History of the Pacific

Emeritus Professor Brij V Lal AM recalls the pivotal role ANU has played in Pacific history.

ANU was a name for me long before I began my graduate studies there in 1977. Legendary names in my field of Pacific history included JW Davidson, Harry Maude, Niel Gunson and OHK Spate.

The University was the incubator for a later generation of Pacific historians who went on to propagate the field in various parts of the globe. They nurtured a new field of study and gave it shape and form. Those of us who came later stood on the broad shoulders of our intellectual forebears, grateful for their guidance and inspiration. I returned to ANU permanently in 1990 and retired in 2016.

Apart from producing path-breaking scholarship, ANU provided the essential institutional infrastructure which promoted research. This includes the Journal of Pacific History, founded in 1966 and which continues to this day as the world’s leading flagship of the field. It has been my great fortune to be associated with this journal in various capacities – as editorial board member, editor and now chair of the editorial board. It has been an exhilarating experience to see the publication of new research, especially by the younger generation. Vicki Luker is now the executive editor and the journal has an international editorial board.

The Department of Pacific History also founded the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau in 1968 under the leadership of the indefatigable Robert Langdon, charged with the task of preserving at-risk manuscript material, especially in the Pacific Islands. Over the decades the Bureau microfilmed thousands of reels of manuscript materials and made them available to member libraries.I chaired the Bureau from 1993 to 2013, working closely with the wonderful executive officer Ewan Maidment.