Olivia_TamsonOne of the best things I did in 2018 was help make the History Lab podcast. I’ve had the immense privilege of working with some amazingly talented and dedicated young producers and learnt a lot from them about story telling and meaning making and also just sheer hard work. Let no one cast shade on Millennials! These people have poured their hearts into this endeavour.

Together we have brought to life through audio the process of historical investigation – the asking questions and the sleuthing through sources and in many cases the not knowing.  Hearing steps echoing in empty corridors and puzzling over handwriting invites the listener into the process of discovery.  It opens up the experience of history-making to all who listen.

We wanted to do this because we are convinced that doing the work of thinking and making meaning together is central to building a good society.  And I think we really have made a difference. So far the podcast has had 44K listens in under 6 months! (how’s that for academic impact?!) And we’ve also hosted two events in Sydney that have brought together the community of listeners, culture-keepers and meaning-makers.

So if you are looking for something to listen to whilst driving across the Hay plains or waiting at Gatwick airport or flying across the Pacific, there are 8+ History Lab episodes that will surprise and delight you. They are each about 30 min long and you will get to hear me, among other things, puzzling over colonial love triangles and thinking hard about jelly babies. And if you like them we’d love it if you shared them with your friends.

Just visit https://historylab.net/ or search for “History Lab” on itunes or google podcasts or in any of the usual audio places.

Season 1

  • S1Ep1: Lindy Chamberlain and the afterlife of evidence – What happens to evidence after a criminal trial? Tamson goes looking for answers and finds herself in the shadow of one of the worst miscarriages of justice in Australian history.
  • S1Ep2: Damages of a broken heart – Why would the Courts be interested in the failed love lives of working class people? And what does a convict’s daughter, a barrister and a former Prime Minister have to do with it? We discover litigious lovers, colonial love triangles and the emergence of medicalised heartbreak on a quest to understand the history of love.
  • S1Ep3: When the Titanic sank in the desert – In the middle of outback Australia, over 400 kilometres from the closest ocean, stands a monument dedicated to the memory of the Titanic. Why? Encountering the politics of memory, Ninah and Tamson discover that a story about trying to remember reveals much about what we choose to forget.
  • S1Ep4: The making of History Lab – What does it take to make History Lab? Find out in our ‘Making of History Lab’ bonus interlude episode. Featuring some audience listening participation!
  • S1Ep5: Fishing for answers – Jutting into Sydney’s glittering harbour, the Sydney Opera House plays host to musicians and dancers, actors and singers. But beneath the notes of their voices, another song echoes across the city’s waters. Can we still hear it?

Season 2

  • S2Ep1: The Bank, the Sergeant and his bonus – In 1817, the Bank of New South Wales opened as the first financial institution in the Australian colonies. But when the first customers arrived for the grand opening, they found someone had already made a deposit.
  • S2Ep2: Invisible Hands – Where do jelly babies come from? Mass-produced things are all around us. But they all start with a single object. Olivia goes looking for the patternmakers, whose invisible hands create many of the products we use every day.
  • S2Ep3: Skeletons of Empire – Is world peace just a dream? In the aftermath of WWI, nations came together in an attempt to ensure such a war would never happen again. In this episode, Glenda Sluga and Ninah Kopel search for the ephemeral traces of that belief in a unified world.
  • S2Ep4: Making history in audio (behind the scenes of Season 2) – The History Lab audio makers explore how they’ve tried to understand the past through sound in History Lab Season 2.

If you are a researcher or historian and are interested in making a History Lab episode with us, please do get in touch. There’s a pitching form on our website and a bunch of information about how it works, or just email me. We are open to all discussions.

History Lab podcast is a collaboration between the Australian Centre for Public History at UTS and 2SER 107.3.  Huge thanks go to Emma Lancaster, Tom Allinson, Miles Martignoni, Olivia Rosenman, Ninah Kopel, Jason L’Ecuyer, Joe Koning and everyone else involved in making this show happen, including our fantastic collaborating historians – it’s been wild. Bring on 2019!

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Constantine Raises (R) and Dr. John Tymitz (L) one of the original members of the Institute for Shipboard Education, photograph by Paul Liebhardt c1984

Constantine Raises (R) and Dr. John Tymitz (L), one of the original members of the Institute for Shipboard Education, photograph by Paul Liebhardt c1984

Or: A reflection on the sadistic humour of the goddess Clio.

(continued from Part 2 and Part 1 of Chasing Constantine Raises)

The official records of the 1926-27 Floating University have disappeared. The Raises collection overview notes that Raises himself presented this material to the University of the Seven Seas (a successor enterprise launched in 1960) after which it “may have been permanently lost”. I contacted Semester at Sea (the organisation that now runs the university cruises) and they have confirmed that this early material does not exist. 

So I’ve followed up the other threads of the story. I’ve been to the Riesenberg archives in San Francisco and found nothing more than drafts of salty books on naval adventure, none of which bears evidence of a Greek translator. Of the books Riesenberg published in the 1920s that I  managed to find, none features Raises in the acknowledgments. But all archives are partial records and this one especially so. I have failed to find Andrew J. McIntosh’s papers, and similarly had no success in my search for the records of the diplomat George Horton. I am in the process of trying to chase down the copies of the New York World (on microfilm at the New York Public Library) to see if the editor Herbert Swope wrote the articles Liebhardt suggests he did, though again it would not be remarkable if he had – so many newspapers carried accounts of Lough’s plans. But perhaps, just perhaps, such an article might mention the Newport dinner?

When did Raises began to tell this version of his life? Maybe, in late 1920s New York, after Horton’s book on Smyrna had received such huge attention, Americans made the assumption for him? Possibly it was only after Lough’s death in 1952, when the other members of the original cruise had all gone, that the Newport story emerged. By then Raises was in his early 50s and trying to relaunch the student cruise while also running his own travel agency. He organised a very successful reunion in 1952 of the alumni of the 1926 voyage and a similar event in 1954 for the 1928 successor voyage, and in 1958 he had connected with a small businessman and Rotarian called Bill Hughes who wanted to launch a university that would sail around the world studying international problems. It was the early years of the Cold-War. After the horrors of the Holocaust, the Nuremberg trials had introduced the world to the concepts of genocide and crimes against humanity; Senator Fulbright had just launched his international scholarship exchange program, and the United States was seizing a new and more interventionist global role. An origin myth that invoked one man’s survival of an earlier catastrophe and linked it to an American innovation in international education may have fitted the times? 

But this is all speculation. Much of the story Raises told Liebhardt is plausible. Possibly the dinner on the Newport did happen.

Why should the reader believe the version I present, over Raises’ testimony? My account grows out of the kind of expert knowledge about the world that is certified by universities and the conventions of historical scholarship,with its socially sanctioned apparatus of source analysis. Raises’ version was embedded in his own personal experience of travel and migration in the American century.

Which of us gets to know?

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Why would the Courts be interested in the failed love lives of working class people? And what does a convict’s daughter, a barrister and a former Australian Prime Minister have to do with it?

Quietly buried away in Western Sydney’s state archives are lists of lingerie, wedding dresses, and love letters and lockets of hair stapled and bound to writs from over 200 years ago.

In the 19th century a broken engagement could damn a woman for life. But scorned women had an unexpected way to get square.

History Lab Episode 2 came out last week. In it we sift through the historical remains to discover litigious lovers, colonial love triangles and the emergence of medicalised heartbreak on a quest to understand the history of love.

listen here >>

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