Imperium et Libertas: G.C. Henderson and ‘Colonial Historical Research

Publisher:
Wakefield Press
Publication Type:
Chapter
Citation:
Pasts Present: History at Australia’s third university, 2014, pp. 77 - 85
Issue Date:
2014
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In 1907 J.M. Dent & Co, London, in partnership with E.P. Dutton & Co, New York, published a book by the Professor of History at the University of Adelaide: G.C. Henderson’s Sir George Grey: Pioneer of Empire in Southern Lands. The volume was well received, both in Australia and in Britain. The Academy called it ‘an able piece of work, clear, discriminating, judicial’ and Frederick Watson, later to be editor of Historical Records of Australia, sung its praises.1 ‘Nearly all the London papers & reviews [spoke] very favourably of the work’, reported Henderson in December 1908 to the Australian Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin, who had written with his own compliments.2 An ‘Oxford scholar, holding a chair in an Australian university’, Henderson possessed an outlook that, according to The Academy, was ‘Imperial rather than Colonial’.3 His position in a colonial university did not – or so the reviewer believed – set him apart from his metropolitan colleagues: ‘he delivers himself of no shibboleths’, concluded the article.4 This chapter argues that Henderson’s book, and the outlook and experiences that informed both it and his work at the University of Adelaide, need to be understood in terms of the social and institutional contexts that linked Australia and Britain at the turn of the century. Moving within the networks of the British academic world, Henderson’s travels and the landscapes of affection and connection born of them, not only shaped the way he approached his work, but his experience of undertaking it in turn also shaped his vision for ‘colonial historical research’ at Adelaide.5 I Born in 1870 near Newcastle in New South
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