2022 Annual Lecture

Thursday, October 20, 2022 at 05:30 PM


Melbourne, VIC
Google map and directions

Event contact

Alicia Cerreto

0422 519 322

HCV's Annual Lecture

Each year, the History Council of Victoria presents a public lecture that shares fresh thinking and new evidence on an historical topic. This year, Associate Professor Catherine Kovesi will present on Beauty in Response to Plague: the city of Venice.

This is a free event and will be presented online.

In October 1347 there was an outbreak of a highly contagious disease in the south of Italy that originated in the East and soon spread like wildfire through the rest of Europe. In its first 18 months, the so-called Black Death killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe alone and resurfaced repeatedly for the next three centuries until its last outbreak in Marseilles in 1720. It was port cities above all that faced the greatest ongoing threat from plague and which were by default at the frontline of pandemic control, all instituting a range of measures both during and after successive outbreaks.

One port city, that of Venice, was remarkable not only for the innovative role it played in instituting a comprehensive plague defensive strategy, but for the staggering beauty of its responses to the possible threat, present danger, and aftermath of each outbreak of plague. The entire city and the wider lagoon area is marked by these responses – in art, architecture, and ritual commemorations – which have left an indelible imprint upon the city scape which is so familiar to the world’s imaginings of Venice

This lecture will outline Venice’s comprehensive systems for pandemic control before concentrating on the breathtaking model it provides for a response of beauty even in the face of unbearable trauma and death.


Associate Professor Catherine Kovesi

Catherine Kovesi is Head of the Discipline of History at the University of Melbourne and Chair of the Australasian Centre for Italian Studies. She has published widely on the debates surrounding luxury consumption in early modern Italy to the present, on Florentine and Venetian social history, and the history of women religious in Australia. She is on the Editorial Board of Brepols Late Medieval and Early Modern Studies series, and is co-General Editor of Bloomsbury’s forthcoming six-volume Cultural History of Luxury. She takes students from Melbourne to the city of Venice and curates bespoke cultural events in the city.

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The History Council of Victoria Incorporated (HCV) is the peak body for history in the Australian state of Victoria. Its vision is to connect Victorians with history and to inspire engagement with the past, their identity and the world today. The HCV champions the work of historians and the value of history. It recognises that history can be written about any place, any person, any period. The HCV advocates why history matters.

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The HCV was formed as an advisory body in 2001 and incorporated in 2003. It comprises representatives from cultural and educational institutions and heritage bodies; history teachers and curriculum advisors; academic and professional historians; and local, Indigenous, community and specialist history organisations.

As the peak body for history, the HCV has both ‘outward-looking’ roles (including advocacy and representation to government and the wider community, consultation, community education, and networking with allied interest groups) and ‘inward-looking’ roles (including member support, information dissemination, and networking between members).



The History Council of Victoria acknowledges the State Library of Victoria and the Public Record Office Victoria for supply of the archival images that appear on this website.

We acknowledge the National Film and Sound Archive for the right to use of the video footage on the home page, titled "Melbourne: Life in Australia (1966)".

Image credits

  • Italian sailors on ship at Port Melbourne 1938, Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria
  • Chinese procession in Collins near Elizabeth Street 1901, Harvie & Sutcliffe, photographers, State Library of Victoria
  • People’s homes, Aboriginal station Coranderrk 1878, Fred Kruger Photographer, State Library of Victoria
  • Chinese nurses at Children’s Hospital under scholarship 1947, Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria
  • Ladies physical culture class VRI Melbourne c1931, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12903/P0001, 011/02
  • Melbourne Cup, Derby and Oaks Day, Flemington Racecourse 1936, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12903/P0001/4802, 372/30
  • Flinders Street viaduct at foot of Market Street with advertisement for McRobertson’s Chocolate on bridge, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12800/P0003, ADV 1342