From Montserrat to Settler-Colonial Australia: the intersecting histories of Caribbean slave-owning families, transported British radicals, and Indigenous peoples
The ANU School of History is pleased to host the 2018 Allan Martin Lecture with keynote speaker Professor Ann Curthoys.
Professor Curthoys FASSA FAHA has published extensively on Australian history, setting her work in broad transnational and imperial history frames. She was the foundation Manning Clark Professor of History at the ANU (1995-2008) and then ARC Professorial Fellow at the Australian National University and the University of Sydney.
Cousins Henry and William Shiell were the grandsons of the largest slave-owner on Montserrat, in the Caribbean, and both had white slave-owning fathers. But where Henry had a well-to-do white mother, William was the illegitimate son of a white plantation owner and a woman of colour who was a ship chandler. In 1853 both cousins migrated, independently, to Victoria, Henry with his wife, Mary Ann, and William alone. Henry would become an upper level government official in New South Wales country towns and eventually the Sydney coroner. William became a goldminer, and in 1860 married Hannah Burkinshaw, whose father, a linen weaver from Yorkshire found guilty of high treason for his participation in the Grange Moor uprising of 1820, had been transported to Van Diemen’s Land. Through Henry, William, and Hannah, we can trace the collision in settler colonial societies of very different world histories.
This lecture will bring together transnational, imperial, and global approaches to Australian history, as they reshape traditional topics such as convict transportation, immigration, and the gold rushes, and connects with social histories focussed on race, class, and gender. As Hannah Burkinshaw was my great-great-great grandmother’s younger sister, this project is leading me to reflect on the ways in which the explosion of interest in family history and genealogy can help illuminate larger historical themes. In some ways, this lecture is also a sequel to Catherine Hall’s Allan Martin lecture in 2005, as I reflect on the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership database that Hall is developing with a team at University College, London. I am one of those who has been inspired to ponder the value of their work for Australian historians, and in particular the ripple effect on the Australian colonies of British slave-ownership and the now notorious massive slave-owner compensation accompanying the abolition of slavery from 1833.