‘My country’s heart is in the market place’: Tom Stannage interviewed by Peter Read

Tiffany Shellam
Joanna Sassoon


Tom Stannage was one among many historians in the 1970s uncovering histories of Australia which were to challenge national narratives and community memories. In 1971, Tom returned to Western Australia after writing his PhD in Cambridge with the passion to write urban history and an understanding that in order to do so, he needed an emotional engagement with place. What he had yet to realize was the power of community memories in Western Australia to shape and preserve ideas about their place. As part of his research on the history of Perth, Tom saw how the written histories of Western Australia had been shaped by community mythologies – in particular that of the rural pioneer. He identified the consensus or ‘gentry tradition’ in Western Australian writing. In teasing out histories of conflict, he showed how the gentry tradition of rural pioneer histories silenced those of race and gender relations, convictism and poverty which were found in both rural and urban areas. His versions of history began to unsettle parts of the Perth community who found the ‘pioneer myth’ framed their consensus world-view and whose families were themselves the living links to these ‘pioneers’.


History of Western Australia, Perth, myths, historiography

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/phrj.v20i0.3747