About the Companion

The Companion to Tasmanian History is a comprehensive website providing information about every important aspect of Tasmania's history, covering all periods and all places. Articles have been written by the most experienced historians, and a wide range of sources has been consulted. Articles have been written in non-technical language, and we hope the Companion will be useful to students, schools, historians, journalists, politicians, and anyone interested in Tasmanian history.

The Companion to Tasmanian History contains both short entries of from 125 to 1500 words, which give factual histories, and eighteen thematic articles, which look at the major areas in greater depth. Between them they provide a wide-ranging history of Tasmania, covering not only familiar ground, but also many topics which have not previously been studied.

The Companion was funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant, which was gained through co-operation of thirteen partners: the Parliament of Tasmania, Tourism Tasmania, Tasmaniana Library (State Library of Tasmania), Archives Office of Tasmania, National Archives of Australia, Astrolabe Books, Tasmanian Historical Research Association, Bothwell Historical Society, Glamorgan Spring Bay Historical Society, Launceston Historical Society, Lindisfarne Historical Society, and Clarence Plains Historical Society. Funding also came from the Tasmanian Bicentenary Office and from the School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania.

The Companion was produced by the Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies, in the School of History and Classics at the University of Tasmania. In August 2002 an editorial committee was set up, consisting of Emeritus Professor Michael Roe, Professor Henry Reynolds, Dr Stefan Petrow and Dr Alison Alexander from the University of Tasmania, Michael Sprod of Astrolabe Books, and Mrs Jill Cassidy and Mrs Barbara Valentine from the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston. Members have a wide range of knowledge and experience in many aspects of Tasmanian history, as well as in editing and publishing, and covered both the north and the south of the state. The then Head of the School of History and Classics, Professor Michael Bennett, was always available to assist and provided much encouragement for the project, as did the Head from 2004, Associate Professor Peter Davis.

The committee drew up a list of topics, 650 at the start, and suggested authors for each. Word lengths were allotted, sometimes too short for authors who would have liked to write more: the Companion can give only the broad outline of topics, and will perhaps inspire deeper research. The full range of scholarship on Tasmanian history, from that contained in books published in the seventeenth century to the most recent work of late 2004, was consulted in writing articles. Major sources are listed after each article, but in many cases no secondary work exists, and again perhaps this will inspire more research. The Companion will be published as a CD-Rom later in 2005, and here articles can be longer and authors will be asked to cite full references.

All major historians in Tasmania were requested to write articles, though for various reasons not all did so. The 430 authors have a variety of occupations and come from many areas around Tasmania and on the mainland. Many were connected with Linkage Partners, and they included academics, teachers, local historians, family historians, and others interested in history. Many were academics from the University of Tasmania, in a variety of disciplines, and some were post-graduate students, who were given the opportunity to contribute and break into print, perhaps advancing their careers.

Alison Alexander as editor proceeded to contact and negotiate with authors. After her initial editing in conjunction with the authors, articles were sent to the committee members, and to outside experts where necessary. Suggested changes, except minor emendations, were always made in conjunction with the authors. When these stages were completed, a second group of historians, many belonging to one or more of the Linkage partners, again checked the articles. Checking of facts and dates was also undertaken by Alison Alexander and the project's research assistant, Wendy Rimon.

Tasmania is a small community, and many historical topics have either been researched only in part, or not at all. Where there was no obvious expert on a topic through death, unwillingness to contribute, or absence of research Wendy Rimon, Alison Alexander, a committee member or a volunteer researched and wrote articles. In this way a number of topics have been tackled for the first time, and we hope this suggests topics for more thorough research.

Aboriginal history is a vital part of Tasmanian history. The editor aimed to have all articles on Aboriginal topics written by Aborigines but this proved impossible; nevertheless, many were, and members of staff of Riawunna, the School of Aboriginal Studies at the University of Tasmania were extremely helpful here. All Aboriginal articles have been checked for acceptability to the Aboriginal community by Vicki Matson-Green, Aboriginal historian.

As the project continued, many more topics were suggested, often by authors, and the eventual total is 1072. Though most topics are included for their intrinsic importance, some are examples of a larger field. These include articles about ethnic groups, as authors were available for some and not others (Slovenians but not Croatians, Ukrainians but not Hungarians); a selection of landowning families (Archer, Burbury, Calvert, Cameron, Dunbabin, Edgell, Gibson, Lyne, Meredith, O'Connor, Talbot, Taylor, Youl), and, to balance this, long-established non-landowing families, for which family historians wrote brief articles (Beswick, Diprose, Gale, Goninon, Hauke, Jacobson and Miller families). D Williams Builders, Jackson's Lock and Brass Works, Gourlay's Sweets, Walker's Florists and Wilson and Sons are examples of long-term medium-size industries, while the Brisbane, Cornwall, Hope and Anchor, and Hadley's hotels are examples of Tasmania's many historic hotels. The Australian Dictionary of Biography includes entries on premiers, governors and leading politicians, so only the most important of these people were included in this Companion.

Some topics, including some major ones, were included in general articles and have no separate heading: the Hydro-Electric Commission is included in Electricity, the United Tasmania Group in Green Politics, the Democratic Labor Party in the Cold War. Readers are advised to consult the Index for information.

The Companion is not only a source of information but a chance for Tasmanian historians to display their prowess. The editor did not wish to remove the individuality of historians, and it is hoped that this individuality remains. While facts were checked and consistency enforced in details, the opinions given are those of the individual authors. Authors' preferences sometimes defeated consistency; they were allowed to choose their own titles, within limits, in articles on religious denominations in particular, so that some appear as 'church', some as 'faith' and so on. Some authors repeated facts already found in other articles; it was too difficult to ask one author to omit what might be an important part of an article, and it was decided that some repetition was unavoidable.

There are several contentious areas in Tasmanian history, in which a dispassionate overview would be difficult for one person to write. Therefore, in topics such as forestry, and the fabrication or otherwise of Aboriginal history, historians on both sides were asked to write an article. To read all aspects of any topic's history, readers are advised to consult the search engine.

The book version of The Companion to Tasmanian History was launched in April 2005, and work began on publishing it as a CD. Authors were invited to extend their articles, and many did, some including footnotes. Many authors suggested new topics, such as 'Military Pensioners' and 'Queen Victoria Hospital'. A few errors were pointed out in the book version and these were corrected, and some authors asked for minor changes to their articles. Many illustrations, maps and links were added, as well as a search engine. This CD has now been made into a website. This will make The Companion to Tasmanian History even more useful, particularly in schools.