Keeping the past alive earns Griffith historian high honour

Dr William Metcalf.

A commitment to research spanning four decades has seen a Griffith University history expert awarded a high honour by the Royal Historical Society and the Professional Historians Association (Qld) Inc.

Adjunct lecturer Dr Bill Metcalf of the School of Environment and Science has been awarded the 2018 John Douglas Kerr Medal of Distinction in Researching and Writing of Australian History, by the Queensland Governor, Paul de Jersey.

Stephen Sheaffe (President of the Royal Historical Association), Professor Ruth Kerr (widow of the historian, John Kerr, after whom the award is named), Dr Bill Metcalf, Paul de Jersey (Queensland Governor) and Dr Tim Roberts (President of the Professional Historians Association).

Dr Metcalf was honoured for his impressive body of research and writing that has advanced the study of Queensland and Australian history most notably through his investigation of utopian communalism in Australia, a project he commenced in 1980.

“I came to Griffith in 1980 and ever since my field of interest has been intentional communities, and people might say it’s a phenomenon of the 1970s and I thought the same,” Dr Metcalf said.

“But I began to dig a bit deeper and retrained as a social historian then started doing the research and found an amazing range of groups. In the 1890s there were more people living in communes than there were in the Labor party.

“Now it has evolved into ecovillages and cohousing in the modern age. The majority don’t last two years, but it’s a growing movement that is becoming more urban than rural.”

Profiling the histories of Toohey Forest – where the Griffith Nathan campus is based – and the Griffith Film School in South Brisbane are among Dr Metcalf’s local projects.

Throughout his academic career, Dr Metcalf has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring the next generation of historians can produce work of high scholarly standard.