An increasing global population has characterized modern world history, but the view from the Pacific urges an interrogation of this trend. This workshop, hosted by Laureate Centre for History & Population at UNSW, will bring together scholars whose research investigates the vexed histories of depopulation in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Oceania. As global climate change renders issues of migration, land, and population increasingly urgent across the Pacific World, the workshop offers an important and timely reconsideration of the decline of Pacific populations during colonial rule.
Laureate Centre PhD Stipends, 2022
The Laureate Centre for History & Population at UNSW, Sydney, invites applications for two (2) PhD scholarships. PhD students will join the Laureate research team, under the supervision of Professor Alison Bashford, and within the School of Humanities and Languages, Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture, UNSW. Two scholarships will be awarded to graduates with honours or masters qualifications in history, for research into Australian, Pacific, or international history related to population. Full details available here
Applications will continue to be received until the stipends are filled. Positions will commence by 26/06/2022. Value: $28,854 per annum, for a maximum of 4 years.
Abstract: From the 1890s, a devastating epidemic of sleeping sickness and shifting views on the colony’s ‘native’ population triggered mounting anxieties of depopulation among colonial officials in Angola, Portugal’s long-standing and arguably most important colony in Africa. Population Politics in the Tropics traces this depopulation discourse through the first half of the twentieth century, showing how it was constantly reiterated by alarming reports about other deadly diseases, low fertility, high infant mortality, endemic labour scarcity and rampant emigration. Only after the Second World War did it gradually fade away, yet, just like many other colonies and/or states in Central Africa, Angola did not become part of the discourse of overpopulation that was increasingly gripping the emerging ‘Third World’. Read more…
The historians in this series bring a set of concerns and questions that broaden and deepen our collective conversations about possible futures of the planet Earth and the entanglement of such visions with the viability of human habitation. What pasts prefigure planetary futures? How have planetary futures been produced and reproduced by discrete projects of world-making? When and why do planetary futures revolve around the question of human population? Do planetary futures ever slip out of anthropocentric frames? How have world, earth, and planetary histories overlapped and how have they diverged?
In the early twentieth century, rising population growth rates in the decolonizing world became a subject of international concern and intervention for a variety of actors, from feminists to eugenicists to neo-Malthusians. Recent studies have explored the consolidation of a “population establishment” in the post-WWII period: a cohort of demographers and other experts (primarily men) tasked with advising dwindling colonial empires and emerging nationalist governments on how best to reign in their populations in the name of economic development and global security. But the mid-century planned parenthood movement also pulled in a more eclectic group of doctors, nurses, social workers, charity ladies and wives of colonial officials and international bureaucrats who portrayed their work as part of a humanitarian – even spiritual – mission to save the lives of women and children. These actors joined together in local, regional and international voluntary associations and sent out fieldworkers of their own (primarily women) to spread “the gospel of family planning” at home and abroad.
Supporters of the Laureate Centre may be interested in this year’s Cambridge Reproduction Forum. The forum will explore the origins and methods of contraception from a historical, sociological and scientific perspective. This forum aims to inspire and reinforce the commitment to prioritise modern contraception programmes and research based on a multidisciplinary understanding of the history and future directions of family planning and contraception.
Speakers: Kim Alexander, Dr Aprajita Sarcar, Alice Pelton, Dr Beth Sundstrim and Professor Cara Delay, Stefanie Felsberger.
Draft Program Available Here
The paper explores the visual artefact that represented the national family planning programme in India: Hum Do Hamare Do (We are Two, will have Two Children). The campaign was created in 1967. It consisted of a couple with two children: a boy and a girl in an inverted triangle. The inverted red triangle, simultaneous to the campaign, became the symbol of the international family planning movement. Tracing its creation and circulation helps unearth the assumptions of developmental modernity that guided its ideation. The slogan and its visual partner travelled across and beyond India to signify the nearest family planning centre. Posters, signposts and travelling theatrical performances showcased the power of the symbol and its impact on the developing world. The paper will trace the history of this campaign and ask what factors enabled its creation. The mythical family within the inverted triangle attained a life beyond governmental advocacy to become a cultural marker of modernity in postcolonial India. In many ways, it became a visual representation of the Indian middle class.
This lecture expores first how modern (post c. 1780) population changes have entered discussion on the Anthropocene. Secondly, it asks how historians specifically, might (not should) begin to answer this question, with attention both to accelerating global net population growth and local population decline, caused amongst other dynamics by the fertility, mortality, and migration impacts of colonisation..
In 1930, the Church of England became the first major Christian denomination in Europe or North America to formally condone the use of birth control. The Bishop of Winchester, Theodore Woods, led the reform campaign, and he did so for the expressed purpose of encouraging an increase in the birthrate amongst the English middle and upper classes. Drawing upon Woods as a case study, this paper explores the moral logic offered by Anglican leaders on behalf of their widespread efforts to manipulate both the ‘quantity’ and ‘quality’ of the English population during the interwar period. As it will show, such efforts were often justified as a means of tangibly combating ‘erroneous’ conceptions of human purpose, or the matter of to what ends a person ought to direct their life. I conclude by examining how the moral framework utilized by Woods and other Anglican leaders might help explain the pervasiveness and enduring appeal of fertility-manipulation schemes amongst religious and nonreligious actors in England (and beyond) during the first half of the twentieth century.
2022 marks the 100th anniversary of Margaret Sanger’s first visit to China. Her visit prompted public discussions of birth control in the service of improving China’s population that continue to the present day. These conversations and subsequent policies expanded to include many aspects of reproductive health like screenings for sexually transmitted infections and cervical cancer. They also corresponded with conflicting policies through the 1960s, as (primarily) women’s calls for more control over reproduction clashed with paternalistic pronatalism. China’s restrictive population policies in the following decades have today given way to incentivizing birth to balance an aging population, with the “three-child policy” announced in May 2021. In all cases, the Chinese state’s focus on women’s fertility and their reproductive health is the fundamental method of implementing population policy.
As the planet approaches 8 billion, international debate on population will be ignited again, and as with 7 billion, 6 billion and 5 billion, discussion will still circle around Thomas Robert Malthus and his Essay on the Principle of Population (1798). Why does a controversial text from the classical political economy canon, and from a pre-industrial time, endure as a touchstone? Malthusian ideas and their discontents have endured as a policy benchmark. They have done so across massively diverse global polities, cultures and languages (India, China, Japan, Australia), for leaders and policymakers across time (Nehru, Mao, Deakin), and for the world’s key global thinkers (Mill, Marx, Keynes). But this is not just a matter of the past.
Watch the Lecture Here
At Life Magazine’s 1947 photoshoot, Julian Huxley self-consciously arranged himself in front of a portrait of his grandfather, Thomas Henry Huxley. In the foreground, a well-known mid-twentieth century science writer, zoologist, conservationist—that generation’s David Attenborough. In the background, a mid-nineteenth century natural scientist – Darwin’s most outspoken spokesman. Between them, Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895) and Julian Huxley (1887–1975) communicated to the world the great modern story of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Together, they were ‘trustees of evolution’, a phrase that Julian Huxley often used to describe all of humankind, but which I use to describe the Huxleys themselves.
Professor Alison Bashford, Director of the Laureate Centre for History & Population, will be officially recognised for her wide-ranging work on public health, medicine, disease control, borders, and quarantine on Sunday the 9th of May. Professor Bashford will accept her award alongside Prof. Katherine Park, Prof. Keith Wailoo, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Prof. Zelig Eshhar, Dr. Carl June, and Dr. Steven Rosenberg. The broadcast of the award ceremony will begin at 6pm BST (London), 1pm EST (New York), and 10am PST (Los Angeles). For those in Asia the ceremony will begin at 10.30pm IST (New Delhi), 1am CST (Beijing and Hong Kong), and 3am AEST (Sydney).