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The Australian National University

Tracing Australia’s early political history to Scotland

Scottish migrants played a significant role in Australia’s path to independence. Professor Paul Pickering will head to the University of St Andrews School of History in early 2015 to investigate the lives of six influential migrants. 

Professor Paul Pickering has won the prestigious 2014-15 Visiting Research Fellowship from the Institute of Scottish Historical Research to investigate the Scottish influence on Australian politics during Australia’s colonial history.  

A specialist in the political and cultural histories of Britain, Ireland and Australia, Professor Pickering is also Director of the Research School of Humanities and the Arts.

During the Fellowship, Pickering will work on a project called ‘Lives in Two Hemispheres’, which brings together his interests in history as well as public memory and biography.

The project will investigate the contributions of six nineteenth-century Scottish migrants to the development of radical and reformist politics in the Australian colonies during the nineteenth-century.

“I am interested in exploring their formative experiences, their introduction to politics in Scotland, the genesis of their ideas, the circumstances of their migration and their contribution to the political development of their adopted home at a crucial time in the history of the nation,” says Pickering.

“This will include studying their ideas and how these drew upon a rich Scottish political and religious heritage. I’ll also be looking at the similarities (and differences) in their backgrounds and the trajectories of their lives after they arrived in Australia.”

“The project is therefore not only a study of political ideas but also a collective biography.”

The six men include John Dunmore Lang, Australia’s first republican and an outspoken supporter of self-government and democratic reform,  Ebenezer Syme, one of the founders of the Melbourne Age, and other prominent figures of the time.

“I am hopeful that this study of a handful of individuals will highlight the potential richness of a collective biography of lives and ideas mediated by the process of migration,” says Pickering.

As well as the chance to work with leading scholars at St Andrews, the visiting fellowship will give Pickering access to the University’s excellent resources and nearby collections at the National Archives and the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Professor Pickering, who also teaches biography as part of the Masters of Liberal Arts, will host postgraduate workshops and seminars while in Scotland. 

Updated: 19 May 2014/ Responsible Officer:  Director, RSHA / Page Contact:  Web developer