Jane Lydon

Professor, MA PhD ANU

  • The University of Western Australia (M204), 35 Stirling Highway, Room 1.19, Arts Building, Crawley campus

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile


Jane Lydon was born and raised in Brisbane, Queensland. She graduated from the University of Sydney with a B.A. with Honours in Archaeology in 1986, and spent a decade working on a range of sites and projects including as Archaeologist for the Sydney Cove Authority which owned and managed the Rocks area of Sydney, for the inaugural Museum of Sydney on the site of First Government House, and for the Kingston and Arthurs Vale Historic Area on Norfolk Island. She returned to academia to complete her MA at the Australian National University in 1996, a study of the Chinese community in the Rocks which won ANU’s Crawford Medal. Her PhD (ANU, 2001), was an historical anthropological study of Indigenous visual politics. She took up a lectureship at La Trobe University in 2001, was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at Monash University in 2003, and a Future Fellowship in 2011. She moved to UWA in 2013, where she was appointed to the inaugural Wesfarmers Chair in Australian History in 2014.

Her research centres upon Australia’s colonial past and its legacies in the present. She is interested in the ways that popular and especially visual culture has shaped ideas and debates about race, identity and culture that persist today. In particular, she is concerned with the history of Australia’s engagement with anti-slavery, humanitarianism, and ultimately human rights. With colleagues, she is currently exploring the Australian legacies of the British anti-slavery movement, by tracing the movement of people, capital and culture from the Caribbean to the settler colonial world. Another team project addresses the ways that Australian citizenship has been defined and contested through visual culture.

New and Noteworthy

Child Labour and Slavery. Making Public Histories seminar series, Child Labour and Slavery - Thursday 25 November 2021 at 5pm

New 'Australian legacies of slavery' series launched:  'Friday essay: beyond ‘statue shaming’ — grappling with Australia’s legacies of slavery', The Conversation, July 9, 2021.

OPEN ACCESS: ‘Slavery and Australian Colonisation’, Histories of the Present, History Workshop Journal companion piece, March 11, 2021. 

This accompanies “A Secret Longing for a Trade in Human Flesh: the Decline of British Slavery and the Making of the Settler Colonies” in issue 90 of History Workshop Journal

Website launched! Western Australian Legacies of British Slavery

Review of Imperial Emotions by Antoinette Burton, University of Illinois, Aboriginal HistoryNote: this is a pre-publication version of a review that will appear in Aboriginal History vol. 44 (2020)

with Emma Christopher, Ann Curthoys, Alan Lester, and Nikita Vanderbyl, ‘No slavery in Australia? The dark legacies of slave ownership persist long after abolition’

ABC Religion and ethics, ‘How one photo brings Australia’s history of colonial violence into focus’

Blog: Happy WAnderer: exploring Western Australia's heritage

Conversation essay: Ten photos that changed how we see human rights


Teaching overview

Coordinator in 2021: 

• Looking for Australia (HIST2015)

• Who do we think we are? Doing Family History (HIST2021)



Cultural history of human rights, humanitarianism and empire

Australian Legacies of British Slavery

Australian colonial visual cultures

Heritage: the colonial past in the present


(CI) 'Western Australian Legacies of British Slavery' (with Martens, J., Arthur, P., Laidlaw, Z., Hall, C., McClelland, K. & Lester, A.) (ARC DP200100094 2020-2022)

(CI) 'Envisaging Citizenship: Australian Histories and Global Connections' (with A. Nettelbeck, M.Miles and F.Anderson) (ARC DP200100088 2020-2022)

(Associate Partner) ‘Digital Heritage in Cultural Conflicts’, JPICultural Heritage, Digital Heritage, Led by Prof Gil Pasternak, Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University, UK.(€550,000, 2018-2021)

Roles and responsibilities

• Editorial Board, Reviews Editor, Australian Historical Studies (2018-2021)

• Editorial Board, Labour History (2021-)

• Advisory Board, Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies. Postgraduate-run. (2016-)

• Editorial Board, History of Photography (2016-2021)

• Editorial Board, Australasian Historical Archaeology

Research expertise keywords

  • Australian History
  • Photography
  • Emotions
  • Visual Culture
  • Humanitarianism
  • Human Rights


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