Studying Asian History in the Asian Century at Macquarie University


By Nathan Stormont

BA major in Modern History and Russian Studies

Outgoing PR Officer – Macquarie Asian Historical Research Society (MAHRS)


Asia is, by all accounts, a very big place.

A quick glance at any map will reveal its extremities: stretching from the Ural Mountains in the west to the Pacific coast in the east, from the Arctic tundra to the Indian Ocean, the Eurasian landmass presents the biggest landmass on Earth, and is home to a smorgasbord of different cultures, religious beliefs, customs and peoples.

However, is geography the best indicator? How does it explain why Hungarians, deep in the heart of central Europe, speak an Asian language, while Russian—a European language—is spoken on the Pacific coast? Ask a European where Asia begins, and they will tell you the road east from Vienna; ask a Russian, and they will fiercely defend their European status. And what of Oceania and Australia’s place in the Eastern Hemisphere?

Defining Asia becomes very important as we move into what is known as the ‘Asian Century’. Likewise, the history of these cultures, beliefs, customs and peoples has increased in its significance as a means to understanding their present and future.

At Macquarie University, the attempt to comprehend Asia is superbly tackled by a number of different academic departments, but also increasingly by students. In particular, the Macquarie Asian Historical Research Society (MAHRS) is a group open to all students at our university, from undergraduates to doctoral candidates. The Society provides a forum for discussions relating to Asian history and a platform to showcase different student and staff research.

Since its inception in 2009, MAHRS has expanded from a small but engaged group of PhD candidates and their supervisors to a fully affiliated student group. In particular, last year has seen the group grow more than double in size, with membership from all levels of student body.

The Society’s dedication to promoting of Asian Studies manifests in many ways. Most importantly, MAHRS actively encourages the submission of student research, in the form of book reviews, conference/seminar reports, museum exhibition reviews and reports from the field. In 2013, MAHRS is proud to announce that it will be awarding four prizes of $100 Co-op textbook vouchers to the best submissions from each of these categories.

MAHRS is hoping to host an exhibition of rare Chinese ink rubbings from the personal collections of Professor Daniel Kane and MAHRS president Lyndon Arden Wong at the university later this year.

Likewise, the Society is entertaining the possibility of a joint symposium with the Asian Arts Society of Australia (TAASA) at Powerhouse Museum, with proceedings to be published in the TAASA review.

So, if you are a student with an interest in the Eurasian-Pacific region, its histories, cultures, customs or peoples, please check out the Macquarie Asian Historical Research Society on our website at:, or Facebook page:

MAHRS hosts a series of monthly seminars on a range of topics provided by students and academics, with plenty of networking and discussion opportunities for staff and students.


Seminars for Session 1, 2013 (all held in W6A 107 at 6pm):

1) 12 March:

Terence Porter (MQ Hons.)

Kukai and the Eastward Transmission of the Buddhist World

2) 9 April (Ancient History Week Event):

Charles Moess (MRES Candidate)

What did the Hungarians learn from the Avars, the Slavs and the Byzantines before settling in the Carpathian Basin?

3) 23 April: 

Dr. Hyun Jin Kim (USYD DECRA Fellow)

The ‘Decline’ and ‘Fall’ of the Roman West from a Eurasian Perspective

4) 14 May:

Dr. Edward Bridge (MQ PhD)

Early Christianity: ‘Eastern’ or ‘Western’?

5) 4 June:

Tim Briscoe (MQ PhD Candidate)

Ancient Orientalism: Rome’s perspectives of Persia