Doctor Alecia Simmonds is an inter-disciplinary scholar in law and history. She has published in national and international journals on the relationship between intimacy, imperialism and law in Australia and the Pacific. Her current postdoctoral research at UTS examines the legal regulation of love through the lens of breach of promise of marriage cases from 1824 to 1975. Dr Simmonds also writes columns and articles for the popular press, including Fairfax Digital and her book Wild Man: A True Story of a Police Killing Mental Illness and the Law won the 2016 Davitt prize for best crime non-fiction.
- Book Reviews Editor of Law and History Journal
- Editor of Ex Plus Ultra: A Journal of Imperial and Colonial History, 2009-11
- Editor of Lilith: Feminist History Journal, 2006
- Winner of the Davitt Prize for crime non-fiction, 2016
- Merewether Postdoctoral Fellow at the State Library of NSW, 2012
- Australian Federation of University Women Tempe Mann Scholar, 2008
- Awarded the University Medal from Sydney University, 2005
- Member of the Australian Historical Association
Can supervise: YES
- Law and emotions
- Law and feminism
- Law and history
- Law and culture
- Foundations of Law
- Australian colonial history
- British imperial history
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2017. Using Australian history as a case study, this collection explores the ways national identities still resonate in historical scholarship and reexamines key moments in Australian history through a transnational lens, raising important questions about the unique context of Australia's national narrative. The book examines the tension between national and transnational perspectives, attempting to internationalize the often parochial nation-based narratives that characterize national history. Moving from the local and personal to the global, encompassing comparative and international research and drawing on the experiences of researchers working across nations and communities, this collection brings together diverging national and transnational approaches and asks several critical research questions: What is transnational history? How do new transnational readings of the past challenge conventional national narratives and approaches? What are implications of transnational and international approaches on Australian history? What possibilities do they bring to the discipline? What are their limitations? And finally, how do we understand the nation in this transnational moment?
Simmonds, A 2019, 'Courtship, Coverture and Marital Cruelty: Historicising Intimate Violence in the Civil Courts', Australian Feminist Law Journal, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 131-157.View/Download from: Publisher's site
© 2019, © 2019 Australian Feminist Law Journal Inc. What would the history of intimate violence look like if we traced it through the civil courts rather than the criminal courts? How did legal categories relevant to civil proceedings, such as a promise, seduction, consent and coverture, interact to create violable female bodies? In a field heavily dominated by studies of criminal trials, this paper redirects scholarly attention to civil actions used by women in the past to protest male violence and female suffering. This article reveals how the law continued to sanction intimate violence at the very moment when it purportedly sought to restrain it, through the case study of disgraced politician Myles McRae, who in the 1890s was petitioned by his wife Clara McRae for divorce on the grounds of marital cruelty and adultery, and whose mistress Ilma Vaughan then sued him for breach of promise of marriage and assault. The 1890s, much like the present, was a time when public space opened up to allow for discussion of gender violence and legal reform promised women change, yet intimate abuse continued to be legitimated through law. I argue that the law’s sanctioning of violence can best be explained through a more complex understanding of coverture–a doctrine that began not at the marital altar, as is usually claimed, but during courtship and whose effects persisted long after divorce and property reform dissolved the doctrine of marital unity. Thinking of coverture more as a constellation of ideas than as a block legal category allows us to more accurately assess its continuation at the very instance of its supposed dissolution.
Simmonds, A 2019, 'Sex Smells: Olfaction, modernity and the regulation of women’s bodies 1880-1940 (or: how women came to fear their own smells)', Australian Feminist Studies, vol. 34, no. 100, pp. 232-247.View/Download from: Publisher's site
This article analyses representations of deodorising products in Australian women’s magazines from 1880-1940 to examine how women were encouraged to fear their own smells and mistrust their own bodies. I argue that the transition to modernity witnessed a reduction in olfactory tolerance that fell along class and gender lines. Smells were imbued with new cultural meanings that served to reinforce women’s subordinate status and to pathologise women’s bodies on the supposed eve of their emancipation. As public space was increasingly democratised, smell was invoked to police social divisions and to render them culturally intelligible. As such, this paper brings feminist history and the history of sexuality into dialogue with the history of the senses to redirect scholarly attention to the politics of smell. It also challenges dominant interpretations of modernity that emphasise the primacy of the visual.
Simmonds, A 2017, '‘She Felt Strongly the Injury to Her Affections’: Breach of Promise of Marriage and the Medicalization of Heartbreak in Early Twentieth-Century Australia', Journal of Legal History, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 179-202.View/Download from: Publisher's site
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This paper examines the relationship between law, medical knowledge and romantic suffering in early twentieth-century Australia. Drawing upon a sample of breach of promise of marriage actions from 1824 to 1930, it argues that where the plaintiff’s pain was largely presumed in the nineteenth century, by the twentieth century mastering the language and performance of anguish became crucial to legal success. The less that women suffered socially from romantic disappointment, the more they sought to prove it in court. Women dressed the lesions of their hearts in the disinterested language of medicine and borrowed psychological categories of trauma from victims of war and railway injuries. Heartbreak was thus legitimized as a species of pain by a convergence of law, medicine and women’s audacity to take their feelings seriously. The court’s response to these new bodily articulations of suffering provides a counter-history to the usual tale of law’s preference for the tangible over the intangible. Somatic injury was relegated to special damages, determined by the evidence of doctors and with less lucrative compensation, while emotional injury occupied the dominant, more profitable category of general damages. The history of heartbreak thus demonstrates the historical contingency of legal hostility to emotional injury.
This article contributes to scholarship on the legal relationships between people in imperial and colonial settings through analyzing the juridical meanings that could be found in the Tahitian word taio and its European cognate, friendship, in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. I argue that taio provided a space for the negotiation of trade, sentiment and authority across cultures; it was where European and Tahitian juridical traditions of friendship became entangled. Interrogating how missionaries, traders and colonial administrators engaged with taio demonstrates the historiographical necessity of going beyond present-day European legal language to examine how non-European laws were taken up by imperial actors and shaped to create hybrid legal forms.
Simmonds, AP 2016, 'Between Sentiment and Sea: The Meaning of Friendship in the Letters of Matthew Flinders', The Great Circle, vol. 38, no. 2.
Simmonds, AP 2016, 'Empire by Treaty: Negotiating European Expansion, 1600–1900: Saliha Belmessous (ed)', Journal of Historical Geography.
Simmonds, AP 2016, 'Gay Lotharios and Innocent Eves: Child Maintenance, Masculinities and the Action for Breach of Promise of Marriage in Colonial Australia', Law in Context, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 58-75.
This article will focus upon the action for breach of promise of marriage in colonial Australia to reflect more broadly on the legal regulation of intimacy. Drawing upon a database of 211 breach of promise cases, I seek to explain a contradiction: almost half of the female plaintiffs in my study had illegitimate children, although a lack of virtue operated as a complete defence for (predominantly) male defendants. In spite of this, a vast majority of the women were successful. This paradox is clarified through an examination of the action in contract treatises and through an analysis of the way that the action operated as a supplement to maintenance for women with children. I conclude with a close study of a breach of promise case involving illegitimacy, as a means of examining the informal and formal norms governing love (and its discontents) in colonial Australia
Simmonds, A 2014, 'Friendship, Imperial Violence and the Law of Nations: The Case of Late-Eighteenth Century British Oceania', The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, vol. 42, no. 4, pp. 645-666.View/Download from: Publisher's site
This paper explores the relationship between commerce, cross-cultural friendship and empire in the published Voyages of Pacific salt pork trader John Turnbull. Turnbull published two versions of his Voyages, the first in 1805 and the second in 1813. Thro
Simmonds, A 2009, 'Rebellious Bodies and Subversive Sniggers?: Embodying Women’s Humour and Laughter in Colonial Australia', History Australia, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 39.1-39.16.View/Download from: Publisher's site
© 2009 Taylor and Francis Group LLC. This article challenges orthodox interpretations of the relationship between laughter and agency among women in nineteenth-century colonial Australia. It seeks to complicate functionalist accounts of laughter and play as always representing a working-class challenge to the imposition of middle-class values: not by denying such accounts, but by opening up debate on the relationship between laughter, class and place. While it is true that laughter could operate as an affront to male authority and the repressive colonial penal system, this article suggests that it was a contested discourse, reliant on social class and a sense of place in the colonial order of things. Through a re-reading of the infamous Cascades bottom-slapping incident, it explores the ways in which womens1 humour and the corporeal expression of their laughter functioned to draw the contours of social class. This article has been peer-reviewed.
Simmonds, AP 2009, 'Friendly fire: forced friendship and violent embraces in British-Tahitian first contact', Melbourne Historical Journal, vol. 37, pp. 115-136.
Simmonds, AP 2009, 'Rebellious bodies and subversive sniggers?: embodying women's humour and laughter in colonial Australia', History Australia, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 1-16.
This article challenges orthodox interpretations of the relationship between laughter and agency among women in nineteenth-century colonial Australia. It seeks to complicate functionalist accounts of laughter and play as always representing a working-class challenge to the imposition of middle-class values: not by denying such accounts, but by opening up debate on the relationship between laughter, class and place. While it is true that laughter could operate as an affront to male authority and the repressive colonial penal system, this article suggests that it was a contested discourse, reliant on social class and a sense of place in the colonial order of things. Through a re-reading of the infamous Cascades bottom-slapping incident, it explores the ways in which women¹s humour and the corporeal expression of their laughter functioned to draw the contours of social class. This article has been peer-reviewed.
Simmonds, AP 2005, ''Promises and Pie-Crusts were made to be broke': Breach of promise of marriage and the regulation of courtship in early colonial Australia', Australian Feminist Law Journal, vol. 23, pp. 99-120.
Simmonds, AP 2018, 'Domesticating Violence: Reading the politics of the Family Court into the Luke Batty Coronial Inquest' in Nelson, C & Robertson, R (eds), The Book of Dangerous Ideas About Mothers, University of Western Australia Press, Perth, Western Australia, pp. 35-48.
Simmonds, AP 2017, 'Intimate jurisdictions: Reflections upon the relationship between sentiment, law and empire' in Clark, A, Rees, A & Simmonds, A (eds), Transnationalism, nationalism and Australian history, Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore, pp. 179-190.
Simmonds, AP, Rees, A & Clark, A 2017, 'Testing the boundaries: Reflections on transnationalism in Australian history' in Clark, A, Rees, A & Simmonds, A (eds), Transnationalism, nationalism and Australian history, Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore, pp. 1-14.
Transnational history in Australia is in an ebullient mood. Ten years
after Marilyn Lake and Ann Curthoys' path-breaking work, Copy"ected
Worlds, there has been an entire generation of scholars raised on malltras
of mobility, imperial circuitry and the need to think beyond national
borders. ' "Entangled histories" are the new orthodoxy, and circulation
metaphors pepper the scholarly lexicon. ' Within a remarkably short time,
transnational history ITas nioved from the Inargins to the mainstream.
Only recently a radical critique of national 11istoriographies, it is today
among the most influential forms of history making. ' In the wake of
these developments, our conception of the Australian past - and the
work of historical research and writing - has been transformed. N0 10nger
a quarantined field of study, Australian history now appears on the
o11ter rint of Pacific and Indian Ocean studies, as a nodal point in British
imperial studies and connected, or cast in a comparative IiglTt, witli other
settler colonial nations. The transnational has not only become a type of counter-narrative to the ITation, It has also helped complicate
understandings of national ITistory
Simmonds, AP 2010, 'Barring Disabled Migrants Makes Australia The Loser' in Justin Healey (ed), Disability Rights and Awareness, The Spinney Press, Melbourne, p. 14.
Simmonds, AP 2015, 'Wild Man: The True Story of a Police Killing, Mental Illness and The Law', Affirm Press, Melbourne, pp. 1-260.
Wild Man is a work of narrative non-fiction that interrogates the relationship between mental illness, masculinities and the law.
As numerous scholars have noted, Australia lacks a history of deinstitutionalization. Following Stephen Garton’s book Medicine and Madness: A Social History of Insanity in NSW 1880-1940 (1988), there have only been a scattering of articles across history, sociology and law about what happened when we released people from asylums but failed to fund community care (See for example,: Janice Chesters, ‘Deinstitutionalisation: An Unrealised Desire’, Health Sociology Review: Closing Asylums for the Mentally Ill: Social Consequences, 2005; Catharine Coleborne and Dolly MacKinnon, Madness in Australia: Histories, Heritage and the Asylum, 2003; Barbara Taylor, ‘The Demise of the Asylum’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 2011). Furthermore, what exists is often parceled into discrete disciplinary interests. Scholars in law and psychiatry are concerned with contemporary issues in the practice and governance of psychiatry (see for example: Terry Carney, Australian Mental Health Tribunals: Space for Fairness, Freedom, Protection and Treatment? (2011); Doessel, DP (et al) ‘Changes in private sector electroconvulsive treatment in Australia’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, April 2006.) Scholars in sociology and history have charted the social construction of madness (See: Peter Sedgwick, Psychopolitics, 1982; L Erving Goffman, Asylums: Essays on the Social Situations of Mental Patients and Other Inmates, 1961; Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization, 1965; Thomas Szasz, The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct, 1961; Stijn Vanheule, Diagnosis and the DSM: A Critical Review, 2014). And a very small body of literature has emerged on caregivers for people with mental illness: (Jacqueline M Atkinson and Denise A Coia, Families Coping w...