Australia’s radical media sphere link

Monash University senior lecturer Dr Tony Moore has presented his historical research from his book, Death or Liberty, at the Monash European and EU Centre’s summer school program.

Dr Moore, who teaches in Communications and Media Studies section, contributed to the summer school’s history and commemoration program, aimed at Australian and New Zealand secondary school teachers.

 Dr Tony Moore’s 2010 history Death or Liberty: rebels and radicals transported to Australia.
Dr Tony Moore’s 2010 history Death or Liberty: rebels and radicals transported to Australia.

The summer school program showcased the work of Victorian academics in the following themes: Crisis and Concilliation in Contemporary Europe, History and Commemoration, and Religion and Identity in Europe and Australia.

The  ABC recently commissioned a television documentary adaptation of Dr Tony Moore’s 2010 history Death or Liberty: rebels and radicals transported to Australia.

The documentary is produced by innovative Tasmanian-based Roar Films, in association with leading Irish production house Tile Films. 

Producer Stephen Thomas say: “Based on Tony Moore’s book, Death or Liberty will be a dynamic telling of history melding drama, music and song, landscape and voice.

“Spoken word testimony is sourced from original letters, poems, documents, newspapers, memoirs, trial transcripts and orders of the governors and Crown”.  

Death or Liberty PowerPoint presentation 

Abstract: ‘Death or Liberty’: Transnationality and the Transported Political Rebels to Australia 1788-1868

 Drawing on my book Death or Liberty: rebels and radicals transported to Australia 1788-1868 (2010) this paper engages with the connection of the Australian colonies to an emerging transnational and Euro-centred public sphere in the late eighteenth century and nineteenth century via political radicals transported as convicts.

The paper touches on the experiences of the ‘Scottish Martyrs’, the United Irishmen, Luddites, Swing Rioters, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Chartists, Canadian rebels, Young Ireland movement, the Fenians, and other radicals transported for sedition, treason, rebellion and protest in the nineteenth century to demonstrate how teachers can engage students about the mobility of people, ideas and politics within and beyond the British empire.

The political prisoners transported to Australia move outside one nation to traverse the globe, contributing to the different places in which they live, and even making a virtue of their status as citizens of the world.

A particular problem for a country with colonial origins is that many of the people who made a difference in Australia’s past were mobile within a global empire as governors, soldiers, sailors, immigrants, explorers, scientists, missionaries, travellers and of course convicts.

Happily, the study of Australia’s past at universities has benefited from a turn towards a new critical imperial history that reframes and refreshes colonial Australia as part of a global empire shaped by people on the move, demands for popular participation and a new media age.

Building on the work of George Rude, Nigel Leask and Seán McConeville as well as theoretical insights of Habermas and media studies scholar John Hartley, I pay particular attention to the contribution of these exiles as new media activists producing pamphlets, books, journalism, songs, poetry, cartoons and symbols that had an impact within the empire and beyond, akin to present-day innovations such as Wikileaks.

The Empire’s exiled rebels should be understood not just for their role in the movements they left behind, but for the places and people they touched during their often involuntary journeys, revealing Australian colonies vitally connected to the ‘republic of letters’.