Early-career environmental historian success!

Environmental historians were well represented among the award winners at the recent annual conference of the Australian Historical Association, hosted by the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne.

(L-R) Award winners Jarrod Hore, Harrison Croft, and Rohan Howitt at the Melbourne Museum

Dr Jarrod Hore, awarded the inaugural Marilyn Lake Prize for Australian Transnational History

Jarrod was recognised for his book Visions of Nature: How Landscape Photography Shaped Settler Colonialism (University of California Press, 2022). The judges’ citation reads:

The sovereign link between Indigenous Australians and their land, so powerfully evinced in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, sets the terms for Jarrod Hore’s timely and troubling account of the role of nineteenth-century landscape photography in doing the cultural work of settler colonialism through fantasising alternative truths. Visions of Nature posits the camera as important a tool as the cultivator in preparing land for settlement. This compelling and self-reflexive transnational study of environmental image making in the second half of the nineteenth century across the settler colonies of the Pacific Rim explores how the rhetorical implications of a novel globalising technology have particular and devastating impacts at localised scales. Whether through stage managing or erasing Indigenous presence, rendering settler territory as ancient and empty in a Romantic conceit of wilderness, or the visual trickery of creating a ‘landed imaginary’ of access, asset and utopia, landscape photography is revealed as witness and weapon of territorial dispossession and an essential part of the vocabulary of white settler nativity storylines. A benchmark of Australian transnational and spatial history.

Dr Rohan Howitt, joint recipient of the 2023 Allan Martin Award

Rohan was awarded the Allan Martin Award to advance his new research project “Undiscovering Emerald Island: Phantom Islands and Environmental Knowledge in Australia’s Southern Ocean World, 1821-1930”. The judges’ citation reads:

Rohan Howitt receives the award for an innovative project that uses “phantom islands” in the Southern Ocean to explore the making and unmaking of environmental knowledge of the region. In a field that celebrates “discovery” and knowledge accrual, Howitt turns his attention to “undiscovery” – the strange disappearance of once-mapped islands to chart environmental knowledge in the subantarctic region from the 1820s to the 1930s. In addition to scholarly articles, the Allan Martin Award will assist Dr Howitt to produce a digital map showing how, when and why certain islands appeared and disappeared. Dr Howitt is building an impressive reputation in environmental history, and this new project is further evidence of the exciting perspectives and approaches he brings to the field.

Harrison Croft, awarded the 2023 Jill Roe Prize

Harrison was awarded this prize for an unpublished article length for his essay titled “‘Are You Happy Now?’: Gauging Streams and Building Postwar Victoria from the Periphery”. The judges’ citation reads:

The judges commend the author on this fascinating article revealing the historical significance of little-known rural Victorian water gauge readers and their utilisation of remarks columns to the Melbourne Commission on water to campaign for better labour conditions. The rich archival detail reveals compelling stories of these workers, many of them young women exercising what little agency they had, and their unique contribution to rural labour relations in mid-20th century Victoria. This is an extremely well-researched, carefully written, thoughtful and original contribution to labour history, gender history and environmental history with a particular focus on periphery/centre relations and dynamics that Jill Roe would delight in.

Freg Stokes, awarded the inaugural AHA General History Thesis Prize

For his thesis titled “The Hummingbird’s Atlas: Mapping Guaraní Resistance in the Atlantic Rainforest during the Emergence of Capitalism (1500–1768)”, the judges’ citation reads:

A remarkable thesis that tackles a highly original topic. Empirically rich, theoretically adventurous, the thesis shows a depth and difficulty of research that includes time in the archives and fieldwork, and extensive use of non-English language sources. It ties together novel archival research, work with Indigenous Guaraní speakers, and map-making to develop a compelling argument that the resistance of Indigenous populations in the Atlantic rainforest shaped the expansion (or not) of colonial agendas and also played a major role in the trajectories of global capitalism. It is a pioneering thesis that puts Indigenous peoples at the forefront of global history, and incorporates oral traditions and Indigenous knowledge alongside archival work. The thesis brings together and makes a significant contribution to the best and newest literature in the fields of labour history, environmental history, indigenous history, and global history in a sophisticated analysis that is complemented by an impressive collection of original maps and tables.