Saturday, 22 October 2016

Book Notes: "The Subjection of Women" by John Stuart Mill

The Subjection of WomenThe Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If it were not for archaic words such as "burthen" (burden) and "rainment (clothing)"; the necessity to counteract arguments from phrenology; and the use of the figurative "Mrs Grundy" (an archaic Mrs Bucket); one might be reading a contemporary argument for diversity and greater opportunities for women. Mill exerts his authority by challenging then-dominant ideas (such as phrenology and assumptions about biology then-untested) and then reconciles this absurdity for the modern reader by suggesting that while such things are unknown, and he has little time for these, he can still argue away their objections to his central thesis. Mill was far ahead of his time and his arguments took some time to materialise in universal suffrage and equality of opportunity for women, but the central message, then radical, is now part of political discourse. I intend to focus on James Fitzjames Stephen now to see how Stephen deals with Mill's authoritative works on liberty.

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Friday, 14 October 2016

The Week in Politics with Michelle Grattan

Michelle Grattan on Malcolm Turnbull's trouble with marriage equality

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra and Michael de Percy, University of Canberra

Now that Labor has shot down the government’s proposed plebiscite on same-sex marriage, the issue of marriage equality threatens to haunt Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership.

Michelle Grattan tells University of Canberra senior lecturer in political science Michael de Percy that Turnbull is under pressure from Labor and same-sex marriage advocates to allow a free parliamentary vote.

“But the Liberal conservatives are making this really a bottom line issue. They will not tolerate a free vote letting the change to the law go through parliament and it would really blow the party up if Malcolm Turnbull did move to that position,” Grattan says.

“At the moment, the issue just simmers away there and maybe nothing will happen until the next election. Then of course the parties will have to put forward election policies and it’s really pretty untenable for the Liberal Party to go again to a poll with a plebiscite, which has become, although initially popular with the community, more unpopular as time has passed.

"So it’s just one of those real burrs under the saddle for Malcolm Turnbull.”

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra and Michael de Percy, Senior Lecturer in Political Science, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Book Notes: "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleHow to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is hard not to like this book. I have read this a few times before and re-read it as I thought I should revisit some of the classics in leadership. I was surprised to find, with the benefit of education, that Carnegie touches upon many of the known leadership theories without ever explicitly stating so- which of course was his aim in making practical skills available to the lay person more or less immediately. I was a little disappointed that this was not the original edition, even though that is what I thought I was purchasing. Some of the examples have been updated and include what appear to be 1950s events and technologies. Not that this takes away from the central purpose of the book, but I do enjoy re-discovering events of the past through such reading. Alas, I will have to search for the first edition some more. But it does prove my point: a good deal of contemporary knowledge is simply re-packaged in more academic language and using more up-to-date examples. Yet the style stems from what Hilkey (1997) refers to as the "Gilded Age", beginning in the 1870s in the United States and developing elsewhere through Arnold Bennett (1911) and then, in my view at least, into the Carnegie format that is still adopted by authors such as Ryan Holiday today. While Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography might qualify, I tend to agree with Hilkey's thesis about the cultural elements of the success manual genre and have found interesting parallels with the philosophical works of J.S. Mill and James Fitzjames Stephen with the rise of the market economy. Still worth a read, still one of the best, but my personal experiences suggest that the leadership theories that have been developed since Carnegie, particular Fiedler's contingency theory and the work of Hersey and Blanchard, bring in the environmental factors that Carnegie's work, like many other works of the time, tend to ignore.

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Friday, 30 September 2016

Researching Australian Military Service Records at the Gunning Library

Participants at the Gunning Library Workshop, Friday 30 September 2016. Photo courtesy of Maree Roche
The Gunning and District Historical Society, in conjunction with the Gunning Library, held its second community workshop on Friday 30 September 2016. The topic was "Researching Australian Military Service Records" facilitated by Gunning resident Dr Michael de Percy from the University of Canberra.

Information and paraphernalia provided by the National Library of Australia's Trove team and also the Research Centre at the Australian War Memorial were welcomed by the participants, many traveling from as far as Ulladulla, Canberra, Mt Pleasant and Breadalbane to visit the village.

Two sessions were held from 10:30am to 12:30pm and from 1:30pm to 3:30pm. Participants enjoyed morning and afternoon tea during the sessions, allowing time for new connections to be made and to share stories and ideas about researching family histories.

The workshop covered the basics of researching the information available from the Australian War Memorial, Trove, the National Archives of Australia, and (which can be accessed for free from the Gunning Library), with some venturing into the births, deaths and marriages websites for NSW and Victoria.

Some of the participants were able to discover digitised war records of various family members. This is much easier for those who served in the Australian Imperial Force in the First World War and the 2nd Australian Imperial Force in the Second World War. But it can be particularly challenging to find information on those who served in the Citizen Military Forces (CMF) or in the Royal Australian Navy.

The Australian Army website provides more information about searching records from various conflicts, and online access to the records from the Royal Australian Navy are still somewhat limited but improving over time.

Some of the participants discovered various records of family members who were Prisoners of War or Indigenous servicemen. Others worked patiently and were rewarded by discovering their family members under slightly different names (for example, one "James" was officially "Jim" in the records), while others were able to find new information such as newspaper articles on Trove about the exploits of their relatives some time after the war.

Some of the more difficult to find records appear on the Australian Government's World War Two Roll website, which is currently being updated to a new website managed by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

One participant was able to complete an assignment for school based on the service records and was very helpful in assisting other members of the group to grapple with some of the more technical issues that inevitably arise when using technology!

Others will have to request a copy of their relative's records, but were able to register to request this information either for purchase or physical viewing from the National Archives in Canberra.

Overall, participants reported that the event was a success, with many wishing that the sessions were longer. Ideas for future sessions included a session on researching family history and creating a blog for use by individuals and community groups.

The Gunning and District Historical Society plans to run one of these free community sessions each quarter. Details of the next workshop will be advertised in the Lions Club of Gunning Noticeboard, on the Gunning Community Announcements and Events Facebook page, and on this blog.

If you have any other ideas for community workshops using the computers at the Gunning Library, please contact Dr Michael de Percy at:

Creative Commons License Except where indicated otherwise, Connecting the Nation by Michael de Percy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License. Based on a work at Background image © @redshinestudio