Aldrich, Robert 1954–
Aldrich, Robert 1954–
(Robert Joseph Aldrich)
PERSONAL: Born July 29, 1954, in New York, NY; immigrated to Australia, 1981; son of Chester Robert and Frances Aldrich. Education: Emory University, B.A., 1975; Brandeis University, M.A., 1978, Ph.D., 1980.
CAREER: Boston College, Boston, MA, instructor, 1979–80; Washington University, St. Louis, MO, Mellon fellow, 1980–81; University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, lecturer, 1981–84, associate professor, 1984–2005, professor of European history, 2005–, and department chair. Harvard University, lecturer, summers, 1980, 1981.
AWARDS, HONORS: Ordre des Palmes Académiques, 2002.
Economy and Society in Burgundy since 1850, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1984.
(Editor, with John Connell, and contributor) France in World Politics, Routledge (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor) France: Politics, Society, Culture and International Relations, Department of Economic History, University of Sydney (Sydney, Australia), 1990.
The French Presence in the South Pacific, 1842–1940, University of Hawaii Press (Honolulu, HI), 1990.
(Editor) France, Oceania, and Australia: Past and Present, Department of Economic History, University of Sydney, 1991.
(Editor, with Garry Wotherspoon) Gay Perspectives: Essays in Australian Gay Culture, Department of Economic History, University of Sydney, 1992.
(With John Connell) France's Overseas Frontier: Départements et Territoires d'Outre-mer, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1992.
France and the South Pacific since 1940, University of Hawaii Press (Honolulu, HI), 1993.
The Seduction of the Mediterranean: Writing, Art, and Homosexual Fantasy, Routledge (New York, NY), 1993.
(Editor) Gay Perspectives II: More Essays in Australian Gay Culture, Department of Economic History, University of Sydney (Sydney, Australia), 1994.
Greater France: A History of French Overseas Expansion, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.
(Editor, with Isabelle Merle, and contributor) France Abroad: Indochina, New Caledonia, Wallis and Fu-tuna, Mayotte, Department of Economic History, University of Sydney (Sydney, Australia), 1997.
(With Connell) The Last Colonies, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1998.
(Editor, with Garry Wotherspoon) Gay Perspectives IV: Studies in Australian Culture, Department of Economic History, University of Sydney (Sydney, Australia), 1998.
(Editor, with Martyn Lyons) The Sphinx in the Tuileries and Other Essays in Modern French History, Department of Economic History, University of Sydney (Sydney, Australia), 1999.
(Editor, with Wotherspoon) Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History: From Antiquity to World War II, Routledge (New York, NY), 2002.
(Editor, with Wotherspoon) Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: From World War II to the Present Day, Routledge (New York, NY), 2002.
Colonialism and Homosexuality, Routledge (New York, NY), 2003.
Vestiges of the Colonial Empire in France: Monuments, Museums, and Colonial Memories, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2005.
(Editor) Gay Life and Culture: A World History, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 2006.
(Editor) Age of Empires, Thames & Hudson (London, England), 2007.
SIDELIGHTS: Robert Aldrich is a professor of European history at the University of Sydney and a specialist on French colonial history. He has published numerous books that fall within the larger subject of European and colonial history, and he has also produced several books on gay studies.
France in World Politics reflects the interests Aldrich would pursue in later works. According to a Choice reviewer, the book's three main strengths are the "introduction … [which] is a useful summary of France's main foreign-policy problems; the treatment of France and the Third World is solid; and the chapters on francophonie offer intelligent insights."
In The French Presence in the South Pacific, 1842–1940, Aldrich reviews how the area was targeted by French missionaries, then followed by French military and business interests. Within this context, he covers numerous small territories, such as the Establissements Français d'Océanie (now French Polynesia), New Caledonia, Wallis, Futuna, and the New Hebrides, which were colonized with the hope of uncovering natural resources. Aldrich concludes that, while trying to compete with England and the United States in empire-building, France's actions in the South Pacific were not carefully conceived.
Both the methods and content of the book were well-received by critics. History reviewer James W. Haley said that Aldrich "thoroughly traces the interrelationship between these islands, their inhabitants, their colonists, their neighbors, and metropolitan France for the period ending in 1940." In the American Historical Review, Kim Munholland wrote: "This book can be admired as a model of historical synthesis. It is thorough, careful in its judgments, analytical in approach, and based both on wide reading of the secondary literature and on original archival research. Above all, it is balanced and detached in the best sense of historical scholarship." Munholland further noted that the author is "evenly critical of the settlers, of the missionaries, and of administrators who felt themselves condemned to Pacific exile" and that he "made good use of approaches by cultural anthropology to interactions between settler and indigenous populations."
The post-1940 period is the subject of France's Overseas Frontier: Départements et Territoires d'Outre-mer. The geographic span of the book is wider than the South Pacific, and it considers the postcolonial period when France had withdrawn from most of its overseas possessions. The Départements d'Outre-mer (DOMs) and Territoires d'Outre-mer (TOMs) discussed include French Guiana, Guadaloupe, Martinique, Reunion, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, the Terres Australes et Antartiques Francaises, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and Mayotte. The book shows the insularity of these places as well as their diversity. A Journal of Economic Literature contributor noted that the book "examines the history, politics, and contemporary socioeconomic structure of France's remaining overseas empire." A Choice reviewer called it the "first comprehensive survey of the DOMS-TOMs" and "a needed and valuable addition to collections" on the French empire. The reviewer also found that the range of information discussed made the book valuable to several disciplines.
As editor of France, Oceania, and Australia: Past and Present, Aldrich worked with contributors who were affiliated with universities from the South Pacific islands, France, England, Australia, and the United States. The subjects of their papers include educational history, penal colonization, Pacific perceptions of France, and political activism in New Caledonia. Writing for Contemporary Pacific, Alan Ward described the collection by saying it represented "much of the best recent scholarship on French territories in the Pacific."
Aldrich analyzes France's attitude toward decolonizing in the South Pacific in France and the South Pacific since 1940. In comparison to its neighbor and traditional rival, England, France has been slow to decolonize. Aldrich looks at how different territories have had contrasting responses to the prospect of political independence, due in part to geographical distance and ethnic diversity. Notably, French Polynesia and New Caledonia vary greatly in political climate, with the first experiencing autonomy since the 1970s and the latter struggling with bitter division between immigrants and the indigenous Kanaks.
Jack Hayward, writing for the Times Literary Supplement, called France and the South Pacific since 1940 a "well-documented and detached treatment of the emergence of movements for political independence." Hayward noted Aldrich's restraint in drawing conclusions from the events he described: "His circumspection serves him well when considering the exponents of the rather extravagant geopolitical speculations about the significance of these French possessions in a 'scramble for the Pacific.'" A Choice writer valued the study because Aldrich not only presents the history of various French oceanic territories, but also places them within a larger historical context. The reviewer predicted, however, that Aldrich's assertion that "France's policy of attempting to retain its island possessions … has been at least as successful for all concerned as has Britain's hasty withdrawal will certainly be controversial." In the American Historical Review, Raymond F. Betts admired the author's work but had some reservations about his language and style. While Betts described the book as containing "a wealth of information, political and economic, statistical and anecdotal," he also found that it was "not written with the charm and sensitivity to local color" of other studies and that it "often contains 'macro' language to describe 'micro' situations."
Taking a wider look at the French empire in Greater France: A History of French Overseas Expansion, Aldrich focuses on the impact of colonial events and culture in France, as well as on the individuals who affected French policies. For example, the impact of the Algerian war on both the French and Algerians is considered. The book also features political maps and a bibliographical essay. A Choice critic called Greater France "a comprehensive and effective synthesis" of information and valued it for "[providing] a historical dimension to contemporary events." James E. Blackburn commented in the French Review that "the prose is clean, clear, engaging, and intelligently organized." Blackburn observed that Aldrich "accomplishes the challenging task of compressing the history of a massive colonizing and civilizing effort into a study of modest dimensions…. [with] satisfactory orientation of the players, places, and periods involved in creating and dismembering the French Empire."
The Last Colonies presents the status of the colonies that remained at the end of the twentieth century. Many have or had interesting economic or geographic situations. For example, the British Virgin Islands had, at the time of Aldrich's study, 17,000 residents and 178,000 registered companies; the Cook Islands are the last place open for business during the international trading day. The authors show that these places do not have much in common, except that they are mostly tiny island states and that most do not favor independence. There can be considerable economic advantages to colonial status; therefore, their common goal is not decolonization but rather the end of their inferior treatment as colonies.
Bernard Porter reviewed the book for the Times Literary Supplement, commenting: "It is full of the unusual and the exotic: ingredients that have always been sought by the—at any rate Western—imagination, but have been diminishing rapidly as globalization has proceeded apace." Porter further noted that a considerable amount of the information is "material and statistical" and that the book's appendix on fifty-two dependent territories "will be an invaluable reference resource for travellers, scholars, writers, politicians, and diplomats." The reviewer concluded that the book was proof of the fact that "we are all cogs in the world capitalist machine; some just happen to be smaller than others."
Aldrich has also published several books on gay issues. With Garry Wotherspoon, he edited Gay Perspectives: Essays in Australian Gay Culture, which he offered as proof that gay studies had "come of age" in Australia. In the Australian Book Review, Mark Peel called Ald-rich's opening text an "excellent introduction" and identified Aldrich's guiding message to scholars as a "mandate that our subject must be both gay men and the heterosexual matrix that confines them." Peel found that "this collection shows that gay studies have already covered significant ground in Australia, not the least in its insistence that sexual diversity no longer be written out of history or submerged in patronising inflections of Mardi Gras picturesque."
Aldrich's analysis of gay themes in literature and art was the subject of The Seduction of the Mediterranean: Writing, Art, and Homosexual Fantasy. Aldrich identi-fies the Mediterranean as a mythological place of gay sexual fulfillment since the 1750s. Using works from as early as ancient Greece, he shows how this idea was represented in writing, paintings, and photography. He also explains how this ideal was deflated by the gay rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Among Aldrich's leading literary examples is Thomas Mann's novel Death in Venice, and he goes on to examine some forty other works. Many of the writers cited are Europeans who left their native countries to live in the Mediterranean.
Response to The Seduction of the Mediterranean was mixed. Jonathan Keates remarked in the Observer that Aldrich "quite rightly invokes Mann's book as its point of departure" and that "among the distinguished punters—Corvo, Wilde, Forster and others—whom Aldrich parades, an almost monotonous consistency of aim and ideal establishes itself." Keates did not find that the author's approach succeeded: "The trouble with this book is that by concentrating too heavily on the minutiae of these case studies, it never quite validates its subject." He concluded: "However immaculately researched and elegantly presented, the whole never adds up to the sum of its parts." In the Journal of Historical Geography, Adrian Rifkin also questioned Aldrich's methods and results. "At each stage of his exposition Aldrich is at pains to suggest the ways in which texts and images appropriate the model and mythical ideals of the ancient Mediterranean," Rifkin remarked. In Library Journal, Bryan Aubrey called the book "original and well-researched" and remarked that "Aldrich breaks new ground by revealing a unifying thread in homosexual culture long before the modern term subculture was invented."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, February, 1991, review of France in World Politics, p. 305; October, 1991, Kim Munholland, review of The French Presence in the South Pacific, 1842–1940, p. 1163; December, 1995, Raymond F. Betts, review of France and the South Pacific since 1940, p. 1593.
Australian Book Review, May, 1992, Mark Peel, review of Gay Perspectives: Essays in Australian Gay Culture, pp. 11-12.
Choice, March, 1990, W. Safran, review of France in World Politics, p. 1230; November, 1992, review of France's Overseas Frontier: Départements et Territoires d'Outre-mer, p. 523; September, 1994, C.J. Weeks, review of France and the South Pacific since 1940, p. 180; January, 1997, A.J.R. Russell-Wood, review of Greater France: A History of French Overseas Expansion, p. 854.
Contemporary Pacific, fall, 1991, Colin Newbury, review of The French Presence in the South Pacific, 1842–1940; fall, 1993, Alan Ward, review of France, Oceania, and Australia: Past and Present, pp. 469-472.
French Review, December, 1998, James E. Blackburn, review of Greater France, p. 351.
History, spring, 1991, James W. Haley, review of The French Presence in the South Pacific, 1842–1940, p. 130.
International Affairs, October, 1999, Keith Robbins, review of The Last Colonies.
International Review, November-December, 1992, James Kember, review of France's Overseas Frontier.
Journal of Economic Literature, December, 1992, review of France's Overseas Frontier, p. 2272.
Journal of Historical Geography, October, 1994, Adrian Rifkin, review of The Seduction of the Mediterranean: Writing, Art, and Homosexual Fantasy, pp. 473-475.
Library Journal, July, 1993, Bryan Aubrey, review of The Seduction of the Mediterranean, p. 80; October 1, 2001, David Azzolini, review of Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History.
Modern and Contemporary France, October, 1990, Jane Bryant, review of France in World Politics; November, 1997, John Hargreaves, review of Greater France.
New Zealand International Review, January, 1999, Malcolm McKinnon, review of The Last Colonies.
Observer (London, England), September 12, 1993, Jonathan Keates, review of The Seduction of the Mediterranean, p. 53.
Pacific Islands Monthly, January, 1994, W. Marvin Will, review of France's Overseas Frontier.
Times Higher Education Supplement, October 2, 1992, Robert C. Hudson, review of France's Overseas Frontier.
Times Literary Supplement, January 28, 1994, Jack Hayward, review of France and the South Pacific since 1940, p. 12; May 28, 1999, Bernard Porter, review of The Last Colonies, p. 30.