The UniMelb History Society in 2021

The UniMelb 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 the second in a series on SHAPS’s undergraduate societies, we look back on the past year’s activities, and introduce the new History Society Committee for 2022, elected at our recent Annual General Meeting in September.

Meet our committee!

The recently elected 2022 committee of the History Society is made up of the following members:

President: Susan Malikoff

Why I joined the History Society: It’s simple – the more history in my life, the better! Since I became a member in 2020, the History Society has consistently provided me with opportunities to meet like-minded people, expand my knowledge, and maintain a sense of connectedness to the University throughout lockdowns. I also really like managing projects and organising events, so after a year on the general committee, I thought I would give presidency a go! I am so excited for the year ahead with our new committee.

Favourite area of History: While I love social history in any form, my favourite area would have to be sixteenth- to seventeenth-century France and England, particularly as it relates to the history of gender and childhood. Although early modern phenomena like magic and demons might seem crazy to us today, studying them has shown me that we humans really haven’t changed much in the past 500 years – we just express the same ideas in very different ways!

One historical figure everyone should know about: A while ago, I wrote a profile on Alice Manfield, otherwise known as ‘Guide Alice.’ She was a pioneering feminist, mountain guide and naturalist from Mount Buffalo, Victoria. Guide Alice conducted many fearless solo expeditions of Mount Buffalo during the late nineteenth century, surviving bushfires, severe storms, and extensive snowfall. She was known for wearing tight-fitting mountaineering pants, rather than a skirt, which she controversially designed to make mountaineering easier!

Secretary: Molly Lidgerwood

Why I joined the History Society: I became a member of the History Society in my first semester in 2019 and have had the best time since then! I joined the committee in March 2021 and am thrilled to be this year’s Secretary. Since joining the History Society, I have had an incredible time meeting new people and making friends at our social events such as Trivia Nights but, also, I have felt supported as a History student through our academic events. It has really helped me to stay connected to my love for History through lockdowns the past two years.

Favourite area of History: My favourite area of History would have to be the French Revolution. I loved learning about it during VCE and as a University subject, and I am still fascinated by the causes, consequences and experiences of people during the Revolution! I could talk for hours about how Marie Antoinette deserved so much better! Some other areas of interest include general early modern Europe and twentieth-century history.

One historical figure everyone should know about: Sojourner Truth. We recently posted a profile on her for our weekly ‘Historical Figure of the Week’ Facebook series. She had an incredible life as a former slave, an abolitionist and a civil rights and women’s activist.

Treasurer: Lilah Shapiro

Why I joined the History Society: As an interstate first year student, having just moved down from Sydney, I was excited to meet other people with a passion for the past! I also think a sense of academic community is so helpful at uni – to feel like you’re struggling along with essays in the same boat as a bunch of other people. I’m especially excited for the possibility of the return of in-person events next year so we can maximise this.

Favourite area of History: I’ve spent a lot of time learning about Australian history, specifically the historiography surrounding the writing of Indigenous History. I think it’s so important to recognise the role of politics in creating History, and the destructive effect that influence has and continues to have. I love microhistories, history from below, domestic things and all the rest.

One historical figure everyone should know about: I’m currently taking the University of Melbourne’s first ever Introduction to Indigenous History (HIST20088) course (crazy that this hasn’t existed until 2021!). Each week we listen to interview recordings with Charles Perkins. I’ve loved getting to explore history through oral sources and storytelling and getting to know Charles through listening to him speak. Charles was a devoted Indigenous rights activist – I would go on but I just suggest you take the subject! It’s stuff every Australian should know.

Education Officer: Charlotte Allan

Why I joined the History Society: Easy answer! The History Society provides such a fun and supportive environment for all of its members, and I wanted to be part of that process. Whether it’s running trivia nights, hosting study sessions or hearing from marvellous guest speakers, the History Society has really helped me to stay connected with like-minded history lovers over the course of my degree. I feel so honoured to be part of a club that is really passionate about everything they do, and hope I can inspire fellow members to celebrate their love and appreciation of history!

Favourite area of History: I am utterly fascinated with the Hellenistic period and how the empire truly transformed after the death of Alexander the Great. Some of my favourite areas are Ptolemy’s Library of Alexandria and the role of ancient Macedonian women in the royal courts.

I also really enjoy studying World War One and how it totally transformed the world. I had so much fun writing an article on how sheet music was used as a form of propaganda throughout the war for Chariot journal.

One historical figure everyone should know about:  Princess Cleopatra of Macedonia is an amazing example of a woman in the Macedonian court that used her royal status to achieve feminine power. As the only full sibling of Alexander the Great, Cleopatra was regent of the Molossian throne during the absence of her husband (King Alexander of Epirus), and continued her rule after his death. It was pretty uncommon for a woman to rule during this period, making her an absolute force to be reckoned with!

General committee member: Teo Haines

Why I joined the History Society: History has always been a fascination of mine. I joined the club at the start of 2021, excited to meet new people and see what the society had to offer. I was not let down. The History Society connected me with other students that shared a similar interest in history. It was so easy to start a conversation with people. It’s not just a place to learn fun things about history but you get to create lasting experiences with new people.

Favourite area of History: This might be a bit cheap of me but honestly, I find any period of history interesting. Bizarre failures of the past are what really gets my attention. I used to be fascinated with ancient history, in particular the Romans, but now after studying it relentlessly throughout school and at the University of Melbourne, twentieth-century history seems to be where it is at. In particular, I have found a recent interest in how the Cold War-impacted Asian countries.

One historical figure everyone should know about: Hannibal Barca: an absolute legend, was a Carthaginian general and statesman who in the Second Punic War (218–201 BCE) led an army accompanied by around 38 elephants from Spain through the Alps to attack the Romans from northern Italy. Man took elephants over Alps. Enough said.    

General committee member: Elina Pugacheva

Why I joined the History Society: I have had a lifelong fascination with history and this, combined with my History major as part of my Bachelor of Arts degree, led me to discover and join the History Society. I enjoyed the different events hosted by the History Society, so then I thought, why not join the team myself?

Favourite area of History: My favourite area of history is the Soviet Union, particularly Khrushchev’s rule (1953–1964). Khrushchev’s rule was so remarkably unique and in such sharp contrast to the preceding Soviet history, which is what makes it so fascinating to study for me.

One historical figure everyone should know about: Vladimir Vysotsky, a Russian poet, singer and actor who composed and performed his own poems and songs and livened up any Soviet film he appeared in. Vysotsky’s songs are sharp in sound and meaning and often critical of the Soviet power in an allegorical way. Most importantly, they are super catchy and will never stop being ideal to sing around a dinner table with some friends and good food.

General committee member: Radite Aldo Bagaskoro

Why I joined the History Society: I have a lifelong interest in history, and I saw this club as a great opportunity to meet new people with similar interests. Being a general committee, I am also looking forward to using my knowledge and passions to facilitate a platform that promotes history to a wider audience, and create a home for fellow history lovers in the university.

Favourite area of History: Modern military history, especially World War Two and the Cold War. As a person who grew up watching History Channel & NatGeo documentaries, playing Call of Duty (not the more recent futuristic stuff) and reading monthly military magazines, I could literally babble for hours about the different types of jet planes, guns, tanks and warships being employed in battles by some of the greatest military tacticians and how those wars have shaped the world we lived today.

One historical figure everyone should know about: Admiral Vasily Arkhipov. The dude literally averted the doomsday by being the only one to veto the other commanders’ motion to strike the US with nuclear weapons during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Had the motion passed, it would have been very likely to lead into a global thermonuclear war that spelled the end of human civilisation. It’s hard to believe, but we are really that close to a nuclear disaster.

Looking back on 2021

Despite the continuing challenges of COVID-19, the History Society continued to prosper in 2021. Highlights of the year include:

  • Our SHAPS Clubs Semester 1 Dual Delivery Welcome Event: To kick off semester one we held two fantastic welcome events – one online and one at the Clyde Hotel – in collaboration with the Classics and Archaeology Students Society (MUCLASS) and the Philosophy Society (MUPS).
  • Trivia Night at The Clyde Hotel: Timing was on our side, and we managed to squeeze a live trivia night in between lockdowns – just like old times! We covered some fascinating history topics including children who changed the world, strange statues and mad monuments, and fairytales and folklore.
  • ‘A Look at Gender History with Dr Annabelle Baldwin’: Annabelle’s fascinating discussion of her experiences as a gender historian captivated all who attended. We are immensely grateful for her participation which made this a night to remember!
  • Film screenings: The History Society held two film screenings this year – Taxi Driver (in collaboration with the Film Society and Political Interest Society) and Persepolis.
  • Our Historical Figures of the Week project: through this ongoing project, each week we showcase the story of an important but lesser known historical figure on our Facebook page through a profile written by one of our committee members.
  • SWOTVAC Study Sesh with the other SHAPS undergrad clubs.
  • SHAPS Clubs Speed Friending and Games Night: To welcome everyone back after the semester break, we held online speed friending followed by a range of SHAPS-themed games – historical Price is Right, Seven Wonders, and more!
  • The AGM and Historical Price is Right: Our AGM was bittersweet this year, as we said goodbye to many longstanding committee members and welcomed a new committee for 2022. Many thanks to all who came along and voted!
  • Online Trivia Night in August: Although Trivia – our main event – could not run in-person in Semester Two, we ran an online version which was a great success! Trivia themes included ‘Top 7 betrayals in history’ and ‘Strangest historical laws’.
  • Dubious Debating: A Historical Debate Night: In October, we ran a not-at-all-serious ‘debate’ and speed-friending for those who are interested in history, love pointless arguments, and enjoy having a laugh. In teams, students competed to argue for which ancient civilisation was the ‘best’, and decide which historical figure would make the best modern-day influencer.
  • New Instagram page: @unimelb.historysoc

Our plans for 2022 include developing more dual-delivery events, introducing greater academic support for fellow History students, and continuing work to promote diversity in history.

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

Feature image: Members of the UniMelb History Society at the online Dubious Debating Event, 13 October 2021