Prince Alfred’s tour in the summer of 1867-1868

One Hot Crown presentation

Click on the ‘One Hot Crown’ Podcast above to hear me  talking about Prince Alfred’s tour of The Australias (yes, that’s the plural) over the summer of 1867-1868.

This was the first royal tour in Australia, and it has largely been ignored by historians of Australia except for the novelty of an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the Prince at Clontarf, on the north shore of Sydney Harbour.

Brown bread, oysters and stout formed the picnic menu at Clontarf on 12th March 1868: photo taken on 12th March 2013 at Mt York Reserve in the Blue Mountains where it was proposed in 1895 to erect a statue of Prince Alfred.  Photo mrbbaskerville 2013.

Brown bread, oysters and stout formed the picnic menu at Clontarf on 12th March 1868: photo taken on 12th March 2013 at Mt York Reserve in the Blue Mountains where it was proposed in 1895 to erect a statue of Prince Alfred. Photo Bruce Baskerville 2013.

I argue in the talk that the tour has much greater historical significance that has been attributed to it, and outline my current attempts to write a history that uses the Crown, rather than any idea of the nation, as its organising principle.  I begin the talk by trying to position my work beyond the nationalist orthodoxy that I think has presented history in Australia as too mono-dimensional and myopic.

I think our history is much wilder, regionalist, communal and contingent than is presented in orthodox histories.  I think that the only historical constant is change, and that therefore nothing is inevitable.  Hopefully, some of this comes across in the presentation.

See The Lost Option for a more orthodox view.

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8 comments on “Prince Alfred’s tour in the summer of 1867-1868

  1. thecolonialgastronomer says:

    Hi Bruce, it’s wonderful having a reference to the food on offer at an historic event – invites us to share in a taste of the past.

    • Thanks, the oysters were delicious! It seems such a simple meal to feed to a large crowd (about 1,000 people at Clontarf). Perhaps without refrigeration etc then it needed to be kept simple? The stout was also a treat.

  2. perkinsy says:

    When I met you I had a feeling I would be interested in your approach to history. I’m delighted that you have started this blog and loved the podcast!

    My areas of research have been the history of referendums and education. Even to this day education is primarily governed at the state level, not the national level. An exploration of this history reveals not only patriotic allegiances to the particular colony/state, but it also reveals cultural differences between colonies/states. Aside from this I relate to your comment about WA being the centre and the east the periphery. I used to live in Far North Queensland and was surprised when people said I lived in an isolated area. We weren’t isolated, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra were!

    For many years there has been a recognition that a nationalist approach to history has its limitations. However, the nationalist approach continues to dominate Australian history, operating on the historian at a subconscious level as your research highlights. Your approach of looking at Australian history through the lens of the crown is a very interesting approach. I have been approaching Australian education history with a transnational perspective.

    • Transnational approaches are very useful, but I want to see if I can get beyond or around ‘nation’ and at the same still keep a sense of place. I’ve worked in heritage for nearly 20 years, and ideas of place have been at the centre of much of that work. Places are often thought of as a sub-division of a nation or larger entity, but I am trying to disaggregate these two ideas, and see if there are different frameworks that can connect places. I find the idea of allegiance to a single crown very interesting. If people in FNQ, Yukon, Niue, Barbados and the Shetland Islands (for example) can have identities that are partly shared through allegiance to a common crown, at least in an abstract sense, then what culturally allows, facilitates and maintains that sharing, and what can be drawn from it that allows us to identify with a local place and have room for a bigger, more global identity or identities? Can ideas of shared allegiance allow a society to be accommodating of differences, to open up spaces for accepting and welcoming people who may have different histories but a common future? I don’t know yet!
      The TVNI interview in the previous post touches upon this in some ways. There is a cultural alignment this month of the Queen’s Birthday (eastern Australia), Bounty Day (Norfolk Island) and Foundation Day (WA) holidays, and I’ll be posting more about this then.

      • perkinsy says:

        You are right, I’m still looking using the nation as an organising element in my work albeit redefining it to the political borders of the states. I’m exploring the differences between the colonies, primarily political but also cultural whereas you are looking at a unifying idea between places. The allegiance to the crown was certainly a very strongly voiced allegiance held by many people in the colonies and on into the twentieth century.

        The area of multiple allegiances is a fascinating one. So many people have multiple allegiances that I think it could almost be described as a normal human condition, yet at the same time our culture often only admits of binaries – we can only be allied to one group and therefore not to any other groups.

        Your comment is packed with ideas which you could expand on further in another post. Still pondering…

  3. “Looking at a unifying idea between places” is right for me. Historians generally seem to focus on what makes a place distinctive in some way, and while I don’t seek to undermine that focus, I am trying to open up that conversation to also include what can (or has, or does) connect one place with others. I think both parts of the equation are needed to better understand any place, whatever its scale.

    I have found the ideas set out in Otto Bauer’s The Question of Nationalities and Social Democracy really useful in my thinking. First published in Vienna in 1907 (but not in an English-language version until 2000), he outlines a concept of nations without territories. Basically, he argued that the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire could only survive as a federal realm in which each of the ‘nations’ (Germans, Czechs, Croats and so on) would form autonomous self-governing national corporations, but without defined territories, and linked by shared allegiance to a single Habsburg monarch responsible for external affairs. His ideas are not perfect and many details can be argued about, but thinking about his key idea of disaggregating ‘nation’ and ‘territory’ can lead to some unexpected and interesting places.

    Of course, Bauer’s arguments are much more complex than this simple outline, and you would need to read his book to understand the details and caveats (and in some places, superseded ideas) of his theory. Bauer was an Austromarxist, and Stalin despised his writing and actively suppressed it, while the doyen of nationalist theoreticians, Benedict Anderson, tartly dismissed Bauer as an internationalist aristocrat typical of his left-wing type. Such high-level excoriation naturally makes his ideas all the more interesting!

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