The Public Historian, Vol. 33, No. 3 (Summer 2011), pp. 58-69.
We think of New York as a global city, and that is an historical truism well-established, but it is equally true that the world city has been a notable place for the local history tradition. Enshrined in legislation, as far back as 1919, the resourcing for the work of New York local and state history is envy to the Brisbane historian as well as the Queensland historian. At the time of Kammen’s writing (2011), the network of employed historians numbered more than 1,350 people. The current membership of the Professional Historians Association (Queensland) is around 75 practitioners, made up of private history consultants, senior public servants, local government officers, and academic staff members. The reading also raises another important challenge, the distribution of those resources and attention across regional areas in the state. One imagines that the great city of New York overshadows the state of the same name. A recent Google measure showed that the numbers of Brisbane and Queensland history search terms are closely paralleled.i It is strangely odd for the Queensland historian that agrarianism has been a strong theme in its history; much of the attention in Queensland local history has turned to the major townships and cities. The strangeness, however, is mitigated by the singularly important fact of Australian demographics, that vast majority of Australians reside on the coastal rim. Hence, much that substantively explores local history across the state has to focus on urban development and the failure of decentralisation.
i The above graph measures the usage on Google of search terms for “Queensland History” (Blue) and Brisbane History (Red). The note on the graph simply says, “An Improvement in our geographical assignment was applied 1/1/2011.”
The way I interpret the data is that there has been close alignment in the measure of interest over the time of the last five years (approx. 2009-2015). In the previous five years (approx. 2004-2009) Queensland history has been more prominent in web-based interest. Overall, the interest in Queensland history is on average slightly more than that of Brisbane. However, the trend for the last decade has dramatically decreased for both Queensland and Brisbane history.
A note of caution in interpreting the pattern here is that those with professional or more scholarly interest are less likely to need to do search terms as broad as “Queensland/Brisbane History”. We are more likely to have specific websites bookmarked and use large online databases where these terms are not being picked up. Furthermore the measure relates to Google Trends and don’t account for other search browsers, although the data there would be marginal to what occurs through Google.
Hence, it would be very informative to understand where in the population are the search terms coming from, to be able to understand the motivations in the searches.
For further information, see https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=Queensland%20History%2C%20Brisbane%20History&geo=AU&cmpt=q&tz=