The Historical, Cultural and Critical Inquiry Group at the University of Newcastle (Australia) is pleased to announce the next paper in our 2023 seminar series, on Friday 31 March 2023, 10-11am Australian Eastern Daylight Time (UTC+11). The seminar will be simultaneously held on campus and broadcast live via Zoom. (Details and Zoom link below.) Our presenter is :

‘The competition that matters’: Histories of shopping centres in Australia (with examples from Newcastle) 

In Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Joseph Schumpeter argued that entrepreneurs and businesses drove the evolution of capitalism by introducing the “competition that matters”. This type of competition resulted from innovations that fundamentally disrupted established practices and structures. “In the case of retail trade,” he wrote, “the competition that matters arises not from additional shops of the same type, but from the department stores, the chain store, the mail order house and the supermarket.” The shopping centre was introduced later but was similarly disruptive.

This paper explores the ways that Australian retail landscapes and shopping practices changed in the second half of the 20th century. In the 1950s, suburbanisation, rising automobile ownership, the post-war boom, and the arrival of supermarkets produced new trading conditions. Shopping centres were introduced in response to these forces. This required traditional firms to innovate and adapt, and opened doors for new entrants, including immigrant entrepreneurs who leveraged opportunities in a rapidly changing market. Shopping centres quickly became social spaces and hubs of suburban employment.

Over the next fifty years Australia’s largest retail firms continued to adapt by changing their business models and incorporating new retail formats. The retail property industry professionalised, welcomed an influx of institutional investors and became subject to interventionist government legislation in response to alleged abuses of market power. The specialty retail sector grew in scope and sophistication. Department stores gradually lost relevance. Retail ownership became more concentrated. This paper outlines these changes, drawing on examples from Newcastle, and considers the implications of this history for retailing moving forward.

Assoc. Prof. Matthew Bailey is based at Macquarie University. His book, Managing the Marketplace: Reinventing Shopping Centres in Post-War Australia (Routledge, 2020) is the first book on the subject, and one of the few to comprehensively examine Australian retail history. He has published widely on retail and retail property history, including in leading international and Australian journals such as Urban HistoryJournal of Urban HistoryEnterprise & Society and Australian Economic History Review. He is currently working on an ARC-funded project on the history of department stores, and a related project on the social and economic life of the high street in Australian cities and country towns.

For in-person attendance: Room W202, Behavioural Science Building, Callaghan Campus, University of Newcastle (Australia).

For online attendance:

Zoom meeting ID: 870 4036 3272 (Open from 9:45am)
Password: 783069

To Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:

This event will be recorded. Presentation recordings will be available from our YouTube channel, History@Newcastle:

Cities in a Sunburnt Country: Water and the Making of Urban Australia

CaptureCo-authored by a team of seven researchers, with expertise in economic, environmental, and urban history, Cities in a Sunburnt Country considers how Australians have met the challenges posed by the need to provide safe water in the world’s driest inhabited continent and sewerage systems for rapidly growing, sprawling urban centres. In this land of drought and flooding rains, tensions persist between managing problems of too little water in particular times and places, and too much water in others.

In the past two centuries, developed countries have benefited from new structures and reticulation systems that provide greater control over water, contributing to an expansion in the range of available goods and services. But the distribution of these benefits has been socially uneven, with disadvantaged groups vulnerable to risks of environmental damage, pollution from defective sewers, and flooding.  

Australians are usually complacent about their real water usage and its environmental consequences. Historically, Australia has resorted to physical infrastructure to both manage and provide water, and economic strategies of water fees and rationing to regulate its use. As we move towards a more uncertain climatic future, Australians may need to rethink these strategies, including embracing centuries of Aboriginal knowledge, especially about how to conserve and use water wisely.

Vale Stuart Macintyre 1947-2021
On behalf of all members of the Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand, we extend deepest sympathies to Stuart’s family, friends and colleagues on his sad passing.
Farewell and thank you to a great historian and scholar.

The E.O.G. Shann Award for Distinguished Service to Economic History in Australia and New Zealand

Honouring the contribution of the late Edward Owen Giblin Shann (1884 – 1935), the Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand makes this award is annually to reward lifetime service to the discipline of economic history in Australia and New Zealand. Past awards have been made to C.B. Schedvin, W.A. Sinclair (2018), Jonathan Pincus (2019), Ian W. McLean (2020), and David Merrett (2021).

The 2022 E.O.G. Shann Award is made to Jeffrey G Williamson.Williamson

Over a 60-year career, Jeff has made an outstanding contribution to the discipline, both directly through his scholarship, and indirectly through his mentoring, generosity, and collegiality.

The following testimonies have been provided by Jeff’s colleagues:

Unquestionably, Jeff Williamson has been one of the most prolific and influential scholars in economic history. Jeff’s work is truly global, spanning all continents and covering wide range of important topics, such as long-run inequality, globalisation and de-globalisation, industrialisation and de-industrialisation, international migration, just to mention a few.

In the past ten years, part of Jeff’s research agenda has also been devoted to Australian economic history, with a focus on economic development and inequality in the nineteenth century. Such work had produced new estimates of standards of living and inequality. The former document that while Australians were “rich” by European and Latin American standards, they were still behind the United States in the nineteenth century; the latter show that Australia underwent an exceptional levelling of incomes between the 1820s and the 1870s, a trend that continued over the next half century (1870-1910). Not only has Jeff produced extremely valuable research in economic history, he is also an excellent co-author to work with. Collaborating with Jeff has been truly inspirational, his energy and positivity a constant encouragement to strive to improve, his mentorship and support truly unvaluable.

 (Laura Panza, University of Melbourne)

Jeff Williamson has been one of the undisputed giants of economic history since the 1960s. While his work has spanned many time periods and continents, several themes reoccur throughout his work. First, there is a focus on long run processes of growth and structural change. Second, there is a constant emphasis on distribution: regional, factoral, personal. And third, Jeff has always highlighted the importance of open economy factors in explaining the above — unusually so, perhaps, for an American economic historian. And that emphasis on open economy factors helps in understanding why his influence has been so enormous around the world — in Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and of course Australia and New Zealand. That influence has not only been exercised via his writing, but through his constant and unfailingly generous training of graduate students, mentoring of other young colleagues, and support of regional initiatives to promote quantitative economic history. We all owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

(Kevin O’Rourke, NYU Abu Dhabi)

 It goes almost without saying that Jeff Williamson is a prolific scholar, having published an enormous volume of influential books and papers over a 60-year career. As a result of the breadth of his work and of the many key insights that it contains, his name appears in the reference lists and on the reading lists of almost every economic historian. He has been a pioneer of the cliometric approach to economic history and especially of thinking in general equilibrium terms about industrialisation and growth, distribution and inequality. He has also led the charge on the economic history of globalisation, which reaches far beyond the traditional focus of Europe and North America. His work on Asia, and latterly on Australia, has been an inspiration to many. His involvement with Australia, through frequent visits and joint research projects, has breathed new life into its economic history. Jeff is legendary for his readiness to positively encourage, and collaborate with, PhD students and other young scholars, as well as those not quite so young. As I can testify from personal experience over 30 years, working with Jeff lifts your eyes from the patch of ground in front of you to much wider, and far more interesting, horizons.  

 (Tim Hatton, Australian National University)

 It isn’t just that his published research is more heavily cited than that of any other living economic historian. Or his militant insistence that research in economic history must shift beyond the usual North Atlantic region. It’s also his mentorship to collaborators and students from all over the world. Ever the energizer and cheerleader: “You’ve got a great idea there — let’s get to work on it pronto!” The economic historians of Australia were as receptive as any to these offers of intellectual companionship, as their continuing publications show.

Jeff poured similar opportunities on me, starting with his building the economic team that hired me at Wisconsin in 1966. At one point, in 1972, he had amassed the following team of economic historians in the Economics Department: Ralph Andreano, Claudia Goldin, Peter Lindert, Nate Rosenberg and Jeff himself. He also set up joint seminars with the History Department (can you imagine?), a department that included Dave Herlihy, Phil Curtin, Alan and Margaret Bogue, among other economic historians. As soon as he and I discovered a mutual interest in the history of inequality in 1975, we were off and running. So easy was it to collaborate with Jeff that we did all our co-authorships after I had left Wisconsin in 1976. As others have found, it is a delight to work with him.

(Peter H. Lindert, University of California, Davis)

On behalf of the Society, I extend congratulations and thanks to Jeff Williamson.

Lionel Frost
President, Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand

The S.J. Butlin Prize for the best PhD or Masters thesis in Australian or New Zealand Economic History

I am pleased to announce the winner of the S.J. Butlin Prize, awarded triennially for the best Masters or PhD thesis in Australian or New Zealand economic history:

Peter Gibson, ‘Made in Chinatown: Chinese Furniture Factories in Australia, 1880–1930’ (PhD, University of Wollongong, 2019).

‘Made in Chinatown’, tells the stories of Chinese entrepreneurs in the furniture-making business in Melbourne and Sydney, their workers, and their contribution to late colonial and Federation Australia. The prize committee judged the thesis to be a fine piece of research, based on an under-explored area of business, economic and social history. Especially appealing is the excellent use of archival sources, such as bankruptcy testimonies and Court records that allow the voices of these Chinese speak to us, an intimacy almost akin to an interview that comes via the court transcripts. In the thesis we see Chinese entrepreneurs and workers given agency, which is lacking in many studies that cast the Chinese as victims of the White Australia racism of the times. Instead, we see them making a life for themselves in competition and cooperation with the dominant European communities in which they lived.

On behalf of the Society, I congratulate Dr Gibson.

Two short-listed theses were commended by the prize committee:
• John Hawkins, ‘The Australian treasurers: managers and reformers in an evolving role’ (PhD, Australian National University, 2017).
• Benjamin Huf, ‘Making things economic: Theory and government in New South Wales, 1783-1863’ (PhD, Australian National University, 2018).

These are also fine pieces of scholarship that focus on particular aspects of Australia’s economic history. ‘The Australian treasurers’ applies concepts of ‘political time’ to a collective political biography in an enlightening way, through a framework that shows the interplay of each treasurer’s individual aptitude with broader political and economic forces. ‘Making things economic’ is a well-written, sophisticated, and complex study of economic thought, political economy, and economic policy in the Colony of New South Wales.

Summaries of all three dissertations are now published ahead-of-print in AEHR.

Lionel Frost
President, Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand

Digitisation of back issues of AEHR

Past issues of AEHR, and its predecessors Business Archives and History and Bulletin of the Business Archives Council of Australia, have now been digitised. Previously issues were only available from 1997 onwards. Access to all issues, back to 1956, is available to current EHSANZ members as part of their membership arrangement. Please see the Wiley Online Library ( to access the full archive.
Please note that institutional subscribers are able to access backfile content once they have paid a one-off purchase fee. An annual institutional subscription only provides access to content from 1997 to the present.
If you are unable to access pre-1997 issues through your institution library, could you please request that your library purchases the ‘backfile content’ for AEHR? Doing so will help make the work of economic historians, past and present, as widely available as possible.

Thanks and regards

Lionel Frost
President, EHSANZ

The Australian National University Centre for Economic History

The Centre for Economic History established in 2012 at the Australian National University’s Research School of Economics holds a variety of workshops and other events.

For more information about the Centre and its events go to:

Wiley EHSANZ Online Book Discount Program

We are pleased to announce a 35% discount for EHSANZ members on all Wiley books except Higher Education, which is set at 25%. (School textbooks are exempt from the program.)

This is a higher level discount only available to Wiley’s publishing partners. Wiley is in the process of updating the discount landing page and this should be working shortly.

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