The blog is back! I’ve been on hiatus for the past couple of years with posting to the blog and working on the website. Like everyone, I’ve had a crazy ride since the last time I posted here. So what’s been happening? Here’s a quick rundown, along with some photos of life over the last few years.

In March 2020, I was living in Thailand where I’d been living since late 2019 and expecting to stay for another six months. My thesis writing was going really well and I’d expected to finish it in the time I had left in Thailand. But, in the end, I rushed back to Australia on the last day that Singapore Airport was open before COVID-19 closures.

My office view on Koh Phangan in 2019. It was tough, I’m telling you!
My 2020 office view in Melbourne during my quarantine. This doesn’t show the bed taking up most of the rest of the room 😀

Over the next two years I kept working on the thesis in lockdown in Melbourne while doing other history projects, having a part-time university job, and doing some university marking. We moved twice from a tiny one bedroom into ultimately a two bed plus study, where we both had a study to do our online teaching/meetings and work-from-home. Having an outdoor space finally after years also meant LOTS of pandemic-gardening-PhD-procrastination times!

In 2022, when everyone was slowly emerging from lockdowns, I was still hunkered down finishing the thesis. I did my completion seminar (sort of like a viver or defence but less scary I think!) in May, which went really really well (I might post the text of that sometime soon). Then in July I went to a big in-person history conference, caught up with friends, and promptly caught COVID.

A bit of a holiday from thesis writing. The Australian Historical Association Conference 22 in Geelong. Which was fabulous but ended up giving me COVID 😀
A quick whip through the Sydney Arcades on a last-minute research trip in November 2022. This is the Queen Victoria Building, ostensibly built as a ‘market’ in 1898, but always intended as a grand arcade.

Despite it really knocking me around, I spent the next six months working hard and finishing my thesis, which I handed in on 14 December! It was such an amazing feeling after all that time working on it. While I hadn’t and still haven’t lost passion for the subject itself, I was very keen to be actually finished the thesis. It was so amazing to have a Christmas break without working on (or feeling guilty about not working on) my thesis.

So, in early March, after less than three months, I got the results back as a pass with no changes! Though I did have to do some typo corrections and proofs, there were no substantive changes to the content. This is so pleasing when you know, yes, you’ve done a good job, but your examiners might feel you need to do a bit more.

Exhausted but happy after thesis submission on 14 December. I’d had about six hours sleep in 48 hours at this point. I also couldn’t stand my office anymore so moved into the loungeroom for the final couple of weeks. This image largely hides the mess!
Getting to enjoy the Brunello my parents bought in 2007 and saved for my PhD graduation. It was sublime. So amazing to actually fully enjoy Christmas with my thesis out of the way.

In early April, I got the okay to submit the final version to our university repository and the thesis should be conferred (I officially became a Doctor of Philosophy) in mid- to late May. My graduation’s likely set for early August and I can’t wait to wear the funny hat 😀 Meanwhile, I’m heading off to the UK to be on a panel at the Journal of Urban History 50th anniversary conference in July and then head to some archives for research in England and Scotland, with a quick side trip to Ireland.

Depositing the final version of the thesis in April 2023.
Urban wanderings in Sydney again after the final version submission, April 2023. QVB featuring again, together with the new Sydney trams/light rail.

This blog is going to be more regularly update from now on with topics from the thesis and things that I didn’t really get to go into much detail on or had to leave out all together due to work length, including more biographies; individual histories of arcade buildings; some reminiscences from the experience of thesis writing and research; and more discussion on what was sold in the arcade shops and the experiences of those that worked and visited. I’ll be redesigning the site and hopefully adding some sort of virtual exhibition space, as well as digital humanities/visualisation work that I’d like to do in the coming year.

Please keep posting comments and tell me more about what you’d like to learn on the site.

And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Facebook, as well as taking note of my business website, Epigraphein, where I offer professional history research and writing, editing and proofing..

So stay tuned and glad to be back!

Feature image: celebrating 130 years of the Block Arcade, while lining up to buy Easter treats at Haighs, April 2023

Hi all! I’m back after a hectic semester of teaching at three different universities. It is always really rewarding but leaves little time for blog posts. I thought though that I’d jump online to plug a couple of recent publications on various aspects of urban history that I’ve had come out over the last year.

Late last year saw my book chapter in a collected edition released after a couple of years in the pipeline. International Migrations in the Victorian Era was edited by Marie Ruiz and published by Brill.  It features some fabulous articles by scholars on migration and the Victorian period from all over the world.

International Migrations in the Victorian era. Edited by Marie Ruiz (Leiden: Brill, 2019)

My chapter, ‘Transnationalism, the Urban & Migration in the Victorian Era: The Lives of Henry & Sophia Morwitch’ (Chapter Six, pages 156–186), traces the lives of the owners of the two Brisbane shopping arcades, the Royal Exhibition Arcade and the Grand Arcade, which I’ve written about on the blog previously.

The chapter looks at the various migrations throughout the British Empire (and beyond) that Henry and Sophia made over a fifty-year period. It examines their identities as both migrants and citizens of the different places within which they lived and how they worked to construct these within a variety of urban communities.

High Street, Dunedin, New Zealand, 1862. Showing the premises of HE Nathan & Co. Nathan was Sophia’s uncle, as well as an early Dunedin pioneer and successful businessman. Henry & Sophia married in Dunedin in 1864. Photographer: William Meluish. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa 0.001627

I’d love to do a longer post on them soon looking at their lives and experiences – particularly as I’ve found quite a lot more out about Sophia since I wrote this book chapter three years ago. So stay tuned. Meanwhile, enjoy reading my chapter and several others from the book in Google Books.

Intersection of Pitt & King Streets, c1914–1917, showing Mayman’s Liverpool Arms Hotel, owned by Henry & Sophia since 1896, on the right. National Museum of Australia, 1986.0117.0541

The second, more recent, publication, released in April this year, was an article written with Professor Andy May at University of Melbourne  and George Vanags (MA2011) – ‘Returning to the city: World War One, the repatriation of soldiers and the shaping of Melbourne’. This was written for a special issue of History Australia ‘Coming Home’,(Vol. 16 No. 1), which focused on life after the end of World War One.

Welcoming returned wounded soldiers, Melbourne, 1918. Photographer Unknown. State Library Victoria, H29159

Our article examined the return of soldiers to Melbourne both during and after the war and how they assisted in shaping the postwar city.

In Melbourne, a city in which World War One permeated everyday life, programs for the reintegration of soldiers into the community characterised the home front and continued after war’s end. This article explores the manifestation of the returned soldier, utilising the city as a particular and novel frame to discuss the complex place of these men returning to a changing urban landscape that needed constant definition and renegotiation. It examines how the return of these men reshaped the city itself and contributes to our understanding of what it meant to be soldier, as well as a citizen, in the post-war period. (‘Returning to the City’, 132)

Although this is a little removed from my PhD thesis, I’ve been exploring the impact of war on the city of Melbourne for several years in a number of related projects with the Melbourne History Workshop. This has included the online exhibition The Everyday War, which displays of hundreds of digitised records from the City of Melbourne, held by Public Record Office Victoria, that show the way that the war was intertwined with the everyday life of the city.
I’ll also be exploring the idea of the war and its relevance to the arcades in my thesis a little. It’s interesting to note how much urban spaces were layered with activities that were related to World War One, including fundraising efforts, parades for departing and returned soldiers, patriotic imagery, and even anti-war protests. The arcades in a number of cities were intertwined with these events and experiences of war and I’ve got a wealth of information there to share at a later date.


Grand Arcade (front right) & Royal Exhibition Arcade (fourth building from rh corner), both featuring wrought iron verandahs, Queen Street, Brisbane, c1908, State Library Queensland.

Previously I’ve given an outline of the nineteenth-century shopping arcades built in both Victoria and Sydney. By the mid-1870s,  five shopping arcades had been built in Victoria, the most recent being the Victoria Arcade & Academy of Music on Bourke Street (1876). Although Sydney had been promised an arcade as early as 1859 (Illawarra Mercury, 24 March 1859, 2), one was not actually built until 1880.

While it is probably not a surprise to many that the first arcades in the Australian colonies were built in the booming goldrush metropolis of Melbourne, the second city where they were constructed is probably more of a revelation. Today we move further north to Queensland, to briefly touch on the three arcades built there in the nineteenth-century, and another that just sneaks into my research end date of 1901.

It was in the small colonial capital of Brisbane that one entrepreneurial man built both of the first arcades in Queensland – the Royal Exhibition Arcade (1877) and the Grand Arcade (1885) both within a few doors of each other on Queen Street, the city’s main shopping thoroughfare. The story of these arcades is inseparable from the life of their owners, Henry and Louisa Morwitch, about whose lives I’ve recently written a book chapter, and about whom I will write more in another post.

An advertisement for Professor G.W. Gibson, Botanic Physician, from the Queensland Figaro newspaper, 20 April 1889, 601. He was based in the Royal Exhibition Arcade, seen at left.

The other two arcades that were built in Queensland were in seemingly unlikely locations but, at the time of their construction, represented the progress and modernity of two regional towns that were booming, both economically and in terms of population.

Firstly, the Royal Arcade was constructed in Charters Towers, nearly 1400 km from Brisbane, in the mining country of Far North Queensland, by businessman Alexander Malcolm and designed by Sydney architect Mark Cooper Day.  In 1888 the town was rapidly expanding, with a population drawn by lure of new gold discoveries (and displacing the traditional owners, the Gudjal people).

Although it was never finished (it still is missing it’s back half!) it is in fact, the only of the four Queensland arcades that I’m studying that still exists. Because it housed the Charters Towers Stock Exchange for a number of years, it’s now known as the Stock Exchange Arcade and is again operating as an arcade, run by the National Trust of Queensland.

Charters Towers Stock Exchange building (former Royal Arcade), c1890. Photographer unknown. State Library of Queensland

The Stock Exchange Arcade, Charters Towers, 2014. © Nicole Davis. Note the missing back half!

The final arcade in Queensland that I will look at is the Town Hall Arcade in Townsville, which was built by Townsville’s city council as part of a large development known as the Market Reserve Buildings, which included a Town Hall, Arcade, Theatre Royal and Central Hotel. The theatre was completed in 1900 and the complex was opened by Lord Hopetoun in September the next year (who raised the new flag of the federated Australia above it).

It was a magnificent example of very early Federation architecture and must have been quite a site to behold. This amazing collection of buildings (see an image here) was partly demolished in 1973 and tragically destroyed by fire in 1978. Today, the current municipal buildings, a typical example of 1980s civic architecture, stand in its place (Townsville Bulletin, 15 February 2015).

Town Hall, Flinders Street, Townsville, 1914. Photographer: W.J. Laurie. City Libraries Townsville, 315258. The Arcade entrance is below the tower.

Arcade building and premises of Brownhill, Kirk and Company, Market Reserve Building, Flinders Street, 1913. Photographer unknown. City Libraries Townsville, 323846.

If you want to read a little bit more about these Queensland arcades, head to my post detailing the big road trip I took to do site visits and archival research on all four in 2014. In the future, I’ll be doing profiles of each of the arcades as well – in that previous post, the Townsville arcade was a particular mystery, but I’ve found out a lot more since then!

I have finally decided that I really have to do something with this blog! Let’s start with baby steps!

#ArtsHack 2013 was a great series of workshops organised for arts students by the University of Melbourne last year. ITS Research at Uni does the great job of ’empower[ing] researchers to do great things with IT.’

TileMill/Mapbox are in fact the mapping platform for websites and apps like foursquare, pinterest & two of my faves Direct Me NYC 1940 & 1940s New York. The possibilities really are endless & you can see more on the Mapbox Showcase

You can do numerous extremely complex maps in TileMill and my group did a more simple one that pinpointed institutions that displayed antiquities in the city of Melbourne. My own test version was even simpler and, for the purposes of my thesis, I wanted to do a map of locations of nineteenth-century shopping arcades in Australia.

It was very fun to tinker with it but I am not sure for my purpose that I wouldn’t simply be just as happy creating something in Photoshop, with which I am far more familiar. But if you are doing extremely complex mapping projects, I think TileMill – just one of the many mapping programs around – could be great.

Anyway – here is my humble little map which will give you a great idea of where the Fashionable Promenades were built in 1800s Australia! Never fear … in the next few days I will start giving you some lists of what and where they were!


Ninteenth-century arcades in Australia
Nineteenth-century arcades in Australia