Asia-Pacific Economic and Business History Conference 2012

Event:Asia-Pacific Economic and Business History Conference 2012
Delegates:65 delegates from 15 countries
Destination:Canberra, Australia
Duration:16‒18 February 2012

Global headlines continue to be littered with news of economies grappling with the challenges of the current financial crisis.  This provided a fitting context for a meeting of economic and business historians from around the world who convened in Canberra in February 2012 for the Asia Pacific Economic and Business History Conference. 


The conference series, which has become one of the most important events of the year for the field of economic and business history in the region, has been convened annually since 2006 by the Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand.  Previous host cities have included those in the USA, Japan and New Zealand as well as Australia’s Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.


Local organising committee member, Associate Professor Pierre van der Eng, from the host organisation, Australian National University’s (ANU’s) College of Business and Economics, said he was pleased Canberra was chosen to host the conference for the first time.


“Canberra’s ANU has a longstanding reputation in the fields of economic and business history, as well as economics and business studies and the study of Asia and the Pacific. This means Canberra has a nucleus of academics in the field, which is somewhat rare given its specialist nature,” A/Professor van der Eng said.  


“We also have another drawcard here for economic historians – the Noel Butlin Archives Centre.  This is a nationally significant collection of primary source material relating to business and labour, a wonderful source for both academics and the community, and named in honour of Australia’s most celebrated economic historian.


“We attracted a quality series of presentations from specialists representing 15 countries, each with a unique take on the broad theme of ‘Economic Integration’.  The line-up included renowned economic historian, Professor Price Fishback from The University of Arizona, who delivered the keynote Noel Butlin lecture,” he said.  


“All of these aspects added to Canberra’s appeal for the 65 delegates who travelled here for the conference. We had the right environment to discuss and compare regional knowledge, thereby broadening the collective understanding of the historical evolution of societies and economies.”


A/Professor van der Eng said a highlight was the launch of the Centre for Economic History in the ANU College of Business and Economics. 


“The new Centre, which was launched during the conference by Secretary to the Treasury Dr Martin Parkinson, is a forum for quality research and discussion of economic history among academics, and an interface with the wider world,” he said.


It will add to ANU’s capacity to understand the deep drivers of economic developments and to influence domestic and regional policy debates.  We expect it will also help to reinvigorate interest in economic history, and act as a means to draw attention to the relevance of past economic history to present challenges.”


In addition to the formal program, conference participants took the opportunity to network with their colleagues during social functions.  The conference dinner, hosted at the ceremonial heart of ANU, University House, was particularly popular.  While weather may have affected the entertainment in the gardens on the evening, it did not dampen the exceptional dining experience for guests among the venue’s heritage-listed architecture and décor.


Conference delegates could also opt to treat themselves to a series of world-class exhibitions on display in Canberra, which fortunately coincided with the conference.  These included “Renaissance: Raphael-Botticelli-Bellini-Titian, 15th & 16th Century Paintings” at the National Gallery of Australia; and “Handwritten: Ten Centuries of Manuscript Treasures” at the National Library of Australia.  Alternatively, delegates could opt for local tours, including a tour of Canberra city, visiting Parliament House, Mount Ainslie lookout, the Australian War Memorial, and the embassy area.


A/Professor van der Eng said the field of business and economic history received a much needed boost as a result of the conference.


“The conference will help to reinvigorate our field.   Something very important to academia is the publication of papers, and I believe we will see quality papers published as a result of the conference, which will help advance our collective understanding.  This coupled with the launch of the new Centre are excellent outcomes.” he said. 

The conference will help to reinvigorate our field. Something very important to academia is the publication of papers, and I believe we will see quality papers published as a result of the conference, which will help advance our collective understanding.

A/Professor van der Eng