New England's History

Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The story of Camp Victory and the Casino Boys

Last year I wrote a series of Armidale Express columns telling the story of Camp Victory and the Casino Boys. It's a fascinating story set in the context of WWII that begins with the fall of Holland to the Nazis.

This post on my general New England blog, New England Stories - Camp Victory and the Casino Boys - brings that story together.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Intense first days for new College

Creating student life. First New England University College rugby union team, 1939. Back Row: Lewis Border, Consett Davis, Max Hartwell, John Rafferty, Jim Belshaw (Coach), Alf Maiden, Les Titterton, Frank Rickwood, Ken James Middle Row: Ralph Crossley, Paul Barratt, Pat Thompson, Alan Sutherland, Peter Durie Front Row: Ed Scalley, Harry Savage. For more detail on the players see Paul Barrat's New England University Rugby Team 1939

This post is the eighth in the story of the Pacific Belshaws, the third on the early days of the New England University College, University of New England 

The early days of the New England University College have been well described in memoirs including Keith Leopold’s Came to Booloominbah and Paul Barratt’s Psychology at New England.

From the student perspective, two things stand out: the first was the intensity of life in the small College, the second the standard of the education received. The staff perspective is a little different, more concerned with the practical difficulties of institution building and of teaching with limited resources.

The College’s academic staff necessarily came from elsewhere. They saw a university as a collegiate community of scholars, themselves as belonging to an international and especially British and Commonwealth academic tradition. They also saw teaching as a key role.

With the exception of local students who were allowed to live at home, the new institution was to be a fully residential. This was partly a matter of necessity, but it also reflected a belief that a true university was a residential university. Here many contrasted New England with the mother University, Sydney, where some students had little connection with the place apart from attendance at lectures.

During the early periods, limited accommodation on campus meant that many students had to live in town houses, but they were still expected to eat on campus and to be there for the day, to be full time students.

The students who came from across the North were generally young. For most, this was the first family connection with a University. Both the College as an institution and its staff saw part of their role as introducing the students to the academic community, to giving them the knowledge and life skills required to fit into their new world, to contribute and advance.

This was not just the required course knowledge, but a total university immersion. There was also a strong competitive ethos, of pride in institution. The early staff were well aware that their new institution was the subject of suspicion; they had to be better.

Student results were remarkable. On average, New England students had lower entry level qualifications than those going to Sydney. On average, they had better examination results. During the period 1938-1953, the life of the University College, 441 students took their degrees. Of these, 88 graduated with honours, 27 with firsts of whom more than half took out university medals.

In addition to their other duties, staff had to manage the sometimes fractious relations with a remote mother university. This strengthened a growing desire for autonomy, a desire shared by the new College’s Advisory Council whose members had been carefully selected to ensure broad representation from across the North.

This would prove to be a long battle.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 8 March 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017, here 2018 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The origins of Pama-Nyungan - a note on the implications for the history of New England's Aboriginal peoples

The map shows the distribution of Pama-Nyungan languages across Australia

Interesting article in Nature Ecology & Evolution by Remco R. Bouckaert, Claire Bowern & Quentin D. Atkinson, The origin and expansion of Pama–Nyungan languages across Australia  that in some ways throws a cat among the pigeons The abstract reads:
It remains a mystery how Pama–Nyungan, the world’s largest hunter-gatherer language family, came to dominate the Australian continent. Some argue that social or technological advantages allowed rapid language replacement from the Gulf Plains region during the mid-Holocene. Others have proposed expansions from refugia linked to climatic changes after the last ice age or, more controversially, during the initial colonization of Australia. Here, we combine basic vocabulary data from 306 Pama–Nyungan languages with Bayesian phylogeographic methods to explicitly model the expansion of the family across Australia and test between these origin scenarios. We find strong and robust support for a Pama–Nyungan origin in the Gulf Plains region during the mid-Holocene, implying rapid replacement of non-Pama–Nyungan languages. Concomitant changes in the archaeological record, together with a lack of strong genetic evidence for Holocene population expansion, suggests that Pama–Nyungan languages were carried as part of an expanding package of cultural innovations that probably facilitated the absorption and assimilation of existing hunter-gatherer groups. 
Remco R. Bouckaert, Claire Bowern & Quentin D. Atkinson, The origin and expansion of Pama–Nyungan languages across Australia, Nature Ecology & Evolution (2018) doi:10.1038/s41559-018-0489-3 Received:07 August 2017, Accepted:30 January 2018, Published online:12 March 2018
An article in the Conversation by Claire Bowern, The origins of Pama-Nyungan, Australia’s largest family of Aboriginal languages (13 March, 2018) provides further information. There is also a website, Pama-Nyungan Origins, that provides supplementary information.


Again I won't be able to check the detail of the research until I can access the article into a library.

As before, my interest is in the implications for my broader New England, the Tablelands and the surrounding river valleys.  The Aboriginal languages spoken here belong to the Pama-Nyungan family. This research suggests that this family arose just under 6,000 years ago around what is now the Queensland town of Burketown. It suggest this language family spread across Australia as people moved in response to changing climate.

Why is this an issue?

 I said earlier that it threw the cat among the pigeons because the results conflict with some other research and with the idea of continuity in Aboriginal Australia. It also plays into a previous debate about the causes of the changes that took place in Aboriginal Australia c4000 years ago and the causes of those changes. Was it a natural process of evolution or due to some external influence?

From a New England viewpoint, I have been trying to understand the pattern of climate and sea level changes and their impact on Aboriginal occupation from the Pleistocene through into the Holocene.My views can be briefly summarised this way:
  • We have a range of dates from the Hunter Valley, Liverpool Plains and at Wallen Wallen in SE Queensland suggesting occupation during the late Pleistocene (17,000 to 22,000 years ago)
  • The LGM (Late Glacial Maximum) forced populations to shift to survive. Parts of the North Coast were not very hospitable, so I postulated a retreat north and south.
  • As the new coastal environment began to form, people returned. Inland, the population spread from refuge areas along the slopes and plains. The Tablelands constituted an initial barrier.As the climate eased further and the environment changed the Tablelands were resettled primarily from the coast, but also onto the slopes from the West. I think that this pattern is reflected in later language differences.
  • In terms of the patchy dates we have, we have earliest settlement in the Macleay around 9,000 years ago, a date of over 6,000 years ago for Seelands in the Clarence, around 5,500 years ago for Graman on the western slopes. My feeling was that by around 6,000 years ago, reoccupation of territory after the LGM was well underway.  
  • from around 4000 years ago the number of dates begins to accelerate with accelerated population increase. .     
If we now compare this with the study conclusions that the Pama–Nyungan languages emerged just under 6,000 years ago and then spread  south as part of an expanding package of cultural innovations that probably facilitated the absorption and assimilation of existing hunter-gatherer groups, we have to ask how does this fit with the evidence for New England? The short answer is that we do know and I am cautious.

Professor  Bowern is a respected linguist. Based on evidence she and her colleagues have posed a new hypothesis. We will have to wait and see what it means for New England Aboriginal Studies.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Pacific Belshaws 7: Fast-paced start for uni college

Booloominbah: Early staff and students at the university college lived and studied together in Booloominbah, creating an intense student experience. This post continues the story of the Pacific Belshaws with a shift now to the early days of the New England University College 

The first columns in this series explored the early world of the Pacific Belshaws. Our focus now shifts to the early days of the New England University College.

It was a remarkable period, remarkable in the academic results achieved, remarkable in the way that the College delivered on the objectives of the founders. It was also a period of considerable struggle.

As had happened earlier with the Teachers’ College, the university college was established with remarkable speed.

Legislation to allow the formation of the new college passed Parliament in December 1937. Then all the machinery issues had to be addressed before building work could commence and staff  recruited. There were less than three months between the advertisement for staff and the start of lectures.

There were very particular reasons for this rush. The university college’s main proponents had all been involved in the creation of the Teachers’ College 10 years before. That, too, had been done in a rush and wisely so. Depression hit Australia 12 months after its creation. There were moves to close the college, but the project was too far advanced.

With that lesson in front of them, the university project was pushed hard and again wisely so. Had the opening been delayed even 12 months, the onset of war could well have closed the university college. As it was, it was to be a close fought battle with the army who wanted the site for a convalescent hospital in 1942.

The rush created its own problems. When 30-year-old Jim Belshaw arrived in February 1938, the first of the newly appointed staff, the workmen were still modifying Booloominbah.

There were five in that first academic staff group: Belshaw (economics and history), Duncan Howie (philosophy and psychology), Jack Somerville (mathematics), Ralph Crossley (French and German) and Frank Letters (classics and English).

As the only married staff member, Frank Letters, wife Kathleen and daughters were accommodated in the gatekeeper’s cottage, the Lodge. The four single men joined Warden Edgar Booth, Booth’s secretary Jean Dyce, the matron Sister Green and 15 of 16 full-time students in Booloominbah.

Booloominbah also included administration offices, lecture rooms, a dining room and a common room. The other 12 members of staff including a chef, a laundress, housemaids and gardeners.

The relative isolation and proximity of staff and students created a tight-knit community that studied and lived together. The result was an intense experience reflected in subsequent results.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 28 February 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017, here 2018 

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Crowd research - seeking information on the Aborigines of South East Queensalnd

Meeting this morning with linguist Margaret Sharpe to talk about the Aboriginal history of New England. While both of us are conscious of how far we have come, more and more we can tell a story, so much remains to be done. There will always be gaps, but a many textured history is emerging.

Just a reminder on what I mean by New England. The history I am trying to write covers the Northern or New England Tablelands and the surrounding river valleys to the north, south, east and west. The focus of our discussions was on Aboriginal history up to European intrusion. To avoid the earlier history becoming entangled with later events, I am using 1788 as a cut-off point for the first part of the story.

Pretty obviously, the state boundaries as we know them today did not exist then. The subject area extended into what is now called Southern Queensland. I said pretty obviously, but in fact the later boundary created an effect that I call border myopia.The Aboriginal peoples who occupied South East Queensland and form part of my story are all seen as belonging to Queensland; their southern linkages are not focused on. A similar pattern holds south of the boarder.

This brings me to the point of this post. I am seeking your help to identify sources, evidence and subsequent analysis of the Aboriginal groups who spanned the border with a special focus on the Queensland side. The language groups include the inland riverine, tableland  and coastal language groups who extended into Queensland.

The evidence I am looking for includes archaeological studies, ethnological studies, historical or ethnographic memories, linguistic studies and Aboriginal oral tradition. Obviously I have some, but I am seeking more.

It's an experiment in crowd research.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Musing on Geraldine Doogue's new RN radio program on new genres in Australian history

Interesting program this morning from the ABC's Geraldine Doogue New genres in Australian history. The introduction describes it this way
Saturday Extra brings you in the month of March emerging and established historians who are embarking on studies of particular regions in Australia and using different means to trace the history such as literature and the environment. Eminent historian Tom Griffiths provides his take on this new genre.
As indicated, the program began with an interview with Professor Tom Griffiths whose most recent book is entitled The Art of Time Travel: Historians and their Craft.  I haven't read it yet. Clearly I must.

This was followed by an interview with Tony Hughes d'Aeth whose recent book, Like Nothing on this Earth: A Literary History of the Wheatbelt, studies the work of eleven writers to explore the experiences and feelings of living and working in West Australia's wheatbelt area, a region that is almost as large as Britain. I liked his approach.

I'm not sure about the new genre part, mind you  After all, historians such as John Ryan have been working in this space for many years. However, I was pleased to see a renewed interest in regional history as well as a focus on using different sources to explore different aspects of life.

I responded with a comment hoping that there would be some inclusion from the broader New England in the program. I gave a link to this blog as an example of the range of topics. However, reading the blog actually left me dissatisfied at several levels.

Because I write across a number of platforms, the blog does not properly represent the range of work that is around nor the different threads involved. Further, I am trying to write a history of the full North over 30,000 years so that I am constantly moving between topics, adding topics. In a way, it's a bit uncontrolled. Then, too, I write outside the academy so that I'm not aware of the range of work going on.

I have the strong impression that the interest in the history of the broader New England has been in decline for a long time. The historians I do know who have done so much are dead or old now to the point that I am just about the youngest. The younger ones within academic life who are interested are so pressed by day-to-day pressures that they don't have time to write.

They also face a problem in that the KPIs that govern their life are structured in such a way that to be interested in local or regional history simply does not cut the mustard unless they have an institution that has it in its mission statement and is prepared to commit resources, to provide top cover, even though it gains no money.      .

Let me give a simple example. An article in say the Armidale and District Historical Society Journal is read by locals and then stays as a resource for broader interest. I use it all the time. I know others do. But it doesn't count because it's outside the KPIs.

I remember going into the University and asking what I might provide that would help them measure the UNE contribution. I was told that nothing I did could be counted because I was an adjunct, not a staff member. Further, all the stuff I did fell outside the parameters anyway.

I thought f...! Here's a place that was founded in part to serve New England, the university of the North. Here's a place that has had a dramatic influence on the texture of Northern life and well beyond. And now this is all written off as irrelevant to comply with certain imposed KPIs.

Then I thought, blow them  Each week I get to more people than read the standard academic article in twelve months. I know people are interested, although I struggle to respond to the feedback because I am working alone.

I may seem to have drifted. I have not. I am looking forward to following the series. If we have new work on regional history, if people are trying new things, I want to know about it, recognising that I am outside the academic loop.

For my part and looking at this blog, it is also time to draw together some of my writing even though it is far from perfect.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Terry Crowley and the story of the Anaiwan Aboriginal language

Last year I wrote a series of columns in the Armidale Express on Terry Crowley and the Anaiwan language spoken on the southern parts of the New England Tablelands.

The language was something of a mystery to linguists because it did not seem to be related to other Aboriginal languages. It was Crowley as a young postgraduate student who cracked at least part of the mystery by showing that it was related to coastal languages.

Moves are now underway to revive the language, something I covered briefly on Wednesday on my New England Australia blog in Australian National Indigenous Languages Convention - a New England perspective. There are two Facebook pages, one on the Anaiwan Language revival program itself, a second Friends of the Anaiwan Language Revival Program designed for non-Anaiwan people who want to support the campaign.

 The stories I wrote for the Express are on-line on this blog, but I thought that it would be helpful if I gathered them in a single place to make it easier to follow the story through. The columns are;

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Was there a connection between India and Aboriginal Australia?

I had a brief discussion with regular commenter John on the evidence for possible DNA links between Australia and India. Checking, while I have briefly discussed this in the past, I didn't provide links. 

On 10 March 2016, Darren Curnoe had a useful piece in The Conversation, An Ancient Connection to India, summarising the evidence as it then stood. I have taken the liberty of reproducing the paper in full, in part because of the links. I have also added the full references attached to the main papers plus one additional reference that came out after Darren published.. 

As you will see from the paper, the question of a possible Indian connection is linked to disputes about the settling of the continent by the Aborigines, including the cause of what has been called intensification, changes in technology and population density that occurred some 5,000 or so years ago.

 My personal views conditioned by my New England thinking, by the evidence we have so far, can be summarised this way:
  • There nothing in the archaeological record that I can see to support the idea of a sudden infusion of new technology associated with the arrival of a new group
  • Aboriginal culture including the use of technology was not constant but changed over time depending on climate and resources
  • To my mind, the most plausible explanation of the pattern of change that took place at the end of the Late Glacial Maximum is directly connected with population growth, new structures and new forms of working as the surrounding environment became more benign and favourable.
None of this means , however, that there was not some interconnection with, flow from, the Indian subcontinent that might have affected DNA structures. We will have to wait for the DNA experts to sort this out. .          

The paper
When was the remote Australian continent first settled? Where did these ancient Australians come from? Was the island settled once, or on multiple occasions? Is there a genealogical connection between the Indigenous people of Australia and India?
These are questions I’ve spent almost two decades cogitating, and some of them have been pondered now for almost 400 years by European scholars.
Way back in 1623, while on route through the Torres Strait, the Dutch explorer Jan Carstenz (or Carstenszoon) was the first to write about these issues in describing the physical appearance of Indigenous Australians.
He likened people in the north of the continent to so-called ‘Indians’ of the Coramandel of New Zealand, or Maori people of the North Island.
The descriptor ‘Indian’ was used widely in those days to refer to populations across the New World, and didn’t imply any genealogical relationship with South Asians as such; that connection would be made by Thomas Henry Huxley more than two centuries later.
Huxley was by far the most influential early European thinker about human origins. Champion of Darwin’s theory of evolution, as a young man Huxley visited Australia on the HMS Rattlesnake in 1847, 11 years after Darwin came here on the HMS Beagle.
While he showed little interest in anthropology at the time, he would subsequently go on to found human evolution science and strongly shape Darwin’s ideas about our origins.
In 1870, in On the Geographical Distribution of the Chief Modifications of Mankind, Huxley proposed that Indigenous Australians were closely related to the people of South Asia, confidently asserting:
‘the only people out of Australia who present the chief characteristics of the Australians in a well-marked form are the so-called hill-tribes who inhabit the interior of the Dekhan, in Hindostan.’
While based on speculation, rather remarkably, I think, his ideas would come to be influential up until the 1970s; only to be rekindled by geneticists in 1999.
One physical anthropologist who was especially influenced by Huxley’s musing was Joseph Birdsell. He worked in Australia from the 1940s, writing about the continent’s Indigenous people until his death in the 1990s.
Birdsell developed a model for the peopling of Australia proposing settlement in three waves; with people coming from Southeast Asia, followed by more people from Japan, and later from India; modern Indigenous people being a kind of mix of the three groups.
His model has been long discredited among anthropologists because it finds no support in fossilised human remains - the only physical evidence we have for the earliest people in Australia.
Moreover, his intellectual contemporary and rival, Andrew Abbie, failed to confirm Birdsell’s ideas during the extensive anthropological surveys he undertook with living Indigenous people across the continent.
Enter the geneticists Alan Redd and Mark Stoneking who in 1999 took a leaf out of Huxley’s writing and published evidence for a maternal genetic connection (1) between Australia and India.
1. Alan J.Redd, Mark Stoneking, Peopling of Sahul: mtDNA Variation in Aboriginal Australian and Papua New Guinean Populations, AJHG, Volume 65, Issue 3, September 1999, Pages 808-828
To bolster their ideas, they linked their findings to events seen in the archaeological record, especially the arrival of the dingo, as well as perceived language similarities and even Birdsell’s ideas about migration.
Redd and Stoneking suggested that people from India arrived in northern Australia sometime around three and a half thousand years ago and left a major genetic and cultural legacy with the Indigenous people of the Northern Territory today.
Their work deeply divided both the anthropological and genetic communities, opening old wounds and reviving discredited theories.
Some archaeologists had argued in the 1970s and 1980s that there was indeed a sudden change in the kinds of tools being made in northern Australia - known as the ‘Small Tool Tradition’ or ‘Backed Blades’ - broadly coincident with the arrival of the dog, and indicating the arrival of a new people.
Yet, Backed Blades were later shown to be present in archaeological deposits near Sydney dating back to about 8 thousand years old and in northern Queensland to around 15 thousand years old. The contradictory evidence was overlooked by Redd and Stoneking.
Their work was followed by more genetic studies supporting (2)  the hypothesis (3) and a range (4) of others seemingly (5) rejecting (6) it.
(2) Alan J.Redd, June Roberts-Thomson, Tatiana Karafet, Michael Bamsha, Lynn B.Jorde, J.M.Naidu, BruceWalsh, Michael F.Hammer, Gene Flow from the Indian Subcontinent to Australia: Evidence from the Y Chromosome, Current Biology, Volume 12, Issue 8, 16 April 2002, Pages 673-677
(3) Irina Pugach, Frederick Delfin, Ellen Gunnarsdóttir, Manfred Kayser and Mark Stoneking, Genome-wide data substantiate Holocene gene flow from India to Australia, PNAS 2013 January, 110 (5) 1803-1808.
(4) Georgi Hudjashov, Toomas Kivisild, Peter A. Underhill, Phillip Endicott, Juan J. Sanchez, Alice A. Lin, Peidong Shen, Peter Oefner, Colin Renfrew, Richard Villems and Peter Forster, Revealing the prehistoric settlement of Australia by Y chromosome and mtDNA analysis, PNAS 2007 May, 104 (21) 8726-8730.
(5) Brian P.McEvoy, Joanne M.Lind, Eric T.Wang, Robert K.Moyzis, Peter M.Visscher, Sheila M.van Holst Pellekaan, Alan N.Wilton,Whole-Genome Genetic Diversity in a Sample of Australians with Deep Aboriginal Ancestry,  AJHG, Volume 87, Issue 2, 13 August 2010, Pages 297-305
(6)  Morten Rasmussen, Xiaosen Guo, Yong Wang, Kirk E. Lohmueller, Simon Rasmussen, Anders Albrechtsen, Line Skotte, Stinus Lindgreen, Mait Metspalu, Thibaut Jombart , Toomas Kivisild, Weiwei Zhai, Anders Eriksson, Andrea Manica, Ludovic Orlando, Francisco M. De La Vega, Silvana Tridico, Ene Metspalu, Kasper Nielsen, María C. Ávila-Arcos, J. Víctor Moreno-Mayar, Craig Muller, Joe Dortch, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Ole Lund, Agata Wesolowska, Monika Karmin, Lucy A. Weinert, Bo Wang, Jun Li, Shuaishuai Tai, Fei Xiao, Tsunehiko Hanihara, George van Driem, Aashish R. Jha, François-Xavier Ricaut, Peter de Knijff, Andrea B Migliano, Irene Gallego Romero, Karsten Kristiansen, David M. Lambert, Søren Brunak, Peter Forster, Bernd Brinkmann, Olaf Nehlich, Michael Bunce, Michael Richards, Ramneek Gupta, Carlos D. Bustamante, Anders Krogh, Robert A. Foley, Marta M. Lahr, Francois Balloux, Thomas Sicheritz-Pontén, Richard Villems, Rasmus Nielsen, Jun Wang, Eske Willerslev, An Aboriginal Australian Genome Reveals Separate Human Dispersals into Asia, Science  07 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6052, pp. 94-98 DOI: 10.1126/science.1211177

Then last month, the latest salvo against the India connection was launched and, I must confess, I may have greeted it a little too enthusiastically.
The work, led by Anders Bergström of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and published in Current Biology (7), fully sequenced and compared globally the Y-chromosomes of 13 Aboriginal Australian men.
(7) Anders Bergström, Nano Nagle, Yuan Chen, Shane McCarthy, Martin O.Pollard, Qasim Ayub, Stephen Wilcox, Leah Wilcox, Roland A.H.van Oorschot, Peter McAllister, Lesley Williams, Yali Xue. John Mitchell, Chris Tyler-Smith, Deep Roots for Aboriginal Australian Y Chromosomes, Current Biology, Volume 26, Issue 6, 21 March 2016, Pages 809-813
In a nutshell, their study found that Aboriginal men are descended from early modern human populations identified as living broadly across East Asia by at least 60 thousand years ago.
A subset of these people migrated to New Guinea and Australia, settling these areas by about 55 thousand years ago, according to genetic clocks.
The research has confirmed a large number of other genetic studies showing that soon after Australia was peopled, Indigenous New Guineans and Australians became isolated from each other, except in a few places in the north like the Torres Strait.
One paper published following publication of Darren's article also found no evidence of later Indian admixture. Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas, Michael C. Westaway[…]Eske Willerslev, A genomic history of Aboriginal Australia, Nature volume 538, pages 207–214 (13 October 2016) doi:10.1038/nature18299
A very ancient origin for Indigenous Australians is also supported by the human fossil and archaeological records showing an arrival at least 40-50 thousand years ago or more.
Even Redd and Stoneking and their subsequent supporters all agreed on these points.
Australia was also, according to last month’s research, peopled once, and only once, before Europeans came by the boat load from 1788. No signs of Indian gene flow here; contrary to Redd and Stoneking’s ideas.
Yes, there was certainly trade and contact with the outside world, such as with the Macassans from Sulawesi beginning in the 1600s. But it seems for the most part not to have left a genetic footprint among living Aboriginal people.
Now, all of this leaves really only the geneticists arguing over the India connection, and they seem to be coming at the question from quite different angles; despite using very similar kinds of evidence.
Why such strong disagreement? I think the simplest explanation is that we don’t yet have enough data to provide a clear answer, from the DNA or human fossil remains. Archaeology is clearly very important, but not the full picture.
Aboriginal Australians have without doubt been living here for tens of thousand of years, but whether they were completely (genetically) isolated until 1788 is not yet certain.
What about the dingo? The latest genetic research suggests it may have come from New Guinea or even directly from Taiwan by Austronesian speaking people, with no indications of India ancestry whatsoever.
The burden of proof lies with those proposing the idea of a link between some Indigenous Australians and far away India, because the alternative view is the one that receives support from other kinds of evidence.
Also, I think it’s way too easy to ‘cherry-pick’ the physical anthropology, linguistic and archaeological literature, as geneticists are prone to doing, when the picture emerging from all these areas of research is much more complicated than most geneticists would concede.
Still, we’ve come a long way since Huxley’s insightful speculation, and who know’s whether he’ll ultimately be proved right.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Papuans replace initial settlers in Oceania

Mark Lipson et al had an interesting paper, Population Turnover in Remote Oceania Shortly After Initial Settlement (bioRxiv preprint first posted online Feb. 19, 2018) on genetic mixtures in Oceania. The summary reads in part:
Ancient DNA analysis of three individuals dated to ~3000 years before present (BP) from Vanuatu and one ~2600 BP individual from Tonga has revealed that the first inhabitants of Remote Oceania (“First Remote Oceanians”) were almost entirely of East Asian ancestry, and thus their ancestors passed New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, and the Solomon Islands with minimal admixture with the Papuan groups they encountered [1]. However, all present-day populations in Near and Remote Oceania harbor 25-100% Papuan ancestry, implying that there must have been at least one later stream of migration eastward from Near Oceania. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Pacific Belshaws 6 - Brothers immersed in Depression economics

New England University College first geology class 1939. Just one male! Mary Hindmarsh, Catherine Miller, Rae Anthony, Frank Wickwood, Sylvia Willoughby and Joan Bates

As the first stage of the Great Depression began to grip the world in 1929, Governments around the world began to adopt protectionist measures.

In 1930, the Republican controlled US Congress passed the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act imposing punitive import tariffs on US imports. Other countries retaliated. In 1932 under pressure from the Dominions, the Ottowa Imperial Economic Conference adopted a system of Imperial preference, breaking long standing Imperial support for free trade.

US exports collapsed, falling more than 50 per cent in the years after passage of the Smoot-Hawley tariff. This spread depression across the US.

In both New Zealand and Australia, governments turned to the still small pool of local economists for support. In 1932 Horace Belshaw, along with fellow professors Douglas Copland, James Hight and Albert Tocker, was appointed by the NZ Coalition Government to an economic committee to advise on measures for dealing with the depression.

Horace Belshaw had been writing extensively on the economic position of New Zealand farmers, focusing on their increasing indebtedness and possible reforms to the systems of land tenure and credit, including mortgage adjustment and the need for a central bank.

Now the committee recommended depreciation of the exchange rate and mortgage adjustment as well as wage cuts. Most of the recommendations were put into effect, but the Treasury opposed depreciation and the government delayed implementing it until 1933.

While Horace was engaged in the debate on  New Zealand economic and farm policy, his younger brother was completing his postgraduate studies. Both his MAs had had an economic policy component. Now his Manchester PhD was on Depression, Recovery and Reconstruction in New Zealand, 1929-1932.

As Jim Belshaw later remarked, there is something wonderfully efficient in selecting topics where your brother can supply you with all the key documents!

To this point, Jim Belshaw had been effectively living in the shadow of his elder brother. He had formed interests and views that would have a major impact on New England, but had yet to carve out his own role, his place in the world. .

We know now that the new University College would provide that place, that he would spend the rest of his life in Armidale. But that was not clear when he arrived in early February 1938, nor would he have necessarily welcomed it had he known.  

He was young, fresh faced, so young that Jean Dyce, the Warden’s secretary wanted, to enrol him as the first student and was disappointed when she could not. This was his first permanent job outside teaching.

He was not impressed with Armidale. The place was small, dry and dusty. Despite his reservations, he threw himself into the job and, with that, the world changed.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 21 February 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017, here 2018