Debating Issues Relating to the Nexus of Social and Military History

Our current seminar series is conducted in a webinar format. Each session consists of a 30-minute presentation followed by a question-and-answer session.  

Those who participate (as presenters or audience) are postgraduates and academics from ACT universities, professional historians, early career researchers, independent scholars, Australian Defence Force personnel, and interested individuals.  

Attendance is free but registration is required to receive a zoom webinar link.  

2021 Programme

Seminar 1 - Tuesday 27 April

Seminar 2 - Tuesday 1 June

Seminar 3 - Tuesday 29 June

Seminar 4 - Tuesday 27 July

Seminar 5 - Tuesday 31 August

Seminar 6 - Tuesday 28 September

Seminar 7 - Tuesday 26 October

Seminar 8 - Tuesday 30 November

2020 Programme

The New South Wales contingent to Sudan, 1885: colonial commemoration and commentary

Presenter: Dr Thomas J. Rogers

The colony of New South Wales sent a contingent of about 750 infantrymen and artillerymen to aid the British forces in Sudan in early 1885. The sending of this contingent was the first time a self-governing British colony had sent its own troops overseas in aid of an Imperial expedition. Though the contingent was small even by contemporary standards, and though the men of the contingent saw very little action in Africa, the significance of its deployment is still a topic of historical debate.

In this paper, I want to draw particular attention to the commemoration of the few deaths in the New South Wales contingent, none of which occurred at the hands of the enemy. Commemorative services for these soldiers were occasions for reflections on patriotism, Imperial unity, and the future of the Australian colonies. Close examination of the contingent and the society that sent it can offer insights into how colonists understood the place of the colonies in the larger British Empire. In colonial minds, how had the deployment of colonial troops changed the position of New South Wales in the British Empire?

About Presenter

Dr Thomas J. Rogers is a historian in the Military History Section at the Australian War Memorial. His research interests include colonial Australian and British Empire history, the South African (Boer) War, the First World War, Indigenous history, and frontier violence. Tom is on the editorial committee of Wartime, the Memorial’s history magazine. He is the author of The Civilisation of Port Phillip: Settler Ideology, Violence, and Rhetorical Possession (2018), which considers the early years of British settlement in the state of Victoria, and the relationships between settler rhetoric and frontier violence.

‘I ought to have been killed at the War’: Studying Australian First World War Veterans who Died by Suicide

Presenter: Jessie Lewcock

In February 1945, Dr Sylvester J. Minogue published the findings of his study into suicides by First World War veterans in New South Wales. Tens of thousands of coronial files were analysed, and the study concluded, alarmingly, that First World War veterans were significantly more likely to die by suicide than their civilian counterparts. Minogue drew a clear link between war service and an increased risk of suicide, and made it clear that immediate action was needed to prevent veterans of the then-current war from suffering the same fate upon their return. Yet, in 2020, we find ourselves still in the midst of a veteran suicide crisis.

This paper aims to provide historical context to the issue of veteran suicide. Minogue’s study will be revisited and that data compared with the findings of my own analysis of over twelve thousand police and coronial files in South Australia using the same methodology. It will demonstrate how a large number of First World War veterans who died by suicide struggled enormously with social isolation, substance misuse, and both physical and mental illness prior to their deaths – factors that are still resoundingly echoed by the hardships faced by at-risk veterans today.

About Presenter

Jessie Lewcock is a current PhD candidate in History at the University of Adelaide. Her thesis will examine instances of suicide by South Australian veterans of the First and Second World Wars, review the responses of government and veteran groups to the issue of suicide, and shed light on the experiences of the loved ones left behind. Jessie currently holds a Bachelor of Teaching and a Bachelor of Arts in History with Honours. She has also completed a summer school program at Queen’s University Belfast that specialised in post-Troubles policing and restorative justice. In 2019, she was awarded the Hugh Martin Weir prize by the University of Adelaide Library for the meritorious study of Australia’s participation in conflict. 

The Militia, Conscription and Politics of ‘One Army’, 1939-1945

Presenter: James Morrison

This presentation analyses how conscription and serving in the militia in the Second Word War was a political issue that has relatively limited historical attention.  It will provide a very brief overview of how the debates were influenced by the highly decisive conscription plebiscites of the First World War and a predilection for volunteerism.  The presentation will then examine how the Pacific War challenged the concept of having ‘two armies,’ one conscripted for home defence and a voluntary force for ‘overseas’ service.  It will argue too many accounts underplay the political significance, and importance, of having two armies. The presentation will also argue that, at the same time, the concept of having two armies was often used a rhetorical ploy that has marred a more comprehensive understanding of the respective forces; and while conceptually distinct, the difference between the AIF and the militia by 1944 was largely immaterial in terms of terms of composition of combat effectiveness.  The presentation will also briefly touch on the role of Australian senior military officers and MacArthur in these political debates, suggesting that the role of the latter was more significant despite ongoing concerns at political interference among the former.

About Presenter

James is a serving Army officer based in Canberra who completed history honours at ADFA in 2003 and a Masters of Arts (International Relations) from Deakin University in 2006. He has also completed a Master of Arts (Defence Studies) from Kings College London. James is a PhD student at UNSW (ADFA) and his thesis is on the Australian Army militia during the Second World War.

Internment by Law in First World War Australia: Franz Wallach and Wilhelm Karl Lude

Presenter: Catherine Bond

Although not all persons considered to be ‘alien enemies’ under law were interned during the First World War, nearly 7000 persons spent time in internment camps around Australia during this period. Underpinning this system was a range of repeatedly revised Federal statutes, regulations and policies that dictated every aspect of internment from who should be interned to how many showers individuals in specific camps could take per week.  

This paper examines the legal structure of internment in First World War Australia, using two men as case studies: Franz Wallach, a successful Melbourne businessman, and Wilhelm ‘Karl’ Lude, a butcher based in Loxton, SA, at the outbreak of the war. While both men were born in Germany, at the outbreak of hostilities these men were in significantly different social, economic and legal positions. However, both men would eventually be interned for the larger part of the war – Lude from 1914 and Wallach from 1915. While Karl Lude’s internment was arguably necessary for public safety, Franz Wallach’s internment was arguably a necessity for Attorney-General William Hughes, and this paper interrogates how law, and in some instances wilfully ignoring the rule of law, enabled this regime.

About Presenter

Dr Catherine Bond is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law, UNSW Sydney. She teaches and researches primarily in intellectual property law, with a focus on the intersection of law and history. She has published in  a range of leading Australian and international journals across issues including government ownership of copyright and the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918; plain packaging of tobacco products; and the introduction of a patent system in the Game of Thrones world of Westeros. Her first book, Anzac: The Landing, The Legend, The Law, analysed the regulation of the word ‘Anzac’ in Australia and internationally, from 1916 through to today. Catherine’s second book, Law in War: Freedom and restriction in Australia during the Great War, published by NewSouth Publishing in April 2020, examines the legal experiences of a range of individuals in First World War Australia.

Inventing Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency: The Santal Rebellion of 1855

Presenter: Peter Stanley

In 1855 Lower Bengal was wracked by the second-largest rebellion in nineteenth-century British India when the Santal people rose against exploitative Bengali landlords and money-lenders. A tenth of the Bengal Army was committed to suppress the insurgency; about 10,000 Santals died. Both the Santals and the Bengal Army improvised tactics and strategy. The conflict has been neglected in the history of insurgency and counter-insurgency. Peter Stanley, whose forthcoming book on the rebellion - only the third ever written, and the first to draw on the full lode of the Bengal Army's records - will discuss the relationships between insurgency and Santal culture. In this webinar, he will show how a people with practically no military tradition adopted guerilla tactics and how an army with no counter-insurgency doctrine responded.

About Presenter

Professor Peter Stanley of UNSW Canberra has published over 35 books, including several works on the military-social history of British India. Hul! Hul!: The Santal Rebellion, 1855 is to be published by Hurst, London.