Public lectures

J.M. Ward Memorial Lecture

J.M. Ward

The Ward Lecture honours the late John Manning Ward AO. Professor Ward was a distinguished historian, serving as Challis Professor of History from 1948 to 1979. He steered the History Department through a period of scarce resources into an era of expansion. Today it is one of the largest and most productive in Australia. Professor Ward took office as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney in 1981 and retired from that position on 31 January 1990.

For information on the Ward Lecture, please contact Elia Mamprin:

2018 J.M. Ward Memorial Lecture: Brexit, ethnic populism and the end of the British Empire as we know it

Monday, 10 September 2018
Join us for a reception in the Nicholson Museum from 5pm
Lecture is from 6 - 7.30pm
General Lecture Theatre (A14),
The Quadrangle, University of Sydney

This event is free and registration is essential, please visit: JM Ward Memorial Lecture
The Brexit referendum of 23 June 2016 signalled the birth of a new English nation, which is the sum of all its parts, rather than being defined by greater London and the regions that immediately surround it. In the 2018 Ward Lecture, presented with the University of Sydney's Department of History, Professor Bill Schwarz suggests that this new nation is driven by the emergence of revived ethnic populism. He contends that, in this evolved nation, the English people (or those who claim themselves to be the English people) position themselves as the enemy of the British state.

This situation repeats the powerful dynamic that destabilised and eventually ended the global British empire. Various forms of settler populism mobilised ‘the British people’ to usurp a corrupt state. Explaining Brexit as a function of a widely held ‘nostalgia for empire’ might risk ignoring the complex network of factors that contribute to memories of empire. After the empire has ended, this dynamic of populist power results in profound new fissures in the continuing – unfinished – story of England’s contraction as a nation.

Bill Schwarz is Professor of English at Queen Mary University of London. He is General Editor, with Catherine Hall, of the Duke University Press series, The Writings of Stuart Hall, and he has recently prepared for publication Hall’s memoir, Familiar Stranger. A Life Between Two Islands. His research focuses on decolonisation and postcolonial history. He is currently writing a three-volume history entitled Memories of Empire. The first volume, The White Man’s World, won the Longman-History Today prize for 2013. For many years he has been an editor of the world-renowned History Workshop Journal.

The J.M Ward Lecture honours the late John Manning Ward AO. Professor Ward was a distinguished historian, serving as Challis Professor of History from 1948 to 1979 and as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney from 1981 to 1990.

2017 J.M. Ward Memorial Lecture: Professor Margot Finn
The Female World of Love and Empire: Women, Family and Eighteenth-century East India Company Politics

Bloomsury Square

Bloomsbury Square

This paper examines the daily life of an English spinster who lived in late 18th-century Bloomsbury, an area of London now best known for its bohemian literary and sexual cultures. In contrast to present-day images of radical women and men, it presents an image of Bloomsbury as a hub of British imperialism. Here wealth extracted from the slave societies of the colonial Caribbean and Britain’s growing empire on the Indian subcontinent were interwoven. What role did women and children play in the colonial contact zone in London? A rich archive of letters and diaries written by or to 'Mrs Chitty' suggests the key roles played by British family relations – and female family members – in translating imperial ventures into power, status and wealth, decades before historians conventionally view them as active agents of empire on the Indian subcontinent.

Margot Finn holds the chair in modern British history at University College London and the current President of the Royal Historical Society. Professor Finn is one of the leading historians of Britain since the eighteenth century. She edited the Journal of British Studies for a number of years and is the author of two major books, After Chartism and The Character of Credit. After Chartism is a broad-based study in political history; The Character of Credit is an exceptional and original piece of scholarship combining extensive archival research in probate and tax records with literary interpretation to reconstruct the complex relationship between debt, creditworthiness, and character in Britain across two centuries.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017
5:00 p.m. for 6:00 p.m. start

Reception from 5:00 p.m. in the Nicholson Museum followed by the lecture at 6:00 p.m. in the General Lecture Theatre, Quadrangle, University Place, The University of Sydney
Click here for map

RSVP to and please indicate any dietary or mobility requirements.

2014 J.M. Ward Memorial Lecture
Sheila Fitzpatrick - Writing Memoirs, Writing History

Shiela Fitzpatrick

27 March 2014

Reflections of a historian-cum-autobiographer whose recent memoir, A Spy in the Archives, takes her back to Cold War Moscow in the 1960s – territory she would usually enter in her capacity as Soviet historian. What is the difference between the two genres? If (as the Soviets thought) historians are something like spies, ferreting out hidden secrets, does the same apply to autobiographers?

Sheila Fitzpatrick is an Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney and Emerita Professor at the University of Chicago

Sheila is primarily a historian of modern Russia. Her recent work has focused on Soviet social and cultural history in the Stalin period, particularly everyday practices and social identity. She is currently working on projects on Soviet society under Khrushchev, displaced persons in Germany after the Second World War, and the Australian Left. In 2002, she received a Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and is a past President of the American Association for Slavic and East European Studies.

As a historian of twentieth-century Russia, my work has focused mainly on Soviet social and cultural history in the Stalin period, particularly social mobility, social identity and everyday practices. In 2010, I published My Father’s Daughter, a memoir of my father, the radical historian Brian Fitzpatrick, and my own childhood in Melbourne in the 1940s and ‘50s. This generated an interest in subjectivity, memoirs and history, on which I have written several articles. I recently became interested in new approaches to political history, and am currently working on a book on Stalin and his team, attempting to bring an everyday-ethnographic approach to high politics. Other current project are a second book of memoirs, A Spy in the Archives, on my experiences as a young historian researching my dissertation in Moscow in the 1960s, and a study of “displaced persons” from the Soviet Union who came to Australia after the Second World War.

History Week

Each year, members of the Department of History take part in History Week events. History Week occurs in September each year, and details of events are announced from August.

See the History Council website for more information.

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