Annual Lecture

Each year, the History Council of Victoria presents a public lecture that shares fresh thinking and new evidence on an historical topic.

The 17th Annual Lecture was presented on 8 October 2020 by Associate Professor Ruth Morgan of the Australian National University.

A recording of the lecture is available via the HCV's YouTube channel:

Further listening: Michael Mackenzie interviewed Ruth Morgan for Life Matters on ABC Radio National, 6 October 2020. 

Information about Ruth Morgan and the lecture is below.

Portrait of Ruth Morgan

Ruth Morgan is an environmental historian and historian of science at the Australian National University where she is Director of the Centre for Environmental History.

She has published widely on the climate and water histories of Australia and the British Empire, with the support of the Australian Research Council and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. She is the author of Running Out? Water in Western Australia (UWA Publishing, 2015) and is a Lead Author for Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, contributing to the Sixth Assessment Report due in 2021.

Ruth undertook her doctoral studies at the University of Western Australia, and was until recently based at Monash University in Melbourne. You can follow her on Twitter: @ruthamorgan

Ruth will speak about:

Futures Past and Possible: Histories of and for Tomorrow

From bushfires to COVID-19, the trials of 2020 have left many wary of what tomorrow may bring. Yet ours is not the first generation to be preoccupied with tomorrow. Through historical narratives, we can reflect on futures of the past, that is, on the kinds of futures that peoples in the past expected, hoped, or feared. Although some futures past did unfold, it is not necessarily the realisation of these futures that makes them worthy of historical study. Rather, it is the particular conditions that produced those forecasts, predictions, or possibilities – as well as what they set in train and how – that is the historian’s concern. The future, after all, is always as much about the past as it is the present.

Focusing on Australian climate futures, past and possible, this lecture considers the ideas and ideals that have animated settler understandings of the continent’s climes and how their legacies may shape tomorrow.

Meterorological records photographed by Bruce Miller, CSIRO

The image of volumes of records, weather entry records, data sets and meteorological observations is courtesy of CSIRO under this Creative Commons licence.
Photographer: Bruce Miller.

DATE:   Thursday 8 October 2020

PROGRAM:   The lecture will be presented online from Canberra and Melbourne, commencing at 5.30 pm AEDT (daylight saving time). Following the lecture, audience members will be able to participate in a Q&A session with Ruth. The event will conclude by 6.45 pm.


Click HERE to read about the previous lectures presented since 2004 by the History Council of Victoria.