Molesworth Street: A North Melbourne Neighbourhood 1840-1905

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Molesworth Street: A North Melbourne Neighbourhood 1840-1905
by Winsome Roberts

Annals of Hotham Volume 3
Hotham History Project
North Melbourne, 2002.

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Summary: Molesworth Street focuses on the making of an inner city neighbourhood between 1840-1905 that submerged native bushland. Painstaking archival research reconstructs European colonisation. A micro-history, it tells the story of families, households and businesses that made up the streets of the neighbourhood and the municipal enterprise and voluntary associations they forged and joined. In a society where possession of privilege and social status correlated with degrees of residential elevation, this neighbourhood of hill and valley, also paints a social landscape. Those who commanded the resources to live on the Hill led very different lives to those on its slopes and in the valley. It is a history that shows the rawness of colonisation. There is no place here for nostagia. Making Molesworth Street’s neighbourhood involved displacement, dispossession and arrogation. Clamour and dissent were as pronounced as the cultivation of civic virtue. Restlessness was as omnipresent as the cultured strictures of respectability that ordered settler society. Desperation and inspiration were each a part of a cultural cacophany carved into the contours of Old Melbourne.

Bio: Winsome Roberts has an Honours Degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Western Australia and a Doctorate in Political Science from the University of Melbourne. A daughter of the western wheatlands and its sandplains, she now lives with her two sons in a North Melbourne Victorian terrace-house. An academic, policy advisor and a long-time community activist, her research focuses on extra-parliamentary politics. Co-author of ‘Australians and Globalisation’ (CUP, 2001), she is currently researching a book on citizenship with Brian Galligan.