilous Embassies: Diplomatic Encounters between Europe and Asia, 1600-1800
Chief investigator: Dr. Adam Clulow
This project examines diplomatic encounters on the frontline of the first age of globalization. The early modern period was a crucial watershed in history as the opening of maritime trade routes brought Europeans into sustained contact with Asia for the first time. In this connected world, the embassy formed the most important mechanism for cross-cultural interaction. This study considers a series of European embassies dispatched to the most powerful Asian states and uses these to reassess the nature of the global encounter between Europe and Asia.
ARC DECRA: Sexing Scholasticism: Gender in Medieval Thought 1150-1520
Chief investigator: Dr Clare Monagle
This project explores medieval theological debates about why it was necessary that Christ was born as a man. This offers new evidence for understanding the history of gender in the Middle Ages, granting access to ideas about masculinity and femininity held by the elite ruling cultures of western Europe between 1150 and 1520.
ARC DECRA: Secularism in Nineteenth-Century America: a History
Chief investigator: Dr Timothy Verhoeven
This project brings to light a popular movement in nineteenth-century America which sought to separate Church and State. The project thus offers a crucial historical context to modern debates about the role of religion in public life and whether or not the United States is a Christian nation.
Current Research (Dr. Susie Protschky)
Susie is editor of a new collection of essays titled Camera Ethica: Lenses on Modernity, Civilisation and Being Governed in Late-Colonial Indonesia, currently under review with Amsterdam University Press. The volume includes essays by Susie Protschky, Jean Gelman Taylor, Rudolf Mràzek, Henk Schulte Nordholt, Pamela Pattynama, Karen Strassler, Paul Bijl and Joost Coté. This is the first book to appear in English on the Ethical Policy, a liberal program of imperial reforms applied to the Netherlands East Indies (colonial Indonesia) under Dutch rule during the first decades of the twentieth century. Extant studies of the Ethical Policy have often focused on the Dutch elites who contributed to its formulation, and rely on the oratorical and textual sources generated by this group to explain its conception. Camera Ethica shifts the focus to photographic sources made by and for Indonesian as well as European photographers and viewers, and thus revises understandings of how the Ethical Policy was formulated and responded to in the Indies. This book is one of several projects Susie is working on to do with histories of photography in colonial Indonesia. She is also writing a monograph on how images of the Dutch monarchy were mobilised in the Indies during the first half of the twentieth century by different groups to make various claims about identity and status. Susie is also contributing to the catalogue for an exhibition on Indies photography to be staged at the National Gallery of Australia (Canberra) in early 2014.
Current Research (Dr. Adam Clulow)
Adam’s first monograph, The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter with Tokugawa Japan, will be published by Columbia University Press later this year. The book, which comes out of Adam’s dissertation research, examines the seventeenth century encounter between the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and Tokugawa Japan. The Company was a hybrid organization combining the characteristics of both corporation and state that attempted to thrust itself aggressively into an Asian political order in which it possessed no obvious place. In the process, it was transformed in multiple ways. The book’s focus is on three key issues, diplomacy, violence and sovereignty, over which the Tokugawa and the VOC clashed repeatedly. In each case, European assertions about sovereign rights and the proper nature of international relations collided with Tokugawa politics and the reality of a world dominated by Asian states. As a result, the Dutch were compelled to abandon their claims to sovereign powers and were forced to refashion themselves again and again—from subjects of a fictional monarch to loyal vassals of the shogun, from aggressive pirates to meek merchants, and from insistent defenders of colonial sovereignty over Taiwan to legal subjects of the Tokugawa state. The attached image shows a large brass chandelier presented by the Dutch to the Japanese shogun in 1636. It forms the subject of one chapter of The Company and the Shogun and was, Adam argues, a concrete marker of Dutch devotion that was subsequently displayed in the Tokugawa regimes’s key sacred space.
Current Research (Assoc. Professor Peter Howard)Peter is working on a number of projects related to “cultures of belief in Renaissance Florence”, funded by an ARC Discovery Grant. He has recently completed a contribution to a volume in honour of Professor Charles Zika, a long-time mentor at the University of Melbourne. Peter’s chapter explores the trial and execution of Giovanni Cani da Montecatini in May 1450 as a heretic and enchanter. It is a story that has received little attention in the literature on Renaissance Florence. But Cani’s trial and execution sparked an immediate reaction in Renaissance Florence. “Do not speak of it, it is a great disgrace for our city,” declared one citizen. Others declared: “This was not approved by any of our citizens.” How was it that an archbishop who was considered to be saintly, with humanist friends, and who wrote that “in punishing heretics the church, nevertheless, uses justice and mercy” should hand a heretic and sorcerer over to Florence’s podestà for execution? The search for answers was more of a “detective tale” than usual. A reference to documents, currently held in the lovely little Tuscan town of Pescia, promisingly titled “the judgement of Saint Antoninus against the heretic Giovanni de’ Cani,” ended somewhat abruptly. Rather than Antoninus’s judgement, that material comprises nineteenth-century transcriptions of a range of sources which refer to Cani extracted from Florentine libraries and archives by someone who worked Florentine libraries. Clearly they were never returned! For when these references are traced back to their original sources they no longer exist (although they may be in a box hidden in a family attic!). Not to be deterred by the documentary dead end, Peter’s essay revisits and re-contextualizes what we know of Cani’s case within the broader framework of preaching, sorcery, and heresy in early Renaissance Florence.
Current Research (Dr. Megan Cassidy-Welch)
Dr Megan Cassidy-Welch is guest-editing a special issue of the Journal of Medieval History for 2014, with Prof Anne Lester. The issue will focus on ‘Memory and Crusade: Rethinking Past and Present’.
Megan also has various forthcoming publications, ‘The Stedinger Crusade: War, Remembrance and Absence in thirteenth-century Germany’, Viator 44:2 (2013), ‘”O Damietta”: War Memory and Crusade in thirteenth-century Eygpt’, Journal of Medieval History (forthcoming 2014), and ‘The Monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora and crusade memory in thirteenth-century Lisbon’, (in progress for the Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies).
As part of her ARC funded project on remembrance and war, Megan is currently writing a book entitled Remembrance Projects: War Memory and the Crusades, 1215-1250. This is part of a longer project on remembrance and war, which is funded by the Australian Research Council through a four year Future Fellowship.