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The Australian National University

Our history

The CHL Department of History is the latest manifestation of a strong tradition of research and teaching in Pacific and Asian History that goes back to the early days of the Australian National University.

The Australian National University took shape first as a research-only institution and included amongst its founding research schools the Research School of Pacific Studies (RSPacS), which had the task of developing Australia's understanding of its immediate region in Asia and the Pacific. Two foundation history professors, Jim Davidson for the Pacific and C.P. Fitzgerald for the Far East, became the heads respectively of the Department of Pacific History and the Department of Far Eastern History when a departmental structure was introduced to RSPacS. Pacific History was expanded in 1973 to become the Department of Pacific and Southeast Asian History, and in 1990 the two History departments were merged into the Division of Pacific and Asian History.

Older than the Australian National University was the Canberra University College (CUC), established in 1930 as a branch of the University of Melbourne to provide undergraduate education in Canberra. The CUC amalgamated with the ANU in 1960, becoming the School of General Studies, later known as the Faculties. In 1961 the former CUC School of Oriental Languages became the Faculty of Oriental Studies (renamed the Faculty of Asian Studies in 1970). Within the Faculty, Asian History was taught and researched within the Department of Asian Civilisations, which became the Asian History Centre in 1981 and the Centre for Asian Societies and Histories in 1999. For a time, both Pacific history and Asian history were also taught within the Faculty of Arts.

In 2006, the ANU abolished the former distinction between research schools and faculties, creating a college structure combining both elements. The Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (as it was re-named in 1994) joined the Faculty of Asian Studies in the new College of Asia and the Pacific. After a major restructuring in 2009, the Faculty was merged with elements from the Research School to form the School of Culture, History and Language. The Department of Pacific and Asian History is now the largest unit within that School.

Further reading

  • Denoon, Donald, 'Pacific Island History at the Australian National University: The Place and the People', The Journal of Pacific History 31, no. 2 (Dec., 1996), pp. 202-214.
  • Munro, Doug, The Ivory Tower and Beyond: Participant Historians of the Pacific. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2009.
  • Reid, Anthony, 'Indonesian Studies at the Australian National University: Why so late?', RIMA:Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs 43, no. 1 (2009). pp. 51-74.

Updated:  20 February 2015/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language /Page Contact:  CHL webmaster