Meet the New History Society Office-Holders

The History Society is a student-led club for people who are studying or interested in history.  Headed by a committee of passionate history buffs, our aims include promoting the study of history, providing a social network for fellow history buffs on campus and beyond, and running history-themed events such as trivia nights, film screenings, and study sessions. In this blogpost, we look back on the past year’s activities, and introduce the new History Society Committee, elected at our recent Annual General Meeting.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the History Society has prospered in 2020. Highlights of the year include:

  • Our SHAPS Clubs Semester One Welcome Event (our only in-person event of the year!), which brought together members of the Classics and Archaeology Society and the Philosophy Society for a start-of-semester celebration
  • Our two online Trivia Nights, featuring topics including Indigenous history, fanatics and cults, animals that changed history, rebels and revolutionaries, and pandemics, plagues, and pestilence!
  • Our ‘One Club, Many Histories’ Semester Two Welcome Event, in which each committee presented on a topic from history close to their heart, ranging from the history of revolutionary fashion to the story of Konkordski (the Soviet equivalent of Concorde)
  • Our Further Study and Careers in History Panel and Q&A Event, which featured six inspirational panellists with backgrounds and careers in History
  • Our ongoing Historical Figures of the Week project through which we showcase the story of an important but lesser-known historical figure on our Facebook page in a profile written by one of our committee members.

Meet our newly elected 2021 committee!

President: Tim Lilley

Why I joined the History Society: History is one of my greatest passions, so joining the History Society seemed like an excellent opportunity to meet likeminded people and to learn more about the past. I also enjoy organising events and managing projects, so the idea of being part of the club’s committee appealed to me. I first got involved in the club back in 2018 and I haven’t been disappointed!

Favourite area of History: Although I enjoy learning about all histories, my favourite area is probably Australian History, especially the nineteenth century. This era offers so much insight into the society we live in today. I am continually struck by how close, historically speaking, the people of that era are to us, but also how incredibly different they were in terms of their views and attitudes. Unfortunately, I think Australian History is woefully under-appreciated in our society – too often written off as boring or trivial, or, on the contrary, just too controversial for polite discussion. It’s my mission as a History teacher-in-training to change this perception of our past!

One historical figure everyone should know about: One historical figure everyone should know about is Derrimut, who was an Arweet (head man) of the Yaluk-ut Weelam clan of the Boon Wurrung people. In October 1835, when Melbourne was but a small tent colony, Derrimut warned the colonists of an impending attack from hostile Indigenous clans. The unsuspecting colonists likely would have died if not for his warning, forever changing Melbourne’s history. Derrimut was also a staunch advocate for his people, fighting for their rights to some of the last remaining Boon Wurrung land at Mordialloc in the 1850s to 1860s. Yet, despite his significance in Melbourne’s history, how many Melburnians today know his story?

Secretary: Kirsten Leung

Why I joined the History Society: I originally started off my time in university doing a degree in Chemical Engineering which after two years, I realised I didn’t like too much. I swapped over to Arts instead and majored in History and Politics and I’ve been loving studying ever since. The History Society has given me the opportunity to meet other people who study and are as passionate about history as I am. I hope that in my role in the committee I can continue to make the History Society one that is welcoming to all people who love History and help them make connections with like-minded people.

Favourite area of History: I have a particular fondness for Cold War Asian history. Firstly, I was born in Malaysia and much of my extended family still lives in Malaysia and Hong Kong. Understanding Asian history helps me understand more of my personal history. I also enjoy Cold War Asian history as it challenges the dominant binary narratives that we were often taught about the Cold War as a conflict that only involved the USSR and the USA.

One historical figure everyone should know about: Mabel Ping-Hua Lee was a prominent Chinese advocate for women’s suffrage in the USA. She was the first Chinese woman to earn a PhD in economics in the US and was a well-known figure in the women’s suffrage movement. Despite this, as a Chinese immigrant she was not allowed to vote, even after women gained the right to vote, due to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. First-wave feminism has often been accused of a lack of intersectionality due to its focus on the rights of wealthy, white women. I think Mabel Ping-Hua Lee is an important historical figure as she represents the wider phenomenon of the exclusion of marginalised individuals, such as Women of Colour, from the dominant historical narrative.

Treasurer: Victor Sun

Why I joined the History Society: I have been in the History Society for so long that the reason why I am in the History Society has been long forgotten. As I remember it was to straighten out the shambles that is my life and see the sights of Parkville campus. Now the reason why I decided to stay as treasurer for four years? That I wish I knew.

Favourite area of History: I have a tendency to leap between interests due to my increasingly small attention span. However the one historical interest I have that has managed to outlast all others is my interest in the history of diplomacy. I guess I also like the history of the international press after being told it’s one of the few fields I actually have any strength in.

One historical figure everyone should know about: Since my time as a wee tot living in the land of the Kiwis, I have always been fascinated by the story of Hōne Heke. For the unacquainted, Hōne Heke was a Māori chieftain who famously cut down the British flagstaff at Maiki hill. Every time the British returned to place a larger flagstaff, Heke would simply return with a larger axe. It is that kind of determination I wish I had.

Education Officer: Henry Rolfe

Why I joined the History Society: I remember as a first year attending the study sessions and the help they offered me in writing my first university history essays. I was a general committee member last year and wanted to take the opportunity to take on some more responsibility. In this role I hope now to pass on this same help I once received.

Favourite area of History: I personally love early modern European History. I found it wasn’t taught much in high school and, since taking From Black Death to New Worlds (HIST10016) and The French Revolution (HIST20068) in first year at university, I’ve only grown to love the period more.

One historical figure everyone should know about: Maria Theresa is one of my favourite figures from this period in history. The house of Habsburg dominated European politics for hundreds of years and it was under Maria Theresa (the last of the House of Habsburg) that we can see this domination through all the titles that Maria Theresa held. She was the sovereign of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Transylvania, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands, and Parma and that’s not including the titles she held by marriage.

General committee member: Susan Malikoff

Why I joined the History Society: I’ve absolutely fallen in love with history since coming to study it at UniMelb, and I really wanted to meet other like-minded people and help organise events to bring more people who also love history together!

Favourite area of History: I’m still finding new areas I’m interested in all the time, so it’s a tough question! At the moment I’ve really been enjoying taking subjects in early modern Europe.

One historical figure everyone should know about: I recently did a ‘historical figure of the week’ profile on Ki Hadjar Dewantara, an Indonesian anti-colonial activist and pioneer of education in twentieth-century Indonesia.

General committee member: Avalon Welch

Why I joined the History Society: I wanted to be involved in the History Society for the opportunity to share my passion for history with others. I am also very keen on organising more academic-oriented events to provide support for current history students.

Favourite area of History: My favourite area of history is contemporary Irish history (1850s-1920s), particularly the Irish diaspora.

One historical figure everyone should know about: One historical figure that I think everyone should know about is Flos Greig. Greig began law school at the University of Melbourne in 1897 at a time when it was illegal for women to become lawyers. Greig went on to graduate second in her class and in 1905 became the first woman to be admitted to the bar in Australia.

General committee member: Sami Zehir

Why I joined the History Society: I got involved because, frankly, I love history memes. They are this beautiful intersection between enlightened and edgy, witty and woeful, sensible and savage.

Favourite area of History: I am fascinated by everything to do with twentieth-century history and its legacies for our world today.

One historical figure everyone should know about: My favourite figure of the twentieth century is Sabiha Gökçen, the first female combat fighter pilot ever!

Our plans for 2021 include developing more collaborative events with other clubs, introducing more academic support for fellow History students, and continuing work that we have begun this year to promote diversity in history.

For regular updates on the club’s activities, sign up through this Google Doc link (membership is free and open to all) and like us on Facebook.