Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Associate Professor Tanya Evans


PhD University of London
MA Women's History, University of Londonmhpir-TANYA EVANS_New
MA (Hons) University of Edinburgh

Office: AHH Building, South Wing, Level 2
Phone: +61 2 9850 8875

Director of the MRes program and Director of the Centre for Applied History
Steering Committee Delegate in the International Federation of Public History


I am a public historian who specializes in the history of the family, motherhood, poverty and sexuality. I am passionate about researching ordinary people and places in the past and co-creating historical knowledge with diverse communities.

My first three books were about the history of 'illegitimacy', poverty and philanthropy. My third book Fractured Families: Life on the Margins in Colonial New South Wales was a history of Australia's oldest surviving charity The Benevolent Society and I wrote this in collaboration with family historians and the charity. I love teaching and producing public history and working in teams. I curate exhibitions, write for general as well as academic readers, politicians and social policy makers and I make radio and television programs based on my scholarship. I pitch my work at a variety of audiences because my research is targeted at disrupting people's assumptions about the history of the family. It questions supposedly 'authoritative' or 'commonsensical' knowledge about family life in the past. I am committed to the democratization of historical knowledge. My last book was published by New South and is a community history of the Spit Swimming Club at Balmoral Beach. I have just finished writing a history of motherhood in Australia from the Dreaming to the Present for the National Library of Australia and I am continuing to research and write about the different ways in which family history is practiced in Australia, England and Canada.

I am Director of the Centre for Applied History:

The Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations (with colleagues in MMCS, Geography and Planning, Business and Economics and Ancient History) at Macquarie University recently established the Centre for Applied History to build linkages with community and industry partners and explore the production and consumption of history outside of universities.

It aims to highlight the role of historical knowledge in shaping public policy, and the uses of history in the development of key institutions and within diverse communities. At a time when government and public policy formation is under increased scrutiny and challenge, the Centre aims to provide an historically informed perspective on contemporary public policy issues. The Centre will promote greater awareness of the context of current decision making, and highlight the vital role of longstanding social and industrial organisations in promoting community welfare and inclusive policy outcomes.

The Centre will draw upon Macquarie University's nationally and internationally recognised research and teaching strengths in the field of applied history, including family history,

digital history and eResearch, cultural heritage, museums, oral history, consultancy work, history and policy, television, radio, community, regional and local history. 

To engage with us please contact me or email

Current Research Projects

Keeping it in the Family? Family history and historical consciousness in Australia, England and Canada since 1901.

Research Funding and Fellowships

  • 2016-2017 State Library NSW Library Fellowship
  • July 2012-July 2013 Macquarie University New Staff Grant
  • Oct 2008-Oct 2011 Research Fellow, Department of Modern History, Macquarie University
  • Oct 2004-Dec 2007 Research Fellow, Centre for Contemporary British History, Institute of Historical Research (IHR), University of London working on 'Unmarried Motherhood in England and Wales, 1918-1995'.
  • July 2003-Sep 2003 British Academy Small Research Grant awarded for research in Sydney on 'Motherhood in Early-Colonial Australia'.
  • Oct 2002-Dec 2002 British Academy Small Research Grant awarded for research in New York and Harvard on 'The Language of the Poor in Eighteenth-Century England'.
  • Oct 2001-Oct 2002 Past and Present Postdoctoral Research Fellow, IHR.
  • Oct 2000- Oct 2001 Scouloudi Fellow, IHR.
  • Oct 1999- Oct 2000 Economic History Society Postan Fellow, IHR.


I am happy to supervise projects on the social and cultural history of Australia and Britain from the eighteenth century especially the history of the family, gender, sexuality and poverty. I am especially interested in supervising projects on public history and the practice and meanings of family history.

Current PhD Students

Completed and Awarded: 

Pip Gale, The Medical and Social History of the Craniotomy in British Obstetrics between 1800 and 1920 (awarded 2015)
Cameron Nunn, Children in Chains: The Transportation of Juvenile Convicts 1787-1834 (awarded 2018)


Jennifer McClaren, 'Irish Engagement with the British Caribbean, 1780-1830'.
Melanie Burkett, 'Impressions That Stick: A Critical Examination of Assisted Immigrants' Much Maligned Reputation'
Marian Lorrison, 'Love and Other Bruises: Marriage and Infidelity Across a Time of Change'.
Michael Nicholls, 'Masculinity and the Millions Club in Interwar Australia, 1919-1939'
Rachel McMullan, The Mullanes: A trans-generational, collective biography of an ordinary 'Australian' family (MPhil)

Membership of Professional Bodies

Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (UK)

Selected Publications


  • ed) Swimming with the Spit: 100 Years of the Spit Amateur Swimming Club (New South, 2016)


  • Fractured Families: Life On The Margins in Colonial New South Wales  (University of New South Wales Press Ltd, 2015)Book cover


Winner of the NSW Premier's History Award for Community and Regional History - $15000 Judges' report: 'As well as being a history of the marginalised and impoverished in colonial NSW, it examines the methodologies and motivations of public history and family history. These are weighty and, at times, conflicting aims. Tanya Evans weaves the two together effortlessly, allowing the reader to consider the process and motivations of historical research






with Pat Thane, Sinners, Scroungers, Saints: Unmarried Motherhood in Modern England (Oxford University Press, 2012) Book cover Sinners, Scroungers, Saints






'Unfortunate Objects': Lone Mothers in Eighteenth-Century London (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).This is an image of the book cover Unfortunate Objects.

with Pat Thane (eds.), Special Issue of Women's History Review on Lone Mothers (2011)


  • Bringing Up Baby - Australian Motherhood from the Dreamtime to the Present  (National Library of Australia, 2019)
  •  'Genealogy and Family History', David Dean (ed.), Companion to Public History (Wiley Blackwell, to be published late 2016).
  •  'Feminism and Family History, Andrew Gritt and Martin Sciolan, (eds), The Future of Family History (2016)



'Swimming with the Spit: Feminist Oral Sport History and the Process of 'Sharing Authority' with Twentieth-Century Female Swimming Champions in Sydney' 'The International Journal of the History of Sport', 2016, pp. 1-20.

'Working towards the 'welfare of the world: British imperial networks of philanthropy in the nineteenth century', History Australia, 13, 1, 2016, pp. 109-123.

'Who do you think you are?' Historical Television Consultancy', Australian Historical Studies, Autumn 2015.

'The Meanings and Experiences of Single Mothers in nineteenth-century Sydney', invited submission for a Special Issue on 'Illegitimacy in an International Context', Annales de Demographie Historique, 2014. Journal Impact factor (2016)

'Family History, Public History and Identity: Writing a History of The Benevolent Society in its 200th year', Special Issue of Journal of Australian Studies, June 2013. (Google Scholar: 4, Scopus: 2, Web of Science: 1), Journal Impact Factor (2016): 0.233, SJR: 0.143, SNIP: 0.484).

Co-edited Special Issue of Australian Historical Studies on Biography and Life-Writing, April 2012.

With Pat Thane, co-edited Special Issue of Women's History Review on Lone Mothers (2011).

'The Use of Memory and Material Culture in the History of the Family in Colonial Australia', Journal of Australian Studies, vol. 36, no. 2, June 2012. Highly commended for the Barrett Prize awarded to the best article published in the journal that year,

''The Other Woman and her Child': Extra-Marital Affairs and Illegitimacy in Twentieth-Century England', Women's History Review, 2011.

'Secrets and Lies': The Radical Potential of Family History', History Workshop Journal, 2011.

''Unfortunate Objects': London's Unmarried Mothers in the Eighteenth Century', Gender and History, 17:1, 2005, pp. 127-153.


'Enhancing student engagement through flipping: a case study in Australian History', The History Teacher, Society for History Education affiliate of American Historical Association, accepted 13 Dec 2016


Book Chapters

'Family History and Genealogy', David Dean (ed.), Companion to Public History (Wiley Blackwell Companion, 2018)

with Anna Clark, 'Family history and transnational historical consciousness,' in Anna Clark, Sophie Loy-Wilson and Alecia Simmonds (ads), Transnationalism, Nationalism and Australian History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)

Knowledge and Experience, 1750 to the present', in Sarah Toulalan and Kate Fisher (eds.), The Routledge History of Sex and the Body in the West, 1500 to the present (Routledge, 2013)

'Stopping the Poor Getting Poorer: The Establishment and Professionalisation of Poverty NGOs, 1945-1995', in Matthew Hilton, Nick Crowson and James McKay (eds.),NGOs in Contemporary Britain: Non-state Actors in Society and Politics since 1945 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

'Women, Marriage and the Family', in Hannah Barker and Elaine Chalus (eds.), Women's History Britain, 1700-1850 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

'Blooming Virgins all Beware': Love, Courtship, and Illegitimacy in Eighteenth-Century English Popular Literature', in Alysa Levene, Thomas Nutt, Samantha Williams (eds.), Illegitimacy in Britain, 1700-1920 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).


Other Publications



Podcast filmed as part of the History Council's Speaker Connect Program for History Week 2012,


Historical Consultancy


'Going the Distance at the Spit': Mosman Library, April 2017.

Guest Curator for Sinners, Scroungers, Saints: Lone Mothers Past and Present, The Women's Library, London Metropolitan University, 17 October 2007-29 March 2008.

Critics' Choice in Time Out and The Times.

Museum and NGOs

  • Consultant for the Foundling Museum in London
  • NGOs
  • Consultant to The Benevolent Society of NSW
  • Consultant to The Royal Hospital for Women, Randwick
  • Consultant to Gingerbread
  • Consultant to Professor Margaret Esiri who is compiling an edited version of her mother's diary. Doreen Bates (Margaret's mother) was a single mother of twins and a British Second-World War Mass Observation diarist to be published by Penguin late 2016.


  • Consultant for Artemis producing the Australian series of 'Who Do You Think You Are?', Series 3 and 4 (continuing).
  • Consultant to Helen Sage producing 'Jamelia: Shame about Single Mums.' Broadcast 29 August 2011, BBC 3.
  • Consultant for Steve Humphries, Executive Producer of Testimony Films for a series for BBC 4 on the 'History of Fatherhood in Twentieth-Century Britain.'
  • Consultant for Liz Dyson, Ricochet, for a documentary on 'Attitudes to Lone Mothers from the 1970s.'
  • Interviewee and consultant for a documentary on Arthur Munby and Hannah Cullwick entitled Upstairs, Downstairs Love, produced by Granada Television broadcast on Channel 4, 23 June 2008.
  •  Interviewee and consultant for a documentary on Thomas Coram entitled The Man who Saved Children, produced by RDF Media and shown on Channel 4, 17 April 2003.



Conference and Seminar Organisation

  • Symposium on The History and the Media, SLNSW, September 2013.
  • Symposium on The History of Voluntary Action and the Family in Britain and Australia, 30 November 2012, Macquarie University.
  • Symposium for History Week on Threads, SLNSW, 11 September 2012.
  • Symposium on Histories of Motherhood in Australia, SLNSW, 29 September 2011.
  • Symposium for History Week on EAT History - food and drink in the past, 7 September 2011.
  • Symposium on the Centenary of International Women's Day, SLNSW, 8 March 2011.
  • Symposium for History Week on Faces in the Street - Biography and Life History, 6 September 2010.
  • Symposium for History Week on Scandals, Crime and Corruption at the State Library of New South Wales, 9 September 2009.
  • Symposium on Lone Motherhood held at The Women's Library, 23 November 2007.
  • Voluntary Action in Britain since 1900, Centre for Contemporary British History Annual Conference, 30 June 2006 on the History of Voluntary Organisations.
  • Convenor of the Postgraduate Seminar and the Gender and History Seminars at the IHR 1997-2002.

Other Professional Activities

Executive Committee Member and  President of the History Council of New South Wales. 
Executive Committee Member and  Vice President of the History Council of New South Wales. 
Editorial and Management Committee Member of the Australian Policy and History Website. 
Committee Member of the Sydney branch of the Australian Women's Archive Project.


MHIS306 Making Public Histories - PACE unit
MHIS302 Australian History Since 1901 -
MHIS204 The Origins of Modern Australia
MHIS114 The World Since 1945: An Australian Perspective
MHIS744 Making Histories Public
MHIS703 Public History Internship

For more information about research, teaching and other scholarly activities go to Tanya Evans's Research Hub profile at