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Campus News : December 2012
DECEMBER 2012 CONNECT :UOW 9 CONNECT: ALUMNI MICHAEL MOLKENTIN Bachelor of Arts (Honours) 2004 Graduate Diploma in Education 2005 When Michael Molkentin enrolled at the University of Wollongong straight from high school in 2000, it took just one lecture to know he was on the right track for a career as a historian. Michael had enrolled in a BA, majoring in History, because he had enjoyed the subject as a student at Figtree High School and wanted to learn how to research and write about it. He obviously learned his lessons well, because 11 years later he is a noted historian, teacher and battlefield guide, as well as the author of two critically-acclaimed books about Australia’s aviation history. Allen & Unwin published his first book, Fire in the Sky: the Australian Flying Corps in the First World War in September 2010 while this year The National Library of Australia published his second book, Flying the Southern Cross: Aviators Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith. Michael’s research interests centre on wartime histories of Australia and other British dominions, with a focus on aviation and air power. He was a featured contributor on the ABC documentary Lost in Flanders and a consultant historian on Channel 9’s series In Their Footsteps. He has also published articles in various journals and magazines including The Journal of the Australian War Memorial, Wartime, Flightpath and Teaching History. He is also author of Zero Hour, an online resource for teaching First World War history. He has also taught high school to HSC History Extension level and guided tours to the Western Front and Korea for Mat McLachlan’s Battlefield Tours. “I can still remember my first lecture: HIST 108 War, Revolution and Dictatorship with Dr Stephen Brown,” Michael said. “I remember coming away thinking ‘this is exactly what I want to study’. “John McQuilton’s old third year course on Australians in the Great War was a really important one for me too. It introduced me to the subject I’ve pursued in my PhD (Australia’s contribution to the First World War) and exposed me to archival research for the first time. John supervised my Honours thesis in 2004 and taught me a whole lot about conceiving, shaping and managing a substantial research project. He’s a real asset to History education at the University.” When Michael finished his Honours thesis in 2004 he gained a summer internship in the Military History Section at the Australian War Memorial – an experience he describes as a “fantastic opportunity to hone the skills I’d started developing during the Honours year and a great introduction to some of Australia’s most eminent historians”. In 2005 he studied for a Graduate Diploma of Education and taught History and English at Shellharbour Anglican College from 2006-2009. While teaching he wrote Fire in the Sky, which built on his Honours research. “I’d always been interested in aircraft and, more especially, flying and pilots. I first came across the Australian Flying Corps in third year university while looking for a topic for my Honours thesis. I discovered that Australia had been the only dominion to field its own flying corps in the Great War, that there was a mass of unused material in the archives and that very little had been written on this topic since the publication of the official history in 1923.” Michael’s work on Fire In The Sky also attracted the attention of the National Library of Australia (NLA), which is publishing a series of books based on treasured documents in its collection with great significance to Australia’s history. “The managing editor read some favourable reviews for Fire in the Sky and decided that I was well suited to the job of using Charles Ulm’s 1928 trans-Pacific flight log to do a book for them,” Michael said. “I was keen to take it on as it allowed me to follow the story of Australia’s early fliers into the post-war years. Also, like most Australians I knew of Kingsford Smith, but I wanted to find out who this other Charles was and what his significance to the whole story was.” Michael said his latest book was largely based on the NLA’s collections of manuscript material for Kingsford Smith and Ulm as well as many of their contemporaries. “I also had the opportunity to meet and interview John Ulm, Charles’ 93-year-old son and himself a pilot who flew Spitfires on operations in the Second World War. That was a real treat,” he said. Michael is now undertaking PhD research as part of a project being managed by University of NSW Canberra historians - the Army’s Centenary of the Great War series, a set of five volumes that will reinterpret the involvement of Australia in the Great War 100 years on. He will adapt his thesis to provide the series’ first volume: Australia and the war in the air, 1914-1918. It will be published by Oxford University Press in 2014. In October Michael’s wife Melissa gave birth to their first child, a baby girl Harriet Ruth. “It seems there actually are more important things out there than History,” he joked. NH LOVE OF HISTORY TAKES FLIGHT Michael Molkentin with his book Flying The Southern Cross at the Historic Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Museum at Illawarra Regional Airport. Photo courtesy of Sylvia Liber (Illawarra Mercury). UOW 597 ConnectUOW.indd 9 UOW 597 ConnectUOW.indd 9 3/12/12 11:32 AM 3/12/12 11:32 AM