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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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Over the last couple of months I’ve been making another radio documentary for ABC Radio National’s Earshot series. It’s about the remarkable life of Adelie Hurley.  A pin-up girl in the 1930s, Adelie quickly moved behind the camera to become one of Australia’s leading press photographers in what, at the time, was an all-male profession.

And she was quite a personality – risk-taking, glamorous and full of good humour. The podcast traces her career, from the nightclubs of San Francisco, through the social changes of the 1950s and 60s, to her retirement in Coffs Harbour. Working with Kate Darian-Smith, who has been part of an ARC-funded project on press photography in Australia, the process of making the show has made me think much more carefully about the changing ways our visual culture has been and is now produced. It also gave me the chance to work with the recently digitised (thank you Trove!) archive of Pix magazine which published Adelie’s early photographs.

Podcasting is (if you haven’t noticed) now a THING, and the new trend is all in the direction of first-person narration – something with which as an old school historian I was initially uncomfortable. But making the show taught me a lot about how to shape the arc of a story, how to work with available audio, the importance of sound effects and – yes – the first person singluar. To state the obvious, telling a story via audio is quite different than working with textual sources and I’m grateful to Adelie  (and ABC RN) for teaching me some of the tricks of the trade.

Adelie ‘Front Page’ Hurley aired on ABC RN’s Earshot programme on Tuesday 14 November 2017 and is available now for download or podcast.

To see Adelie’s photos …

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