Five minutes with … Pauline Curby

This post brings you something new on the PHA NSW blog. It is the first in a series of profiles of our members, inspired by a column in the UK online magazine, the History Vault. Thanks to Stephen Gapps for the suggestion and Pauline Curby  (on the right) for being our guinea pig.

What is your current position or area of historical interest?

I do freelance consultant work. Since I received a NSW History Fellowship in 2010 I’ve become particulalry interested in the history of capital punishment in 20th century Australia. The project was ‘Changing attitudes to capital punishment in NSW, 1910-1939’ and has resulted in several articles: ‘Grave Source of Dissension: Murder, Capital punishment and the NSW Labor Party, 1910-1912’, was published in Circa, the Journal of Professional Historians, Issue 3, 2012. In press are: ‘A frightful deed, Capital punishment and a triple child murder, 1924’ to be published in Circa, the Journal of Professional Historians, Issue 4, 2014 in July and ‘A Dread Decision: the Execution of Edwin Hickey, 1936’ in Labour History in November 2014.

What made you decide to pursue a career in history?

I’ve always loved history but had no idea that there was a public history career path. I remember seeing an advertisement for the MA Public History course at University Technology Sydney in the  Royal Australian Historical Society magazine History early in 1990. I rang the contact person who happened to be Heather Goodall and asked if the course could be done part-time as I had ‘other commitments’. Heather guessed the ‘commitments’ were three fairly young children and still encouraged me to enrol. I managed the course as well as teaching part time and graduated in 1993. The rest is history!

Who is the audience for your history?

I write for a general non-academic audience.

What’s your favourite historical source, book, website or film?

There are so many but I think All Quiet on the Western Front would have to be up there. [Ed. The novel published in 1928 by German WWI veteran Erich Maria Remarque was adapted in 1930 as an Oscar-winning film. Remarque tells the reader: ‘This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped (its) shells, were destroyed by the war.’]

If you had a time machine, where would you go?

I’d stay right where I am because, in any other period of history I can think of, women did not get a very good deal.

Why is history important today?

I guess it’s inevitable that we keep repeating the mistakes of the past but the results might not be so drastic if there was more awareness of our history.

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