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Professor Paul Ashton


Paul Ashton is Professor of Public History at UTS; Co-Director of both the Australian Centre for Public History and the centre for Creative Practice and Cultural Economy; and Director of UTS Shopfront, a unit that works with community groups. His publications include The Accidental City: Planning Sydney Since 1788 and Sutherland Shire: A History. He is also founding co-editor of the journal Public History Review.

Image of Paul Ashton
Casual Academic, University Casual Academics
Core Member, CPCE - Centre for Creative Practices and the Cultural Economy
Director, CPCE - Centre for Creative Practices and the Cultural Economy
DipEd (Macquarie), BA (Hons) (Macquarie), PhD (Macquarie)
+61 2 9514 2914

Research Interests

Australian urban history and urban studies; Planning history; Public/applied history; Australian history.

Research Profile
Paul has taught in the public and cultural history areas and supervises many post-graduate students in history. Paul has a strong interest in facilitating historical work for wider audiences and promoting links between the academy and the public sphere. With Paula Hamiliton he edits Public History Review. He is also Co-Director of both the Australian Centre for Public History and the Centre for Creative Practice and cultural Economy which is a University Research Strength. Over his career Paul has researched in the areas of public history, planning history, community history, Australian History, heritage and Sydney's history.

Current Research Activities
Dictionary of Sydney
This is a major research project on Sydney’s history which has Australian Research Council funding.

Cultural Asset Mapping for Planning and Development in Regional Australia' (CAMRA)
This project is documenting and analyzing the cultural assets of a representative set of regions and identify barriers to more integrated and effective development of the cultural industries and arts in regional areas. It will also contribute to the international understanding of the relationship between cultural industries/arts, regional development and cultural policy.

Places of the Heart
This Australian research Council funded project investigates the cultural meanings of monuments and memorials in twentieth century Australia.

Public History
Paul's most recent work can be seen in Paul Ashton and Hilda Kean's People and their Pasts, published in 2009 by Palgrave Macmillan.

Public history; Australian history; Cultural history.


Aylward, D. & Ashton, P. 2016, The Ten Apostles: Stories of Australia's Iconic Wine Makers, Halstead Press.
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Andersen, L., Ashton, P. & Colley, L. 2015, Creative Business in Australia Learnings from the Creative Industries Innovation Centre, 2009 To 2015.
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As the largest ever Australian government investment in creative industries development, the Creative Industries Innovation Centre delivered tailored business services to more than 1500 creative businesses from 2009 to 2015 and provided industry intelligence and advice for public policy and peak sectoral activity. This collection gives an overview of the current 'state of business' in Australia's creative industries – both as an industry sector in its own right and as an enabling sector and skills set for other industries – and reflects on business needs, creative industries policy and support services for the sector. With contributions from the Centre's team of senior business advisers and from leading Australian researchers who worked closely with the Centre –including experts on design-led innovation and the creative economy – and case studies of leading Australia creative businesses, the book is intended as and industry-relevant contribution to business development and public policy.
Ashton, P., Hamilton, P.I. & Searby, R.E. 2012, Places of the Heart: Memorials in Australia, 1st, Australian Scholarly Publishing, North Melbourne.
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This book charts the transformation of Australian ways of mourning over the last 40 years through a study of memorials. It explores the reasons memorials are set up and how they are used by those who visit them. Changes to these practices, as well as the forms of memorials, reflect important shifts in the nature of public remembering and people's relationship to the past.
Ashton, P. & Anderson, M. 2012, History 10: the modern world and Australia, 1, Macmillan Education Australia, Malaysia.
Ashton, P. & Anderson, M. 2012, History 9: The Making of the Modern World, 1, Macmillan Education Australia, Malaysia.
Ashton, P. & Hamilton, P.I. 2010, History at the Crossroads: Australians and the Past, 1, Halstead Press, Sydney, Australia.
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This book is the outcome of several year's engagement with aspects of public history in Australia. It weaves together the results of a number of Australian Research Council research project which we have undertaken including a national project on historical understanding called âAustralians and the Pastâ and a study of memorials and memorialisation in Australia, âPlaces of the Heartâ. It also draws on reflections about our work with a range of community groups, museums and heritage agencies. Over the ten years or so that the book has been in process, there have been many significant shifts in both the history discipline and the field known as public history, both in this country and many others around the world. What began as a defiant intellectual project on âan impossible to categoriseâ area (sociology, history, anthropology) that we knew was essential to understanding the great interest and passion for history in many different forms within the broader population, has now become one of many which examines what is variously referred to as âconsuming historyâ, âusing historyâ, âthe heritage industryâ, âcultural tourismâ and, more theoretically, âhistorical consciousnessâ.
Ashton, P. & Kean, H. 2008, People and their pasts: Public history today.
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© Paul Ashton and Hilda Kean 2009. All remaining chapters, their respective authors 2009. All rights reserved. In this innovative and original collection, people are seen as active agents in the development of new ways of understanding the past and creating histories for the present. Chapters explore forms of public history in which people's experience and understanding of their personal, national and local pasts are part of their current lives.
Ashton, P., Cornwall, J.L. & Salt, A. 2006, Sutherland Shire A History, 1, UNSW Press, Sydney, Australia.
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Ashton, P. & Hale, P. 2002, Raising the Nation: A History of Commonwealth Departments of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 1901-2001, (Dept of) Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries - Australia, Canberra, Australia.
Ashton, P., Cornwall, J.L. & Collie, G. 2000, Sustaining a Nation: Celebrating 100 Years of Agriculture in Australia, Focus, Edgecliff, NSW, Australia.
Ashton, P. & Waterson, D. 2000, Sydney Takes Shape: A History in Maps, Hema, Brisbane.
Ashton, P. & Blackmore, K. 1998, Centennial Park: A History, NSW University Press, Sydney.
Ashton, P. 1998, Culture and Heritage: Oral History, State of the Environment Technical Paper Series, Natural and Cultural Heritage, Central Queensland University Press, Toowoomba.
This is the first major survey of its kind into oral history practice in Australia which links local history, oral history and oral traditions into the field of heritage.
Ashton, P. 1993, The Accidental City: Planning Sydney Since 1788, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney.
Reprinted in paperback in 1995


Clark, A.H., Ashton, P. & Crawford, R. 2016, 'Out of the Past: Making Histories' in Ashton, P., Clark, A. & CRawford, R. (eds), Once Upon a Time: Australian Writers on Using the Past, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, pp. 1-15.
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Ashton, P. & Boaden, S. 2014, 'Mainstreaming Culture: Integrating the Cultural Dimension into Local Government' in Ashton, P., Gibson, C. & Gibson, R. (eds), By-Roads and Hidden Treasures Mapping Cultural Assets in Regional Australia, Apollo Books, pp. 19-36.
The book contains thought-provoking discussions on regional Australia's colonial and cultural heritage, and details innovative new methods for measuring cultural assets, as well as reflecting on fostering collaborations with peak cultural ...
Ashton, P. 2014, 'Sites of Conscience: Remembering Disappearance, Execution, Imprisonment, Murder, Slavery and Torture' in Silent System: Forgotten Australians and the Institutionalisation of Women and Children, pp. 59-70.
Ashton, P. & Wilson, J. 2014, 'New Contexts in Australian Public History: Australia's Institutionalised and Incarcerated' in Ashton, P. & Wilson, J. (eds), Silent System Forgotten Australians and the Institutionalisation of Women and Childern.
Adelaide, D., Ashton, P. & Salt, A. 2013, 'Introduction' in Adelaide, D., Ashton, P. & Salt, A. (eds), Stories from the Tower: UTS 1988-2013, Xoum, Sydney, pp. 17-26.
Ashton, P. 2013, 'Public history' in Clark, A. & Ashton, P. (eds), Australian History Now, New South Wales University Press, Sydney, pp. 167-180.
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An historiographical account of public history in Australia.
Ashton, P. 2013, 'A Place for Everyone: Constructing 1920s Suburban Sydney' in Hamilton, P. & Ashton, P. (eds), Locating Suburbia: memory, place, creativity, UTSePress, Sydney, pp. 88-102.
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After WWI, Sydney experienced an enormous surge in the construction of suburban homes. These ranged from modest wooden cottages for the working classes to mansions in areas such as the North Shore. Collectively, these buildings formed a mass of material culture and represented a specific form of cultural consumption. The new suburbs, divergent and demarcated as they were, became vehicles for the expression and identification of class and the foundation for modern community formation. In a period of rapid change, suburbs were also, paradoxically, a bulwark against mass society. Ideologues, experts and others promoted the virtues of the salubrious suburbs. But the new suburban order perpetuated old hierarchies and heightened class quarantining. Dependent on industrialization heralded in Australia with the opening of BHPs Newcastle steelworks in 1915 the rise of mass society had on one hand a leveling effect on the culture. Mass production of homes and building supplies, clothes, furniture and art fostered or at least appeared to foster a growing homogeneity in society. Developments in mass or popular culture including radio, first commercially broadcast in Australia in 1923, cinema and sport did likewise. Radical changes in mass communication and transportation also increased contact between different classes and groups. On the other hand, the emergence of mass society challenged authority and tradition. Class differences became blurred as status symbols changed and social and physical mobility increased. The spread of the new suburbia entailed a re-configuration of social relations and perceptions of class in the process of community formation. The proliferation and consolidation of local government as well as cultural institutions such as golf clubs and progress associations were integral to this process, and impacted on the landscape. But it was not the ideals of enlightened politicians and bureaucrats or the new breed of crusading town planners that u...
Hamilton, P.I. & Ashton, P. 2013, 'Introduction: The Politics and Passions of the Suburban Oasis' in Hamilton, P. & Ashton, P. (eds), Locating Suburbia: memory, place, creativity, UTSePress, Sydney, pp. 1-5.
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outlines osme of the literature and current debates about how suburbs are viewed and imagined
Ashton, P. 2013, 'In Trust' in Ashton, P., Blackmore, K. & Scorrano, A. (eds), 'The People's Park': Centennial Park, A History, Halstead Press, Sydney, pp. 125-142.
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Ashton, P. & Clark, A.H. 2013, 'Rethinking Australian History' in Clark, A. & Ashton, P. (eds), Australian History Now, New South Wales University Press, Sydney, pp. 13-23.
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A survey of Australian historiography over the last fifty years.
Ashton, P. 2013, 'The New Millennium' in Ashton, P., Blackmore, K. & Scorrano, A. (eds), 'The People's Park': Centennial Park, A History, Halstead Press, Sydney, pp. 159-176.
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Ashton, P. 2010, 'A sense of the Past: Preserving Old Sydney' in Painting The Rocks: The Loss of Old Sydney, Historic Houses Trust of NSW, Sydney, Australia, pp. 50-65.
This is a 5000 chapter based on detailed, extensive, original archival research which looks at the destruction of old nineteenth-century Sydney and the rise of a nostalgic preservation movement predicated on the English gentry ideal.
Ashton, P. 2009, 'Introduction: People and their Pasts and Public History Today' in Ashton, P. & Kean, H. (eds), People and their Pasts: Public History Today, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 1-20.
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This is a major overview of the development of public history internationally which deal with the theoretical issues and practices of public history.
Ashton, P. 2009, 'Connecting with History: Australians and their Pasts' in Ashton, P. & Kean, H. (eds), People and their Pasts: Public History Today, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 23-41.
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This article reports part of the results of the ARC funded Australians and the Past Project in particular relation to historical authority and consciousness in Australian society.
Ashton, P. & Hamilton, P.I. 2009, ''Unfinished Business': Public History in a Postcolonial Nation' in Walkowitz, D. & Knauer, L. (eds), Contested Histories in Public Space: Memory, Race, and Nation, Duke University Press, Durham and London, pp. 71-98.
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An examination of Public History in Australia from the nineteenth century in terms of memory, race and nationalism drawing on museums, memorials, rituals, celebrations and the 'history wars'.
Ashton, P. 2006, ''An Architectural Monstrosity'?:The Cahill Expressway and Town Planning' in Crotty, M. & Roberts, D.A. (eds), The Great Mistakes of Australian History, UNSW Press, Sydney, Australia, pp. 93-107.
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Ashton, P. 2003, 'Exploring the Modern City: Recent Approaches to Urban History and Archaeology', Historic Houses Trust, Sydney.
Andersen, L.J. & Ashton, P. 2003, 'Leadership' in Christensen, K. & Levinson, D. (eds), Encyclopedia of Community, Sage, California USA, pp. 844-849.
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Journal articles

Ashton, P. 2015, 'JEREMY BLACK. Contesting History: Narratives of Public History.', The American Historical Review, vol. 120, no. 3, pp. 964-965.
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Ashton, P. 2015, 'Sky Blue Stone: The Turquoise Trade in World History', American Historical Review, vol. 120, no. 3, pp. 965-966.
Ashton, P. & Murray, L. 2013, ''walking a tightrope': Sydney Fitzgerald, Public Historian', Sydney Journal, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 154-167.
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This is a contribution the historiography of Sydney's public and urban history viewed through Professor Shirley Fitzgerald's oeuvre.
Ashton, P. 2010, ''The spirit of local patriotism': progress and populism in Sydney's northern suburbs in the 1920s', JAS, Australia's Public Intellectual Forum, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 163-177.
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Local patriotism emerged in Australia in the suburbs from the mid nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, influenced by progressivism, it was a populist reaction by emerging suburbs and municipalities to state power and the political and cultural dominance of the city. Promoting the local as the anchor for a chain of national and imperial being and the place where moral capital was renewed, local patriotism paradoxically elevated ties of community and locality above all else. It also exhibited a âreactionary modernismâ which embraced new technology while seeking to maintain traditional values linked to the land and a British inheritance. Ultimately, self-interest driven by exclusivism, anti-urbanism and class quarantining underpinned local patriotism in Australia. Although its currency was relatively short-lived, it remained persuasive in Australian political culture. This article examines local patriotism through a case study of Sydneyâs North Shore and northern suburbs in the first three decades of the twentieth century, drawing extensively on a local newspaper, The Suburban Herald.
Ashton, P. 2010, 'Introduction: Going Public', Public History Review, vol. 17, pp. 1-15.
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The period in which the public history movement has developed has been one of considerable change. This has been a result of the passing of post-war generations, the effects wrought by continuing internal and external conflicts, the globalisation of economies, the emergence of new media forms and the major impact of the digital revolution. This has seen significant shifts in the transmission, reception and practice of history.
Ashton, P. 2010, ''This villa life': town planning, suburbs and the 'new social order' in early twentieth-century Australia', Planning Perspectives, vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 457-483.
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In Australia, social reformers approached the new century and post-World War I reconstruction with the hope of establishing a ânew social orderâ based on national efficiency and class harmony. This was to be delivered through the new science of town planning. The would-be reformers posited themselves as an intellectual vanguard which would provide leadership and assist in establishing an enlightened bureaucracy of professional public servants who would also lead the way to social betterment. Their project, however, had collapsed by the end of the war. Lacking collective political clout, the nascent planning professionalsâ influence declined as the political environment became more conservative in the 1920s. Reformist and radical features of town planning were stripped from suburban agendas. Suburbs, once held up as the cradle of the ânew social orderâ, were to become places for quarantining class and reinvigorating liberalism.
Ashton, P. 2009, ''The Birthplace of Australian Multiculturalism?': Retrospective Commemoration, Participatory Memorialsiation and Official Heritage'', International Journal of Heritage Studies, vol. 15, no. 5, pp. 381-398.
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In Australia, the authorised heritage discourse contributes to shaping the stereotypically Australian. It actively engages in creating a contemporary national story which glosses over the more shameful or distasteful episodes and themes in Australian colonial and post-colonial history which is presented as being by-and-large progressive and benign. While the process of forging national history has become more complex and increasingly fraught, given globalisation and the emergence of new histories, nation and nationalism remain culturally persistent. The turn to multiculturalism from the 1970s as the principal way of defining Australianness and the nation lead some conservatives in politics and the heritage industry to appropriate the new social history, using it to present diversity as an indicator of a fair and open society. In this process, both historyan evolving academic disciplineand the pastlived experience which has meanings and uses in the presentwere transformed into heritage.
Ashton, P. & Freestone, R. 2008, 'Town Planning', Sydney Journal, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 11-23.
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From an accidental city without a plan, Sydney has become a city with many plans. Some would say too many, and there have been endless rounds of planning system reform since the 1980s. The central city and suburbs no longer grow âlike topsyâ but with the greater metropolitan area still being propelled by market forces towards a population of seven million by the mid twenty-first century, there are new sets of pressures around both old (development versus environment, local-state tensions, congestion) and new (affordability, social polarisation, impacts of climate change) problems which inescapably challenge the first Australian city and the one most connected to the global economy.
Ashton, P. & Hamilton, P.I. 2008, 'Places of the Heart: Memorials, Public History and the State in Australia Since 1960', Public History Review, vol. 15, pp. 1-29.
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Memorials as a form of public history allow us to chart the complex interactions and negotiations between officially endorsed historical narratives, public memorials, privately sponsored memorials in public spaces and new histories. As Ludmilla Jordanova reminds us, âthe state⦠lies at the heart of public historyâ. And this is evident in the public process of memorialisation. At one level, the state endorses certain narratives within which communities and organisations need to operate if they are to be officially part of the national story and its regional and local variants. Ultimate endorsement for memorials includes listings on heritage registers. Controls over the erection of memorials vary from official policies to process for the issue of permits for their construction in public places or their removal. The state, however, is not monolithic. Permissible pasts evolve over time given shifts in power and social and cultural change. This involves both âretrospective commemorationâ and âparticipatory memorialisationâ. The presence and power of the past in peoplesâ lives, too, means in practice that memorial landscapes will reflect, in truly democratic societies, the values, experiences and dominant concerns of its citizens.
Ashton, P. 2008, 'Suburban Sydney', Sydney Journal, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 36-50.
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Sydney has been described as a `City of Suburbs.1 Indeed, the process of suburbanisation is arguably one of the most important developments in Australias post-invasion history. Kilometre after kilometre of suburb has for decades dominated the cultural landscape of Sydney and other Australian capital cities, while suburbia has formed the heartland of the bourgeois ideology that has been dominant for more than two generations. Metropolitan Sydneys phenomenal suburban expansion during much of the twentieth century has been explored by a small number of urban historians.2 But the impact and importance of suburbanisation in and around Sydney by far the largest annual metropolitan investment item has still to attract the attention it deserves.344
Ashton, P., Brahmantyo, K. & Keaney, J. 2008, 'Renewing the New Order?: Public History in Indonesia', Public History Review, vol. 19, pp. 83-106.
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Ashton, P. & Hamilton, P.I. 2007, 'Facing facts? History wars in Australian high schools', Open to Interpretation, vol. 91, pp. 45-59.
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On 25 January 2006, on the eve of Australia Day--the day when the renegotiation of history in Australia is at its most symbolic and fraught--Prime Minister John Howard addressed the National Press Gallery. Halfway through his speech, Howard announced that the history wars, in which he had been prominent from time to time since 1996, were over. (1) The 'divisive, phoney debate about national identity', he reported, 'has been finally laid to rest'. (2) Fewer Australians, Howard contended, were now 'ashamed of Australia's past' than had been the case a decade earlier. In an unusually ironical tone, he went only a little way towards acknowledging the damage inflicted on Aboriginal
Ashton, P. & Cornwall, J.L. 2006, 'Corralling Conflict: The Politics of Australian Federal Heritage Legislation Since the 1970s', Public History Review, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 53-65.
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In August 1968, conservative National Party leader Joh Bjelke-Petersen became Premier of the state of Queensland. He referred to conservationists as these 'subversives, these friends of the dirt'. A generation later, few if any Australian politicians would have publicly attacked the environment and its supporters for fear of electoral damage. After years of major environmental battles which on occasion determined the fate of some governments, the environment had crashed through into mainstream politics. Natural and cultural heritage was firmly on local, state and federal political agendas. Heritage in Australia was also, by the 1990s, a substantial, multifaceted industry. Cultural and eco tourism generated a significant proportion of the country's gross domestic product. Along side and partially in response to industry, a heritage bureaucracy had developed. The corporatisation of heritage saw the rise in the 1980s and 1990s of a new generation of heritage professionals who attempted with varying degrees of success to place heritage assessment on a quasi-scientific footing. Perhaps their greatest achievement, in terms of cultural heritage, was gaining recognition in the 1990s for the vital importance of intangible heritage. Intangible heritage, or social value, inscribes objects and sites that cannot speak for themselves with cultural and social meanings. Since the 1980s, some more radical practitioners had been working to counteract the dominance of tangible remains of the past in determining cultural significance. This victory over empiricism, however, was in some respects to prove pyrrhic. Heritage conservation, as with some other heritage practices, was by the turn of the twenty-first century institutionally confined in its ability to represent conflict. This article charts the incorporation and corralling of heritage work at the federal level in Australia through a case study of the rise and fall of the Australian Heritage Commission.
Hamilton, P.I. & Ashton, P. 2003, 'At Home with the Past: Background and Initial Findings from the National Survey', Australian Cultural History, vol. 22, pp. 5-30.
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Ashton, P. 2001, 'Bringing the Bush and the City Together': The Agrarian Myth in Suburban Sydney', Studies in twentieth-Century Australian History, vol. NA, no. 1, pp. 23-40.
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Ashton, P. & Hamilton, P.I. 2001, 'On Not Belonging: Memorials and Memory in sydney', Public History review, vol. 9, pp. 23-36.
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Ashton, P. 2000, 'Our Splendid Isolation: Reactions to Modernism in Sydney's Northern Suburbs', UTS Review, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 41-50.
Ashton, P. 2000, 'Blood Money?: Race and Nation in Australian Public History', Radical History Review, vol. 1, no. 76, pp. 188-207.
This article survey's the place of race and nation in public and official histories of Australia from invasion until the 21st century.
Ashton, P., Connors, J., Goodall, H., Hamilton, P.I. & McCarthy, L. 2000, 'Australians and the Past at the University of Technology, Sydney', Public History Review, vol. 15, pp. 157-167.
Ashton, P. 1999, ''Repatriation Homes'?: Matraville Garden Village for Disabled Soldiers and War Widows', JAS, Australia's Public Intellectual Forum, vol. 69, no. 1, pp. 73-83.
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This article examines the treatment of disabled return soldiers and war widows in a model suburb, Matraville, after World War 1. It challenges previous interpretations of the experiences returned soldiers and widows of soldiers.
Ashton, P. 1997, 'Streetwise: Public History in New South Wales', Public History Review, vol. 5-6, no. 1, pp. 9-16.
An overview and analysis of the development of public history in NSW.

Non traditional outputs

Ashton, P. & Hamilton, P.I., 'Sydney Italian Fruit Shops', Customs House, Sydney.
This exhibition explores the history and meanings of Italian fruit shops in Sydney from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. For many Sydneysiders, the Italian Fruit shop is a retail icon that is part of a collective memory. For most of Sydneyâs large Italian population â over 44,500 Sydney residents were born in Italy â the fruit shop has played a vital role in the lives of relatives or friends. But the significance of the Italian fruit shop extends well beyond the Italian community. These shops helped to change Australian eating habits and had a tangible impact on the cultural landscape of many streets and suburbs. They were also the precursor of the present day green grocer and the inspiration for âretroâ fit outs of some contemporary fruit and vegetable shops. The romanticised image of the Italian fruiterer, complete with white apron, offering friendly customer service, has endured. Photographs of smiling fruiterer families, eager to present a picture of respectability, family unity and migrant success, belie the eighteen-hour days, the physical labour and financial risks and the familial and social sacrifices that had to be made for their âshop full of dreamsâ to succeed. This exhibition runs from 23 May to 30 September.