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Hidden women of history: Hop Lin Jong, a Chinese immigrant in the early days of White Australia



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The family of Hop Lin Jong (who is pictured on the far left) at the wedding of her daughter, Ruby (third from right) in 1924. Ruby was murdered by her husband the following year.

Antonia Finnane, University of Melbourne

In a new series, we look at under acknowledged women through the ages.

There are “hidden women” in history who deserve to be known for the same reasons as we know about “great men”. The film Hidden Figures showed us a few of them: African-American women who did the mathematics for the first US space program.

And then there are the rest of us: ordinary people who at first glance look more like products than producers of their times. Hop Lin Jong was one of these, or should I say one of us: a turn-of-the-century immigrant whose arrival in Western Australia in 1901 was remarkable only because she was Chinese. Her life might have passed in obscurity if her daughter Ruby had not been murdered in 1925.

Hop Lin Jong was born in Guangzhou according to immigration records, but arrived in Australia on the S.S. Australind, which plied the Singapore-Fremantle route. Singapore was a hub for human trafficking from China, a multi-million dollar business that linked villages in South China to the world. Hop Lin Jong may have been a victim of this trade.




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The year of her birth is uncertain: 1884 in the family genealogy, 1886 in her residential documents. When she disembarked in Fremantle she was somewhere between 15 and 17 years of age. Her surname was Jong or Jung. In Australia she was known as Lin or Lucy, or more formally as Mrs Lee Wood, for on arrival she was wed to James Lee Wood, butcher, merchant and a prominent member of the local Chinese community. The instability of names resulting from poor English rendering is typical for this generation of Chinese migrants.

Lin arrived at the very dawn of the White Australia era, when restrictions directed mainly at preventing Chinese immigration had just been brought into force across the country. How she crossed this colour line is unknown, except that minors were treated differently from adults. Her youth may have been a factor.

Life in early 20th-century Perth

Lin’s wedding photo, published on the Chinese-Australian Historical Images site, shows a well-dressed young woman in a ruffled blouse and tailored skirt. Ruffles must have been all the rage then. A second family photo shows her older daughters, May and Ruby, aged around two and three, dressed identically in ruffled dresses and little boots. She had five children in all, born between 1902 and 1910.

At that time there were few Chinese women in Perth. Census figures for 1901 show 18 women of Chinese nationality in the whole of Western Australia. But the European wives of Chinese men and their children added to the size of the local community. Lin undoubtedly knew Elizabeth Gipp, the wife of Charlie Ah You, and mother of the Gipp boys of Anzac fame. (George, Leslie, and Richard Gipp all served in the First World War.) These women must have supported each other during confinements: this was before the age of hospital births.




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The Chinese community of Perth was centered in James St, Northbridge. The Chung Wah (Chinese) Society, established in 1909, had its premises in James St, and Lee Wood’s butcher shop occupied the ground floor of the same building. In 1914, the Lee Woods bought a house in Tiverton St, not far away. Family social and economic life appeared to have operated between the two poles of Tiverton and James Streets. There was a primary school in James St that was attended by the Gipp children. It is possible that the Lee Wood children, too, went there.

Lin Lee Wood, 1948.
National Archives of Australia

Lin was a seamstress, and took in sewing. She may have passed her skills onto Ruby, who became a dressmaker. She also worked when needed in the butcher shop. The marriage, however, was not happy. By the 1920s, she and Lee Wood were living apart, she in Tiverton St and he at the shop. Yet as an economic and social unit, the family remained intact. There were family photos, and family notices in the local newspaper. Both parents were involved in the marriages of the children: May’s to local merchant Timothy Chiew in 1922, and Ruby’s to recent immigrant Leong Yen in 1924.

Death of a daughter

Ordinary life with its ordinary problems changed forever in the middle of 1925. On the morning of 13 July that year, a Monday, Lin was working in the shop when Ruby called in to leave the house key with her. That night, when her daughter failed to return home, Lin knew immediately that something must have happened. On the Thursday she went to the police. On the next Thursday again, Ruby’s body was pulled from the harbour in Fremantle.

Coverage of Ruby Yen’s murder in the Sunday Times Magazine in 1941.
National Library of Australia

There followed a coronial inquest, the arrest of Leong Yen for the murder of his young wife, and a trial presided over by Chief Justice Robert McMillan. The case meant an unusual degree of public exposure for a Chinese-Australian family. Newspaper reporting was detailed, giving close to verbatim accounts of the evidence. Perth was glued to the events. During the trial, the public gallery was packed, with women making up a large percentage of onlookers.

From the court records we learn that a local Chinese pharmacist, George Way, had served as matchmaker for Ruby’s marriage; that Leong and Ruby had lived with Lin after their wedding in 1924; and that at one stage Lin had thrown him out of the house. We know from the forensic report that the marriage had not been consummated, and from Leong’s evidence that the couple did not share the same bedroom. Perhaps due to these facts, the all-male jury felt sorry for Leong and while finding him guilty of manslaughter, recommended leniency. The judge obliged, with a sentence of two years hard labour. On expiry of the sentence, Leong was deported.

In later decades, the press periodically revisited the case in salacious and sometimes imagined detail (“as the taxi rattled towards Fremantle, thunder rumbled and rain lanced down in swirling flurries”). Quite recently, The West Australian carried a report on the “chilling coincidences” between the current “body-in-a-suitcase trial” centred on the death of Annabel Chen and the trial of Leong Yen more than 90 years ago.




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After Ruby

Between the obscurity of life as a Chinese working-class woman in a small Australian city and the glare of publicity surrounding her daughter’s death, Lin is just dimly visible to history. At only five foot high, she was smaller than any of her Australian children. The West Australian reported on her appearance in court, describing “a slight, frail woman, in deep mourning and weeping quietly.” But she was stalwart. According to her grandson Bill Chiew, she “used to work like hell.”

She was barely if at all literate, finding it difficult to sign her immigration papers. Her spoken English, however, was quite good, according to immigration records. In middle age she spent much time minding her grandchildren. Her English may have benefited from time with these second-generation Australians, who could hardly speak Chinese at all; and she may have taken comfort from them.

From the public record we can see that she was swept along in the course of Australian history. With the outbreak of World War II, her youngest son, William (“Boy”), joined the army. In the post-war years, the family enjoyed upward mobility. Granddaughter Irene graduated from university in 1952. And by the time Lin died in 1970, the White Australia Policy had effectively been dismantled. Citizenship had become possible for someone like her.

The last photo of her in the public record is attached to her application for renewal of residential status in 1948. It shows a woman in the ordinary dress of the post-war era, a button-through frock, her hair parted in the middle and done up at the sides. Her birthplace is given as Canton and her nationality as Chinese. By then she had lived in Perth for nearly 50 years. Not surprisingly, she looks Australian and Chinese at the same time.The Conversation

Antonia Finnane, Professor of Chinese History, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Why archaeology is so much more than just digging



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The Port Arthur historic site is beautiful today – but its isolation would have been overwhelming for former convict inhabitants.
Port Arthur Historic Site , Author provided

Richard Tuffin, University of New England and Martin GIbbs, University of New England

It’s our experience that most people think archaeology mainly means digging in the dirt.

Admit to strangers that you are of the archaeological persuasion, and the follow-up question is invariably “what’s the best thing you’ve found?”.

Start to tell them about a fantastic ink and watercolour plan you unearthed in library archives, or an old work site you stumbled upon in thick eucalypt bush, and their eyes glaze over.

People invariably want to hear about skeletons, pots and bits of shiny metal. It’s this type of stuff that you will often see in the media, giving the misleading impression that archaeological process is only about excavation.

While the trowel and spade are an important inclusion in the archaeological toolkit, our core disciplinary definition – that of using humanity’s material remains to understand our history – means that we utilise many ways of engaging with this past.




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A hole in the ground

Of course, there’s nothing like a tidy hole in the ground to get people’s attention. Yet what often gets lost in the spotlight’s glow is that excavation is the last resort; it’s the end result of exhaustive research, planning and design.

In the research environment, excavations are triggered by having no, or only a low level of, other streams of evidence.

This similarly applies in mitigating the impacts of development, where the threat of an historical site’s partial or complete removal adds an element of evidence recovery.

Should the excavation be ill-thought out, or divorced from proper research goals, the results – and therefore the net benefit of the whole exercise – are lessened, if not completely lost.

This is particularly so for historical archaeologists, where the availability of documentary archives, oral testimony and the remaining landscape itself can reveal so much – before trowels meet dirt.




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Lots of work before digging

For the historical archaeologist, a huge amount of work must take place before an excavation can even be planned, with invasive investigations sometimes not even considered.

In our particular field, the historical archaeology of Australia’s convict system (1788-1868), there is a vast amount of documentary evidence that requires interrogation before any archaeological process can begin.

Convicts at work turning the Australian bush into a tamed cultivated field (Thomas Lempriere ‘Philips Island from the N.W. extremity to the overseer’s hut, Macquarie Harbour’ circa 1828.)
Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, Tasmania Archive and Heritage Office, Author provided

As an example, in the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office, 35 metres of shelf space is taken up just by the official correspondence records for the period 1824-36.

Correspondence, reports, tables, diaries, newspapers, maps, plans, illustrations and photographs contain a wealth of information about the convict past. These can be used to query how people interacted with each other and the places, spaces and things that were created and modified as a result.

The experience of convict labour

We are currently over a year into a research project (called Landscapes of Production and Punishment) that uses evidence of the built and natural landscape to understand the experience of convict labour on the Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania (1830-77).

At its peak, nearly 4,000 convicts and free people lived on the penal peninsula. Their day-to-day activities left traces in today’s landscape that we locate and analyse using historical research, remote sensing and archaeological field survey.

LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging, a form of 3D mapping) has been used to great effect, mapping large areas in high detail, which have then been surveyed to find the sites of convict labour. These include quarries, sawpits, charcoal-burning stands, brick pits, tramways, roads and paths, cultivated fields and boundaries.

LiDAR image of the immediate area around the Port Arthur penal station, showing the.
range of activities carried out in the landscape

Landscapes of Production and Punishment, 2017-19, Author provided




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No soil was disturbed

Without turning a sod, we have recreated historic landscapes that have long lain dormant.

These have then been brought to life through the records of the system, which were historically used to account for the convicts and their labour. These include records about the lives of convicts whilst under sentence, as well as statistics on the products and processes of their labour.

This raw data shows us the outputs of industrial operations carried out by the convicts, like brick making, sandstone quarrying, lime burning and timber-getting, as well as the manufactories that produced leather, timber and metalwork goods by the thousand.

The records also locate convict and free settlers back into time and space, reconnecting them to the places and products of their labour.

As the project develops, excavation may be one of the archaeological methods used to retrieve our evidence – but only once we have exhausted all other avenues of enquiry.

Controlled destruction

As archaeologists, we have a responsibility to ensure that the controlled process of destruction that is an archaeological investigation has the greatest possible research return.

Without this due process, our work becomes unhinged from research frameworks. The excavations devolve into expensive and directionless treasure hunts from which little research value can be extracted.

The archaeologist’s profession – be it as an academic or working in the commercial and government sector – is more than excavation. It encompasses a diverse range of skills and techniques which can be deployed to aid in our central task of understanding the lives of those who came before.




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The authors would like to thank Caroline Homer (Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office) and David Roe, Jody Steele and Sylvana Szydzik (Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority).The Conversation

Richard Tuffin, Research Fellow, University of New England and Martin GIbbs, Professor of Australian Archaeology, University of New England

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


250 years after Captain Cook’s arrival, we still can’t be sure how many Māori lived in Aotearoa at the time



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Captain James Cook sailed the Endeavour off New Zealand’s east coast in 1769.
from Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-ND

Simon Chapple, Victoria University of Wellington

Two hundred and fifty years ago this year, James Cook’s ship the Endeavour arrived off the eastern coast of New Zealand. The following circumnavigation marked the beginning of ongoing European contact with the indigenous population, and eventually mass British immigration from 1840.

One important question historians are trying to answer is how many Māori lived in Aotearoa at the time of Cook’s arrival. This question goes to the heart of the negative impacts of European contact on the size and health of the 19th-century Māori population, which subsequently bottomed out in the 1890s at just over 40,000 people.

The conventional wisdom is that there were about 100,000 Māori alive in 1769, living on 268,000 square kilometres of temperate Aotearoa. This is a much lower population density (0.37 people per square kilometre) than densities achieved on tropical and much smaller Pacific Islands.

Examples of order-of-magnitude higher density Pacific populations in the contact-era include:

In conjunction with later 19th-century census figures, the conventional wisdom implies that European contact and colonisation following Cook’s arrival was much less devastating for the indigenous population of Aotearoa than for many other Pacific islands.

Three approaches have been used to support the estimate of 100,000 Māori. Unfortunately, none bears any serious weight.




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The Cook population estimate

The 100,000-strong estimate of the contact-era Māori population is often attributed to Cook. However, it never received his seal of approval, and it was not made in 1769.

It was published in a 1778 book written by Johann Forster, the naturalist on Cook’s second expedition of 1772-1775. Forster’s estimate is a guess, innocent of method. He suggests 100,000 Māori as a round figure at the lower end of likelihood. His direct observation of Māori was brief, in the lightly populated South Island, far from major northern Māori population centres.

Later visitors had greater direct knowledge of the populous coastal northern parts of New Zealand. They also made population estimates. Some were guesses like Forster’s. Others were based on a rough method. Their estimates range from 130,000 (by early British trader Joel Polack) to over 500,000 Māori (by French explorer Dumont D’Urville), both referring to the 1820s. The wide range further emphasises the lack of information in Forster’s guess.

A map of the east coast on New Zealand’s North Island, drawn by Captain James Cook.
from Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-ND

Working backwards from the 1858 census

A second method takes the figure from the first New Zealand-wide Māori population census of 1858, of about 60,000 people. It works this number backwards over 89 years to 1769, making assumptions about the rate of annual population decline between 1769 and 1858.

There is a good quantitative estimate for the rate of decline back from 1858 to 1844, taken from a Waikato longitudinal census. But there is nothing solid for the period before 1844.

To overcome the absence of numbers, an apparently better documented and very low average annual rate of decline of the Moriori people of the Chatham Islands of 0.4% between 1791 and 1835 has been applied to New Zealand. However, the estimated rate is calculated from wrong numbers for both the 1791 and 1835 Moriori populations. In fact, there is no contemporary 1791 estimate of the Moriori population from which to calculate a meaningful rate of quantitative decline to 1835.

The qualitative conclusion of low population decline is based on two propositions. The first is that prior to the 1850s, imported European diseases were localised to a few coastal areas. The second is that the impact of warfare on populations over the first half of the 19th century was minimal. What is the evidence for these propositions? The answer is not much in either case.

Historical evidence suggests that there were indeed widespread epidemics in New Zealand prior to the 1850s. For example, there is evidence of a great epidemic around 1808, possibly some form of enteric fever or influenza, which killed many people across the North Island and the top of the South Island. Other high-mortality diseases known to be present in New Zealand pre-1840 and readily transmittable internally include syphilis and tuberculosis.

The estimates of how many Māori died directly and indirectly on account of warfare over the 1769 to 1840 period lack a coherent method. They are weak on definitions of what they count. They cover varying or indeterminate periods. Where they can be made roughly comparable, the numbers arrived at are wildly different, with estimates of deaths ranging from 300 to 2000 people on average annually. In other words, the impact of warfare on population decline could have been quite small or quite large. We simply don’t know.

Overall, Hawaiian archaeologist Patrick Kirch’s conclusion on the validity of this method for estimating other contact-era Pacific populations is also applicable to New Zealand. It is a largely circular exercise in assuming what needs to be proven.

Waka paddles, as described in Joseph Banks’ journal in 1769. From New Zealand drawings made in the countries visited by Captain Cook in his First Voyage.
from Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-ND

Predicting population from settlement

The third method used to estimate 100,000 Māori predicts the population forward from first arrival in New Zealand. Prediction requires a minimum of three parameters. These are the arrival date of Māori in New Zealand, the size of the founding population and the prehistoric population growth rate to 1769.

The current consensus is that voyagers from Eastern Polynesia arrived in New Zealand between 1230 and 1280 AD and then became known as Māori. However, even a 50-year difference in arrival dates can make large differences to an end population prediction.

Geneticists have estimated the plausible size of the Māori female founding population as between 50 to 230 women. The high population estimate which would result from using these numbers is therefore nearly five times the size of the low estimate. Such a broad range is meaningless.

The third big unknown of the prediction method is the growth rate. Minimalists have employed low rates, based on prehistoric Eurasian populations, where humans had lived for tens of thousands of years. This perspective of low Māori prehistoric growth rates is problematic. Humans did not live in New Zealand prior to Māori. The population density faced by newly arriving people was zero.

Also, New Zealand’s flora and fauna had evolved without people. Once people arrived, they would have found more niches of exploitable nutrients than in regions where plants and animals had long co-evolved with people as apex predators. Such circumstances allowed for a potentially rapid Māori population expansion.

Indeed, historically recorded population growth rates for Pacific islands with small founding populations could be exceptionally high. For example, on tiny, resource-constrained Pitcairn Island, population growth averaged an astounding 3% annually over 66 years between 1790 and 1856.

Arguments for rapid prehistoric population growth run up against other problems. Skeletal evidence seems to show that prehistoric Māori female fertility rates were too low; and mortality, indicated by a low average adult age at death, was too high to generate rapid population growth.

This low-fertility finding has always been puzzling, given high Māori fertility rates in the latter 19th century. Equally, archaeological findings of a low average adult age at death have been difficult to reconcile with numbers of elderly Māori observed in accounts of early explorers.

However, recent literature on using skeletal remains to estimate either female fertility or adult age at death is sceptical that this evidence can determine either variable in a manner approaching acceptable reliability. So high growth paths cannot be ruled out.

Because of resulting uncertainties in the three key parameters and the 500-year-plus forecast horizon, the plausible population range around 100,000 Māori in 1769 is so broad as to make any prediction estimate meaningless. Virtually any contact-era population can be illustrated by someone with a modicum of numerical nous.

Density analogies

In the 2017 New Zealand Journal of History, New Zealand archaeologist Atholl Anderson argues that medieval population density on the large (about 103,000 square kilometres, slightly smaller than the North Island), isolated and sub-arctic island of Iceland is a much better analogy for likely contact-era Māori density than those of smaller tropical Pacific islands.

He uses Icelandic population density from the year 1800, over 900 years into the settlement sequence. If Icelandic population numbers closest to 500 years into the settlement sequence were used, they would provide a more direct temporal analogy for 500 years of Māori settlement in 1769.

Iceland was settled circa 870 AD. The best estimates of the pre-industrial Icelandic population closest to 500 years post-settlement are from 1311. They are based on farm numbers counted for tax purposes. This method gives 72,000 to 95,000 Icelanders. So, in its medieval period, sub-arctic Iceland achieved population densities of 0.70 to 0.92 people per square km. Applying these densities to contact-era temperate New Zealand gives a Māori population of between 190,000 to 250,000 people when Cook arrived.

In terms of a New Zealand-related density analogy, there is good 1835 population data from the temperate Chatham Islands (about 970 square kilometres in area), giving a Moriori population density exceeding two people per square kilometre. It was measured after decades of likely population decline from contact with European sealers and whalers, as well as after at least one serious epidemic. Applying this density figure to the North Island alone, which the Chatham Islands climatically best resembles, gives 230,000 people when Cook arrived.

Using analogies from Iceland and the Chatham Islands suggests that post-Cook European contact may have been more devastating for Māori than conventional wisdom acknowledges. There may have been 200,000 or more Māori in 1769, falling to about 40,000 in the 1890s. Additionally, a figure of 200,000 or more Māori implies that much post-contact population decline occurred prior to mass British immigration.

As elsewhere in the Americas and the Pacific, perhaps European germs, not mass immigration, were the primary driver of indigenous population decline. But 250 years on from Cook, more work and different methods are needed to answer this question.The Conversation

Simon Chapple, Director, Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, Victoria University of Wellington

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Hidden women of history: Lydia Chukovskaya, editor, writer, heroic friend



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A plaque on a house in St Petersburg that says: ‘Here the writer Lydia Korneievna Chukovskaya wrote Sophia Petrovna, a story about the Great Terror 1936-1938’.
Wikimedia Commons

Judith Armstrong, University of Melbourne

In a new series, we look at under acknowledged women through the ages.

The Russian poet Anna Akhmatova is too tragic and striking a figure ever to be forgotten. A famous portrait depicts her in a midnight blue dress and brilliant yellow shawl beside an objectivist arrangement of lighter blue hydrangeas. Nose aquiline and eyes contemplative under the signature black fringe, she is utterly transfixing. Yet much of our knowledge of Akhmatova is due to the self-effacing journals of a less remembered woman, Lydia Chukovskaya, who brought her friendship, food and unfailing support.

Lydia was a literary editor and a significant poet, novella-writer and memoirist, born in 1907. Her father was Kornei Chukovsky, a prolific and highly regarded writer of much-loved children’s books – a kind of Russian Dr Seuss.

Lydia Chukovskaya.
Wikipedia

In cultured St Petersburg, young Lydia developed a passion for literature, but soon after the outbreak of the 1917 Revolution she was briefly exiled to the city of Saratov because one of her friends had used her father’s typewriter to produce an anti-Bolshevik pamphlet.

Permitted to return to newly-named Leningrad, she got a job editing children’s books in the state publishing house, began to write stories, and married a brilliant young physicist, Matvei (Mitya) Bronstein.

Their marriage took place shortly before the outbreak of the Great Terror of 1936-38, one of the most brutal periods in the history of the Soviet Union. Both Mitya Bronstein and Akhmatova’s son Lev were arrested. By the time Chukovskaya was informed that Mitya had been sentenced to ten years in a labour camp, he had in fact been executed. Lev was held in a Leningrad prison for 17 months.

Mitya Bronstein.
Wikimedia Commons

The frantic wife and devastated mother met each other while desperately seeking information about their loved ones. Lydia fled briefly to Kiev, but soon returned to their looted flat in St Petersburg to remake a home with her baby daughter Lyusha. Mitya’s room was occupied by a government surveillant.

Lydia kept a diary, but she now omitted from it everything that was “really important”, including her friendship with Akhmatova, whose intransigence invited arrest at any moment. She knew that to write down their conversations endangered both their lives; yet not to record them, she felt, would be “criminal”. She compromised by waiting until much later to fill in names.

Akhmatova was in the process of writing a long poem, her now-famous Requiem. An extended elegy for all who suffered under the Terror, it was obviously far too dangerous to commit to paper.




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When visiting Lydia she would whisper parts of it for Lydia to retain, but in her own bugged apartment she would gesture at the ceiling and say in a loud voice, “Will you have some tea?” while passing over a handwritten page.

Lydia would memorise the poems on it and give it back. “How early autumn has come this year,” Anna would then muse, striking a match and burning the paper over the ashtray.

A 1922 portrait of Anna Akhmatova by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin.
Wikimedia Commons

‘Hands, match, ashtray’

Lydia wrote of this act of rebellion: “It was a ritual: hands, match, ashtray – a beautiful and mournful ritual”. She would then use her nightly walk home to recall what she had memorised, oblivious to her route. “Poems guided me instead of the moon,” she wrote. “The world was absent”.

Leningrad was yet to experience the extreme shortages of the Siege (1941–1944), but food was far from plentiful. Lydia brought sugar, eggs or rissoles to the impractical Anna, but also lilacs, “so it would seem more like a present”.

During those years she described herself as feeling “less and less alive”, reviving only when she was with Anna,

a certainty amidst all those wavering uncertainties… her words, deeds, head, shoulders and hand-movements possessed of [the] perfection which, in this world, usually belongs only to great works of art.

But writing also sustained Lydia’s own spirit. In 1938 she’d been allowed a stint in a writers’ colony where she completed a novella, Sofia Petrovna – naturally unpublishable given that it described the realities of living under the Terror. Sofia is a typist whose son Kolya, a promising engineering student, is arrested.

Sofia embarks on the existence so familiar to Chukovskaya and Akhmatova: frozen hours standing in queues, the lack of news, the attempt to sneak food into the prison. Falling foul of the authorities. When a letter from Kolya finally arrives, Sofia is so terrified of compromising him she forces herself to burn the precious scrap.

After 1956, the year of Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin, Sofia Petrovna was circulated in samizdat (manuscript form), and even, during the thaw of the early 60s, came close to publication, but was ultimately rejected for “ideological distortions”. It finally appeared 25 years later, thanks to Gorbachev’s glasnost.




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Grit and grief

Chukovskaya’s “acceptable” work included an Introduction to the Ukrainian anthropologist Maclouho-Maclay’s account of life in New Guinea, but her second book, Going Under, published in Paris in 1972, describes how in 1949 Akhmatova and the satirical writer, Mikhail Zoshchenko, were thrown out of the Writers’ Union. She also wrote letters of support regarding Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and the physicist Andrei Sakharov, harassed by the KGB but later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

However, her best-known work remains the two volumes recording the almost daily conversations with Akhmatova, an overwhelmingly impressive mix of grit and grief as the two women confronted threats, cold, privation and starvation.

The journals first appeared in Paris in 1976 and 1980, alongside several volumes of autobiographical poetry, On This Side of Death, which express the profound sense of loss that afflicted both her and her country. In 1976 Chukovskaya received the first ever PEN Freedom Prize for the journals, and in 1990, the first Sakharov Prize for her life’s work.

Akhmatova died in 1966; from then on Lydia lived in Moscow, moving between a central flat and her father’s dacha in Peredelkino, the writers’ colony outside the city. She died in 1996, not altogether forgotten, but her memory outdazzled, as she would have deemed appropriate, by that of her more splendid friend.

Quotations from Lydia Chukovskaya, The Akhmatova Journals, Vol. 1, 1938-41, Harvill 1994, tr. Milena Michalski and Sylva Rubashova.The Conversation

Judith Armstrong, Honorary Fellow of the School of Languages and Linguistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


1996-1997 cabinet papers show how Howard and Costello faced a budget black hole


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The newly sworn-in Howard ministry in March 1996.
National Archives of Australia

Frank Bongiorno, Australian National University

On the morning of Monday, March 4 1996, the young treasurer in the Howard government, Peter Costello, and his press secretary, Tony Smith – now the speaker of the House of Representatives – took an Ansett flight from Melbourne to Sydney for their first departmental briefing. The treasury secretary, Ted Evans, who had initially asked to see Costello privately, offered his resignation in light of the change of government. Costello assured Evans he wanted him to stay on.

Once the meeting began, Evans had some startling news for his new boss. The budget had an underlying deficit of about A$9 billion. “Costello appeared genuinely shocked”, his biographer, Shaun Carney, has reported. The size of the deficit probably did take him by surprise, even if the existence of a deficit of some kind did not. John Howard recalls that he had wind of it before his March 2 election victory.

A submission released today by the National Archives of Australia in its 1996-1997 cabinet records sets out the nature and scale of the problem that the new government saw as its most serious during its first term. But problem would become opportunity. In his autobiography, Lazarus Rising, Howard would call the 1996 budget “the most important of all budgets” delivered during his almost 12 years in government, as well as “the best and bravest in 25 years”.




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Howard is hardly a disinterested party. Nonetheless, there is a persuasive strand of opinion among commentators that the fiscal decisions taken in 1996, while creating political pain for the government and economic pain for voters, were foundational for Howard and Costello.

Some have credited this early decision-making for Australia’s economic resilience in the face of turbulent global winds: the Asian financial crisis, the bursting of the dot-com bubble, even the global financial crisis.

The cabinet submission of March 18 1996 predicted economic growth of 3.75% for 1995-96 and 1996-97, on the back of improved performance from the farm sector as the drought ended. Weak demand was likely cyclical, a “temporary slowdown of the type which often occurs at this stage of the business cycle and that growth should strengthen in subsequent quarters”, as business investment again took off.

Howard’s quip from opposition in 1995 – that the recovering economy was “five minutes of economic sunlight” – was effective politics. But it was not supported by the new government’s own records, which referred to a “generally favourable outlook”.

Compared with the skyrocketing interest rates and then the recession the Hawke and Keating governments faced in the early 1990s (or the recession the Hawke government inherited in 1983), these were happy days.

However, unemployment remained high at well over 8% and was projected to stay there in the following year.

The government was also concerned about the drag on economic performance of continuing budget deficits and rising government debt. This was running down national savings, undermining investment and worsening Australia’s current account deficit – the difference between the value of imports and exports of goods, services and capital.

Costello committed the government to reducing the underlying deficit of 3.5% of gross domestic product to 0.5% over three years, thereby reducing public sector lending, relieving pressure on the current account deficit, and returning the budget to a structural surplus. The government rejected the idea of a single massive cut of A$8 billion in the 1996 budget as running the risk “of knocking the economy off course”. It therefore committed to cuts of A$4 billion in each of the budgets of 1996 and 1997, with an eye to less pain in the 1998 budget leading up to an election.

With defence spending quarantined from the cuts, the August 1996 budget was indeed a tough one. The usual suspects – health, welfare, the public service and tertiary education – bore much of the load. Nonetheless, the government’s own polling suggested most voters thought its measures “tough but fair”, dispensing necessary if bitter medicine.

Howard remarked at the December launch of the latest cabinet records release that the government applied to the budget a “fair go” test, although he would ultimately bear pain for his too-clever distinction between “core” and “non-core” election promises.

Tony Abbott was a young parliamentary secretary in 1996, on his way up but still some way from the real levers of power. By 2013, however, he had his own government and with his treasurer, Joe Hockey, faced the problem of framing his first budget.

The 1996 effort would have provided a strong clue for Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey to frame their first budget after their 2013 election win.
AAP/Lukas Coch

The 1996 effort would have been a powerful precedent for a new Coalition government in 2013 and, at a superficial level, the Abbott government did many similar things. As Howard and Costello had done, it established a National Commission of Audit.

Costello had complained of the “Beazley black hole” – the deficit bequeathed by Labor’s finance minister, Kim Beazley. Conveniently for the government, he was also the new opposition leader. The phrase lived on as a way of reminding electors of the Labor Party’s weaknesses in economic management and the Coalition’s achievements and strengths.

In 2014, Abbott and Hockey spoke of a “budget emergency”. But whereas the public seems to have bought the “black hole” image – although described recently by economist Warwick McKibbin as more like a temporary “pothole” – voters appear to have regarded the Abbott government’s “budget emergency” as invented.

One reason for this failure ironically lies in legislative changes that Costello announced at the very time he drew public attention to the black hole. This was the Charter of Budget Honesty, which mandated more rigorous reporting on the national finances, including the alphabet soup of MYEFO (Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook) and PEEFO (Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook), as well as five-yearly intergenerational reports.

These initiatives, which a Costello cabinet submission of August 2 1996 said were intended to promote “responsible fiscal management”, made it well nigh impossible to spring the surprise of a large deficit on an unsuspecting public and successor.

Unlike Hawke and Keating in 1983, and Howard and Costello in 1996, Abbott and Hockey could not stoke panic to implement unpopular measures and back out of difficult election commitments. The Charter of Budget Honesty meant they could not claim to have been blind-sided by an unanticipated budget deficit.

Howard and Costello also faced a much more helpful set of parliamentary numbers than their Coalition successor. With a massive 94 seats in a House of 148, they had political capital to burn. While few imagined the government would last almost 12 years, equally few considered it could be defeated after one term.

But it is in the Senate that the differences between 1996 and 2014 become clearer. There, the Howard government held 37 seats in a chamber of 76. After the defection of disgruntled Labor senator Mal Colston in August 1996, the government could get its legislation passed without the support of the Australian Democrats if it had Colston and the other independent senator, Brian Harradine, on side.

By way of contrast, the Abbott government faced a Senate cross bench of considerable complexity and diversity. And, as Howard has remarked, dealing with the Australian Democrats was notably easier for a Coalition government than getting Greens support.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Budget blues as government reels under the blows


In 1996, Howard and Costello got the politics right. They still paid a political price, but it did not prove fatal. McKibbin argues that the introduction of a GST in 2000 was made easier by the reduction of government outlays and the elimination of the budget deficit in the government’s first term.

By dealing with spending in 1996, the government was able to turn its attention to revenue and taxation in a more favourable fiscal environment for politically difficult reform.

The image remains: as they contemplated their own horror budget, Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann relaxed with cigars. Trivial in itself, this clumsiness epitomised the Abbott government’s muddled budget politics.

In 2014, after decades of strong economic performance, few believed that the drastic measures the Abbott government proposed in 2014 were either necessary or fair. Hockey declared the “age of entitlement” over, but voters suspected this did not extend to politicians or their friends.

The contentious measures in the 2014 budget – such as the Medicare co-payment and the winding back of unemployment benefits – did not pass Howard’s “fair go” test.

But the tough spending cuts Costello announced in 1996, while hardly provoking an outbreak of national joy, were an early taste of the professionalism and toughness that he and Howard brought to their long years at the helm.The Conversation

Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Hidden women of history: Théroigne de Méricourt, feminist revolutionary



File 20181205 186082 1q77b3y.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Théroigne de Mericourt, engraving after a painting by Auguste Raffet in 1817.
Wikimedia Commons

Peter McPhee, University of Melbourne

In a new series, we look at under acknowledged women through the ages.

Anne-Josèphe Théroigne or Terwagne (1762–1817) was born at Marcourt, a village south of Liège in modern Belgium.
From a comfortable farming family, Théroigne had a remarkably unsettled life after her mother died when she was five years old, living with relatives who provided only erratic access to education. While working as a governess she lived and studied singing in London and Paris, but also survived through unhappy relationships with far older, wealthy men.

Presumed portrait of Théroigne de Méricourt, painted by by Antoine Vestier, 1788-89.
Wikimedia Commons

By 1789 she was living in Rome, from where she rushed back to Paris after news arrived of a revolution that immediately inspired her with its promise of individual freedoms and civic equality.

This frail and often hated woman became a passionate advocate of a woman’s place in a democratic society before a tragic episode broke her.

Much of her life is shrouded in silence and myth. While commonly assumed to have fought at the Bastille on July 14 1789 and to have led the famous march of market women from Paris to the court at Versailles in October dressed as a man or on horseback, it seems instead that she lived at Versailles throughout the summer of 1789, attending debates at the National Assembly and meeting leading political figures.




Read more:
Hidden women of history: Elsie Masson, photographer, writer, intrepid traveller


Politics and war

She returned to Paris with the Assembly in October and began speaking at the democratic club des Cordeliers and on the terraces outside the Assembly. She supported the formation of mixed-sex and women’s patriotic clubs and, with other individuals such as Olympe de Gouges, the Dutch activist Etta Palm d’Aelders and the Marquis de Condorcet, an expansion of women’s civic rights.

Anon., Advance Guard of Women going to Versailles, October 1789, illustrating belief in the myth of Théroigne’s presence on a white charger.
Wikimedia Commons

While the word “feminism” was not used until 1837, there is no doubt about its applicability to Théroigne, who argued women,

have the same natural rights as men, so that, as a consequence, it is supremely unjust that we have not the same rights in society.

Théroigne’s outspoken presence and discourse provoked the ire of the counter-revolutionary press, in which she was the subject of vituperative mockery and allegations. She was ridiculed as a debauchee, the antithesis of femininity, a “patriots’ whore” whose 100 lovers a day each paid 100 sous in contributions to the Revolution “gained by the sweat of my body”.

Théroigne de Méricourt, Portrait drawn by Jean Fouquet and engraved by Gilles-Louis Chrétien, inventor of the physionotrace,
c1791.

Wikimedia Commons

It was about this time that “de Méricourt” was added to her name in the press, an inference of noble background alluding to her birthplace which she did not repudiate, a politically unwise step at a time when noble titles and privileges were being abolished.

In May 1790, Théroigne returned to Marcourt and Liège, where she was arrested on the orders of the Austrian Government, anxious about the possible contagion of revolutionary ideas across the border, and interrogated about her revolutionary activities. By the time of her release and return to Paris in January 1792 she was impoverished and suffering from depression, insomnia, and other ailments.

“La belle Liégoise”, as she was dubbed, was welcomed back enthusiastically and, once France went to war with Austria in April she began campaigning, unsuccessfully, for women’s rights to bear arms:

Frenchwomen … let us raise ourselves to the height of our destinies; let us break our chains! At last the time is ripe for women to emerge from their shameful nullity, where the ignorance, pride and injustice of men had kept them enslaved for so long …!

During the insurrection on August 10, which overthrew the monarchy and created the republic, Théroigne was involved with the killing of royalists and awarded a “civic crown” for her courage. But her sartorial flair – she enjoyed wearing her white riding habit and large round hat in public – and her political choices made her unpopular with women of the people.




Read more:
Hidden women of history: Caterina Cornaro, the last queen of Cyprus


As the military position of the republic became more precarious, and the economy worsened, Paris and France became violently divided. Paris itself was a militant republican Jacobin city, but Théroigne preferred the more conservative Girondins. In vain she wrote a passionate pamphlet urging the election of women representatives with “the glorious ministry of uniting the citizens and of inculcating in them the respect for freedom of opinions”.

Institutionalisation and death

Théroigne de Méricourt, Marcellin Pellet, sketch done at the Salpêtrière Hospital in 1816, on the request of Etienne Esquirol.
Wikimedia Commons

On May 15 1793, she was attacked by a group of Jacobin women outside the doors of the National Convention. The women, objecting to her pro-Girondin sentiments, lifted her dress and whipped her bared flesh.

Théroigne never fully recovered mentally or physically, and on 20 September 1794 she was certified insane and put into an asylum. It was a time when the first “scientific” diagnoses were being made of “dementia”, but the physical surrounds were medieval. She was ultimately sent to La Salpêtrière Hospital in 1807, where she lived in terrible squalor for ten years, only intermittently lucid and speaking constantly about the Revolution.

There the “alienist” (as psychiatrists were then called) Étienne Esquirol used her as a case-study of the mental illness caused by revolutionary “excess”. Following a short illness, she died there on 9 June 1817.

Théroigne was a charismatic but tragic figure who inspired later romanticised and creative works, for example, Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal (1857):

See Théroigne, by blood and fire enraged,
Hounding a shoeless rabble to the fray,
Who plays herself on a flaming stage,
As she climbs, sword in hand, the royal stairway.

She appears as a character in Hilary Mantel’s 1992 major novel about the Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety and in the video game Assassin’s Creed Unity (2014)

Théroigne de Mericourt’s character in Assassin’s Creed Unity.
SilveryDeath/flickr

She has especially interested male writers fascinated by the links they imagine between women, madness and revolution. Indeed, in 1989 Simon Schama closed his best-selling Citizens with Théroigne’s sad incarceration as its epilogue, as if to imply that revolution drives women to feminism and madness.

The same year, this male fascination was explored by the Lacanian psychoanalyst Élisabeth Roudinesco, who brilliantly exposed the links between early feminism, the birth of the modern asylum and masculine phantasms.

Whereas the English title of her biography is Madness and Revolution, in French it was Une femme mélancolique: for Roudinesco, Théroigne was not mad in 1794, rather she was in mourning for the revolution she had lost.The Conversation

Peter McPhee, Emeritus professor, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


What Australian soldiers ate for Christmas in WWI



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Cover of the menu for the AIF Christmas Dinner, Hotel Cecil, London, in 1916. Illustration by Fred Leist.
Museums Victoria collection, donated by Jean Bourke

Heather Merle Benbow, University of Melbourne and Deborah Tout-Smith, Museums Victoria

We have just concluded four years of commemoration of the centenary of the first world war and, although the guns fell silent in November 1918, by Christmas many Australians were still separated from their loved ones.

For Australians serving overseas in WWI, celebrations such as Christmas were particularly difficult, a reminder that the war had laid waste to their routines and taken them away from their families.

We can see from historical documents that every effort was made to reproduce the form and content of a traditional Christmas meal, whether that be on board a ship, in the mess or even in the trenches

On active service

Maintaining the traditions of Christmas could be logistically difficult. It was often simply a slightly larger amount of food than the normal rations, with additional treats, such as the half pound of Christmas pudding that Major-General John Monash procured for every man in his Third Division in 1917. Alcohol was a welcome addition.

Women distribute Christmas billies to men in Cairo, Egypt, December 1915.
Australian War Memorial

Christmas hampers and billies sent from home provided particular joy to those lucky enough to receive them.
Some, however, experienced Christmas dinners like that of Private John Chugg of 1st Light Horse Field Ambulance, who complained “it was a miserable Xmas” in Egypt in 1914: “boiled beef unpeeled potatoes and tea without milk… [and] no mail or anything to cheer us”.

Sapper Alfred Galbraith described Christmas day in Ismailia Camp, Egypt, in December 1915 in a letter to his family. Each man chipped in to purchase a turkey and

chickens more like humming birds, soft drinks and a few biscuits. The chickens were dealt out 1 between 5 men and some of them would not feed one let alone 5 men, the one we got we tossed up to see who would get it & I won but I half it with my pal & then the two of us went & bought some […] biscuits & some tin fruit.

Alf is depicted in a photo of the dinner, sitting awkwardly on canvas at the end of a row of soldiers, mess tins in front of each and an occasional bottle, likely of beer. Alf’s Christmas letter concludes nostalgically “Dear Australia the land of my Birth which we will all be glad to see again … it will be a glorious day if I live to see it out … ” It was to be his last Christmas.

AIF troops celebrating Christmas at Ismailia Camp, Egypt, in December 1915.
Museums Victoria

A special meal could have the effect of making the war recede, if briefly, for the soldiers who partook of it. This is the impression gleaned from the menu for the 1917 Christmas dinner at the “A” Mess of the 3rd Australian Divisional Headquarters in France, led by Monash.

The hand-drawn menu features bucolic sketches of rural French life, and a list of dishes in a mix of French and English, signalling the prestige of the officers’ dinner.

The 10 courses included hors d’oeuvres (olives and “Tomato au Lobster”), potage _(“_Crème de Giblet”), poisson, entrée (chicken), viands (pork and ham), legumes, sweets (three choices) and a cheese tart, ending with wine and coffee.

The menu served at an AIF Christmas Dinner in 1916.
Museums Victoria collection, donated by Jean Bourke

The “B” Mess dinner at the Headquarters was almost as sumptuous, but with fewer courses. Its more simple menu included a humorous script, poetry and parodies. When the food concluded a toast was made to “Absent Ones”, drunk “while softly murmuring the words ‘Not lost but gone to CORPS’”. Notably, the term “Lest We Forget” was used to remind diners of good etiquette!

Christmas in transit

The voyage to active overseas service was a mixture of excitement, trepidation and monotony. Food service broke the boredom of long days at sea. On board the SS Suffolk on Christmas day 1915 diners were treated to a multi-course dinner, opening with olives, mock turtle soup and salmon cutlets in anchovy sauce. The next course featured iced asparagus, beef fillets with mushrooms and prawns in aspic, before the food became even more serious, with four types of meat, baked and boiled potatoes, and beans.

Members of the 4th Australian Field Ambulance at Christmas in Lemnos in 1915.
Australian War Memorial

Four deserts followed, including plum pudding with both hard and brandy sauces. Like many special occasion menus of the war, diners signed their names on the back.

Aprés la guerre

The desire to be “home by Christmas” had been widely expressed from the very first year of the Great War, yet when the armistice finally came in 1918, Australians on active service still had a long journey ahead of them and faced another Christmas away from home.

In 1918, the 2nd Australian pioneers officers’ Christmas dinner took place “somewhere in France”, featuring a menu entirely in French save for the words “plum pudding” and “God Save the King”. Two half pages of the menu were dedicated to “Autographs”.

The souvenir menu card from the 13th Australian Field Ambulance 2nd anniversary dinner, held on Christmas Day 1918 in the Palace of Justice, Dinant-Sur-Meuse, Belgium likewise has a page for autographs. The festive menu features an extensive list of desserts.

The menu served to the 13th Australian Field Ambulance on Christmas Day 1918.
Museums Victoria collection, donated by John Lord

Christmas dinner in 1919 saw Australians who had served in Europe returning home on the SS Königin Luise, a German ship allocated to Britain as part of war reparations. A menu saved by Sergeant Tom Robinson Lydster bears no references to the war.

A wreath of holly frames an eclectic menu including “Fillet of Sole au Vin Blanc, Asperges au Beurre Fondu” but also “Lamb cutlets, Tomato sauce, Roast Sirlion of Beef”. The Christmas element is provided by “Plum Pudding, Brandy Sauce, Mince Pies”. More than a year after the end of the war, some surviving Australians were yet to celebrate Christmas on home soil.

Christmas traditions for Australian soldiers, nurses and medics helped maintain cultural normalcy during overseas service. Yet Christmas on active service could be a time of significant stress, a reminder of loved ones far away and of fallen friends. Unfortunately, for those who returned to Australia, forever changed by their experiences, Christmas was not always what they remembered or had imagined.The Conversation

Heather Merle Benbow, Senior lecturer in German and European Studies, University of Melbourne and Deborah Tout-Smith, Senior Curator, Society & Technology Department, Museums Victoria

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Teleporting and psychedelic mushrooms: a history of St Nicholas, Santa and his helpers



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Illustration to verse 1 of the children’s poem Old Santeclaus with Much Delight. 1821.
Wikimedia, CC BY

Louise Pryke, Macquarie University and Christopher Malone, University of Sydney

There are many sides to the beloved figure of Santa Claus – a giant of pop culture, he also has “miraculous” powers and ties to the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Santa’s blend of religion and popular culture is, however, not modern at all. Several of Santa’s modern features, such as his generosity, miracle-working, and focus on morality (being “naughty or nice”), were part of his image from the very beginning. Others, like the reindeer, came later.

The original Santa, Saint Nicholas, was a fourth century CE bishop of Myra (in modern Turkey) with a reputation for generosity and wonder-working. St Nicholas became an important figure in eighth century Byzantium before hitting pan-European stardom around the 11th century.

He became a focus not just for religious devotion, but Medieval dramas and popular festivals – some popular enough to be suppressed during the Reformation

The naughty list

St Nicholas had his own version of the naughty list, including the fourth century “arch-heretic” Arius, whose views annoyed the saint so much he supposedly smacked Arius in the face in front of Emperor Constantine and assembled bishops at Nicaea.

Portrait of Saint Nicholas of Myra. First half of the 13th century.
Wikimedia

An even more surprising listee is the Greek goddess of the hunt, Artemis. In popular Byzantine stories, Nicholas acted like a one-man wrecking crew, personally pulling down her temples, and even demolishing the great temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It’s almost a shame, as they probably would have agreed about the importance of reindeer.

The idea of St Nicholas’ conflict with Artemis probably relates to religious change in Anatolia, where the goddess was hugely popular. Historically, the temple was sacked earlier, by a band of Gothic raiders in the 260s CE, but hagiographers had other ideas. Perhaps these furious northmen even count as Santa’s earliest “helpers”. He was after all (as part of his extensive saintly portfolio) the patron of the Varangians, the Viking bodyguard of the Byzantine Emperors.

Fast travelling

Santa’s greatest miracle is intrinsic to modern Christmases: his ability to reach all the children on Earth in one night. NORAD, the US and Canadian air defence force, has tracked Santa’s sleigh since the 1950s, presumably trying to figure out the secret of his super speed. But really, they just need to check their ancient sources.

St Nicholas had a history of teleporting about on his own — often showing up in the nick of time when people ask for his help. As the patron saint of sailors, he often did this out at sea.

In one story, sailors in a wild storm in the eastern Mediterranean cried out for the already-famous wonderworker’s help. With the mast cracking and sails coming loose, a white-bearded man suddenly appeared and helped them haul the ropes, steady the tiller, and brought them safe to shore. Rushing up the hill to the local church to give thanks, the sailors were astonished to see Nicholas was already there, in the middle of saying mass.

Saint Nicholas saves a ship. Circa 1425.
Wikimedia

Suddenly appearing to save people became a favourite trick in accounts of the saint’s life and in folklore. He once saved three innocents from execution, teleporting behind the executioner and grabbing his sword, before upbraiding the judges for taking bribes.

There’s also the tale of Adeodatus, a young boy kidnapped by raiders and made the cupbearer of an eastern potentate. Soon after, St Nicholas appeared out of nowhere, grabbed the cupbearer in front of his startled master, and zipped him back home.

Artists depicting this story stage the rescue differently, but the Italian artists who have St Nicholas swoop in from the sky, in full episcopal regalia, and grab the boy by the hair are worth special mention.

The flying reindeer

None of the old tales have Saint Nicholas carrying around stacks of gifts when teleporting, which brings us to the reindeer, who can pull the sleigh full of millions of presents. The popular link between Santa Claus and gifting came through the influence of stores advertising their Christmas shopping in the early 19th century. This advertising drew on the old elf’s increasing popularity, with the use of “live” Santa visits in department stores for children from the late 1800s.

Santa Claus became connected to reindeer largely through the influence of the 1823 anonymous poem, A visit from St Nicholas.. In this poem, “Saint Nicholas” arrives with eight tiny reindeer pulling a sleigh full of toys. The reindeer have the miraculous ability to fly.

The fly agaric, a mushroom which produces toxins that can cause humans to hallucinate.
Flickr/Björn, CC BY-SA

The origins of the animals’ flight may link back to the Saami reindeer herders of northern Scandinavia. Here, the herders were said to feed their reindeer a type of red-and-white mushroom with psychedelic properties, known as fly agaric fungi (Amanita muscaria). The mushrooms made the reindeer leap about, giving the impression of flying.

The herders would then collect and consume the reindeer’s urine, with its toxins made safe by the reindeer’s metabolism. The reindeer herders could then possibly imagine the miraculous flight through the psychedelic properties of the mushroom.

The ninth reindeer, Rudolph, was created as part of a promotional campaign for the department store Montgomery Ward by Robert Lewis May in 1939. May himself was a small, frail child, who empathised with underdogs. In May’s story, Rudolph Shines Again (1954), the little reindeer is helped by an angel to save some lost baby rabbits, once again blending Santa’s religious and popular sides.

Reindeer in Lapland.
Flickr/Steve K, CC BY

And … invisible polar bears

A number of modern depictions have connected Santa with polar bears, such as the 1994 film The Santa Clause. It seems likely the association grew as Santa’s home became accepted as the North Pole — though in one of the oldest stories, St Nicholas saves three Roman soldiers, one of whom is named Ursus (“Bear” in Latin).

Polar bears are undoubtedly useful companions for secretive Santa, and don’t even need his powers to move about unseen – the special properties of their fur mean they are hidden even from night-vision goggles.

Polar bears have fur that is invisible to night vision goggles.
Shutterstock

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Letters From Father Christmas (1976), written by the Lord of the Rings’ author to his children, features the (mis)adventures of the North Polar Bear. Like St. Nick, the North Polar Bear isn’t shy about getting physical with those he perceives as wrong-doers. In one letter, the North Polar Bear saves Santa, his elves, and Christmas from a murderous group of goblins.

So with Santa Claus once again coming to town, remember — ancient or modern – it’s better to be on the “nice” side of this teleporting saint and his motley crew of miracle-workers.The Conversation

Louise Pryke, Lecturer, Languages and Literature of Ancient Israel, Macquarie University and Christopher Malone, Honorary Associate, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Poor health in Aboriginal children after European colonisation revealed in their skeletal remains



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The excavations at the Normanton site in 2015.
Shaun Adams, Author provided

Shaun Adams, Griffith University; Michael Westaway, Griffith University, and Richard Martin, The University of Queensland

The poor health conditions of eight young Aboriginal people who died around the time of early European colonisation have been revealed in their skeletal remains, according to a new study.

The bones provide evidence of the displacement of Indigenous Australians from their traditional lands as a result of European colonisation. We view this as an opportunity to undertake “truth-telling” of our colonial history, as outlined in the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The remains were sold as “scientific specimens” to the Australian Museum in Sydney in the early 20th century, but were repatriated in the 1990s to the local community in remote northwest Queensland.




Read more:
Oral testimony of an Aboriginal massacre now supported by scientific evidence


A discovery of skeletal remains

In 2015 one of us (Michael) was contacted by the Queensland Police for advice on the skeletal remains of several individuals. They had been found eroding from a floodplain just outside the town of Normanton.

They were identified as Aboriginal but it was obvious they were not from a traditional Aboriginal burial site.

Initial reburial site of the remains, Normanton.
Adams et al. 2018, Author provided

The remains appeared to have been reburied together. They were heavily weathered and did not include complete skeletons, just skulls and some long bones.

The state archaeologist Stephen Nichols contacted several museums, and deduced that these individuals had been repatriated in the 1990s from the Australian Museum. At around the same time, local Aboriginal people told police that the remains had been reburied in this location after their repatriation.

It quickly became apparent that these were the remains of eight young people who had died of disease on the colonial frontier in the late 19th century and had been collected by the Aboriginal Protector, Walter Roth.

The collection of Aboriginal skeletal remains (ancestral remains) was common practice in the 19th and much of the 20th century. Today, many thousands of individuals remain in institutions around the world awaiting repatriation.

The Gkuthaarn and Kukatj people from Normanton wanted to find out more about the lives of these people who had been taken from their country. They discussed this after one of us (Michael) attended the site.

The human skeleton provides a unique record of an individual’s life history. Our investigation showed the remains were all young people, with an average age of about 15 years, and some as young as seven.

Reburial of remains in the Aboriginal cemetery, Normanton.
Michael Westaway, Author provided

Evidence of stress

The remains told the story of young people who had undergone significant nutritional stress in their formative years. This was evident from linear stress markers recorded as defects in their tooth enamel, referred to as dental enamel hypoplasias.

The teeth also indicated that while traditional foods were still important in their diet they also regularly consumed European foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates. This had created dental caries (cavities) in their teeth, similar to those we see today in many modern populations but which are unknown in pre-contact Aboriginal remains.

Walter Roth wrote about the high frequency of disease in Aboriginal people found barely holding on in the fringe camps around Normanton (reported in 1901). He reported that “about half” of the 176 Aboriginal inhabitants were suffering from introduced venereal diseases.

The remains provide first-hand pathological evidence in the wake of colonisation. In one individual there were signs of a pathological lesion defined as caries sicca, a lesion diagnostic of syphilis.

Syphilis was also evident in two tibiae (lower leg bones) reburied with the crania (skulls minus the jaws) in the form of a condition known as Sabre Shin, where significant bowing of these long bones is evident.

This all provides evidence of the stress that Aboriginal people endured during the early colonial period.

Normanton in 1906.
Queensland Police Museum Archive: ehive-PM0940, CC BY-NC-SA

‘Truth telling’ and history

The Gkuthaarn and Kukatj people’s request for help was in the spirit of the Uluru Statement from the Heart where “truth telling” about the colonial past was emphasised as a priority for reconciliation between all Australians.

Research into our shared colonial past plays a fundamental role in this objective. Bioarchaeology can offer new narratives from the historic period that have not been captured in the historic record.

Some archaeologists have called for a post-colonial approach to the discipline, in which we establish, together with Aboriginal people, the types of historic investigations they consider important.

Traditionally this has not included research on the skeletal remains of their ancestors, as this has been a taboo research area for many Aboriginal groups.




Read more:
The violent collectors who gathered Indigenous artefacts for the Queensland Museum


But in parts of the country, Indigenous attitudes towards research are changing, with groups such as the Gkuthaarn and Kukatj people wanting to know more about their past.

As one Indigenous leader from this community said:

… these were young people who left behind such a sad story that needs to be told so non-Indigenous people, not just throughout Australia but particularly in our region of northwest Queensland, know and understand that these traumas still impact on our people 120 years later.

These eight young people from Normanton, who died at the end of the 19th century, are not forgotten. They provide tangible evidence of the hardships that Aboriginal people endured through the colonial acquisition of their land and displacement of their way of life.


Susan Burton Phillips, Counsel to the Gkuthaarn and Kukatj people, contributed to this article.The Conversation

Shaun Adams, Isotope Bioarchaeologist Research Fellow, Griffith University; Michael Westaway, Senior Research Fellow, Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, Griffith University, and Richard Martin, Senior lecturer, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Recovered Aboriginal songs offer clues to 19th century mystery of the shipwrecked ‘white woman’



File 20181206 186076 1eym76.jpeg?ixlib=rb 1.1
An image of the landscape around Bairnsdale in the late-18th century. D. R Long (Daniel Rutter), between 1856 and 1883.
State Library of Victoria

Stephen Morey, La Trobe University and Jason Gibson, Deakin University

In 1846 Melbourne was gripped by a panic: a story had spread that a white woman had been shipwrecked off the coast of Gippsland and was living with Aboriginal people. “Expeditions” were sent to “rescue” her. Messages were left for her printed on handkerchiefs, and because some believed she was Scottish, some of these were written in Gaelic.

The expeditions sent to Gippsland resulted in the massacre of large numbers of Indigenous people from the Gunai/Kurnai community.

For generations, people have argued over whether the “white woman” really existed and if so, what happened to her. In her 2001 book The Captive White Woman of Gipps Land author Julie Carr recounted a story written in 1897 by Mary Howitt, the daughter of A.W. Howitt, an anthropologist and Gippsland magistrate, which told how the white woman later had children with an Aboriginal husband and drowned in McLennan’s strait. Carr came to the conclusion that evidence for the existence of the woman was inconclusive; government searches in 1846 and 1847 having failed to find her.

But we have recently identified two short songs in the Aboriginal language of Gippsland (Gunai/Kurnai) about the white woman’s story that provide some clues. These were in the papers of Howitt at the State Library of Victoria.

A handkerchief for the white woman shipwrecked in Gippsland.

A gift of possum skin

At the top of one page of Howitt’s notes headed August 23 1868, per J.C. Macleod (the son of an early pastoralist), Howitt wrote the following note:

Blacks told him [Macleod] in the early days the white woman was wrecked in the coast with some men who were killed – the woman being saved. She was a tall woman, young with very long black hair in ringlets (some said the hair was fair). … She was the Miss Howard who was about 16 years of age when the vessel in which she was going to Melbourne was lost. Daughter of Commissary Howard. Part of the vessel was after picked up in the ninety mile beach

Two Gunai/Kurnai songs are written on the same page. Howitt notes that these songs were composed by a “Dinni Birraark”, a senior songster and ritual specialist, where dinni is the word for “old” and the birraark is the name of an expert who was skilled in songs and magic. These men were said to fly and see beyond the physical world.

In the 1840s there were seven surviving men who held the title of Dinni Birraark. The composer of this song was likely to have been a man also known as Bunjil Bamarang from near Bairnsdale. Bunjil Bamarang was not his personal name, but indicated that he was an expert (Bunjil) in something. We do not know what Bamarang refers to, but it may indicate expertise in the use of the “spear shield”, which was called bammarook in Gunai/Kurnai.

One of these songs, written down by Howitt, directly mentions the “white woman”:


State Library of Victoria

We have transcribed this as:

U-auda kai-ū Lohan-tŭkan móka kat-teir nŭ́rrau-un-gŭl mūndū wánganna

Underneath the song, Howitt gives translations for many of the words. For instance, he translates Lohan-tŭkan as “white woman”. The overall meaning of the song seems to be, “Give the white woman from over the sea the possum skin skirt, and that blanket there.”

This genre of song, gunyeru, was traditionally sung with dancing at public gatherings, what might be otherwise commonly referred to as a “corroboree” (although the word “corroboree” originates from the Dharuk language spoken in the Sydney area). The Dinni Birraark was certainly an acknowledged expert in composing this style of song.

Burning ladders

On the same page, is a second song that seems to give more information about the Lohan-Tuka, or white woman’s, story:


State Library of Victoria

This we have transcribed as:

Blaung-a-requa drūraua kŭllŭngŭka

Wŭrūng-tūnkū bŭdda-tūnkū pŭtta-ngaiu

tūka-pŭnta kŭrnŭng-ŭka ma-kŭrnung-ita

In the first line of the song there are three words that Howitt translates as “burn”, “ladder” and “whitefellow”. This would appear to be a sentence meaning, “The whitefellow’s ladder is burning”.

When we remember that ships in the 1840s were sailing ships, we can imagine that the Dinni Birraark used a word that he knew – “ladder” – to represent the rigging on a sailing ship. As Gunai/Kurnai elder, Russell Mullett, pointed out to us, “As a senior man, the Dinni Birraark would have used a ladder in his ritual life.”

The remaining portions of this second song are harder to interpret. It seems that the Dinni Birraark was watching the burning of this ship from the narrow strip of land along the Ninety Mile Beach between the sea and the freshwater of the Gippsland Lakes.

In this place, perhaps a musk duck (Tuka) had a nest, there was a hollow place near to water. Intriguingly the word for white woman, Lohan Tuka, is a compound including the word for musk duck. Perhaps, as Mullett has suggested, the place where the Dinni Birraark watched this had an association with an ancestral musk duck.

The message printed on handkerchiefs in a bid to find the shipwrecked white woman.

These songs are composed as if witnessing real events: the wreck of a ship and the rescue of a young woman. Nothing is more naturally human than offering a young shipwreck victim a “skirt and a blanket”, and the description of the shipwreck as a “burning ladder” is fully plausible.

These two songs seem to suggest that there was a White Woman, the Lohan Tuka. There is much tragedy in this story – shipwreck, massacre, possible drowning. This history needs to be told and re-told.

What these songs reveal is an Indigenous perspective on it and a glimpse into the rich artistic culture of the Gunai/Kurnai. In the words of Mullett, “taken together these two songs are like an opera composed by the Dinni Birraark”.The Conversation

Stephen Morey, Senior Lecturer, Department of Languages and Linguistics, La Trobe University and Jason Gibson, Research fellow, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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