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Alan Atkinson

Emeritus Professor

  • The University of Western Australia (M204), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile


 I am currently interested in understandings of individual human character as they have evolved between the European Enlightenment and the mid-nineteenth century.  In particular I want to know about self-understanding, including the recollection of self.  Central to the inquiry is the progressive formation of conscience.


I am interested in thinking about these issues against the background of the long-term evolution of human self- and social consciousness, complicated by shifts in collective moral ambition. Although my training and self-training is fairly narrowly historical I see the Enlightenment partly as an episode within the vastly longer story of human brain structure and function.  It seems to me that that approach might be useful to both the historian and the psychologist. 


The project is designed within the context of early Anglo-Australian colonisation and cultural transmission from one hemisphere to the other during about seventy years, from 1790.  So I am concerned with the shift from one set of physical circumstances to another, but also from one generation (born and brought up in Europe) to the next (born and brought up largely in Australia).  In practical terms, my focus is limited to a single family (Macarthur).  However, besides copious family papers and artefacts, including buildings and cultivated land, dating from the 1790s, the search engines and digital sources now available to scholars reveal richly detailed intellectual and social context.  Subjectivity is therefore easier than it used to be to pin down.


External positions

IAS Fellow, Durham University

Jan 2021Mar 2021

Hon Professor, University of Sydney

1 Sept 2007 → …

Fellow, Australian Academy of the Humanities

1993 → …

Research expertise keywords

  • Australian history