Angus R. McGillivery is an arable and livestock farmer who lives with his wife Heather and their four children on a family farm in the south-west of the state of Victoria, Australia, in the hinterland district of the old port of Warrnambool. They live without mains electricity and the customarily taken-for-granted comforts and conveniences of modern city life; and they use a combination of horses and tractors to implement a restorative, mixed husbandry to breed and graze crossbred sheep for meat and wool production. Their mode of farming and living is not modern, but it could be, as Steven Stoll might say, postmodern.
In some respects, their circumstances are akin to the conditions depicted in the film, 'The Man From Snowy River' (directed by Geoff Burrowes and starring Tom Burlinson, Sigrid Thorton, Kirk Douglas, and Jack Thompson). This is one of the best loved and most successful Australian films made. It well depicts the horsemanship of many Australian riders as well as the ruggedness of life in the Australian bush. Whereas the film, 'The Farm' (directed by Kate Woods and starring Colin Friels and Greta Scacchi) is set in terms of the modern 'best practice' of the larger Australian wheat and sheep farms on the cleared pastoral plains. This film well depicts the complexities and struggles and pain of farming when the dust, dirt, and debt of drought and an over-reliance on borrowed money and industrial technology brings heartache to a farming community, and in particular, to a long standing family who take a financial institution to court for failing in its fiduciary relationship to its clients.
Angus combines his love of mixed-farming with his passion for history by researching in the Antipodean field of British settler agriculture and the teaching of Australian history at La Trobe University, Melbourne. He has taught history at all educational levels, and has been awarded several prizes for his scholarship, including Teaching Fellowships at La Trobe University and the Vernon Carstensen Memorial Award for the best article published in Agricultural History during 2004.
Angus's interest in agricultural is not a by-product of a prior academic interest in economic or social history. Rather, it is an extension and orchestration of his life as a farmer. Since Angus works daily and seasonally with the material cultural of the past, he is mindful of the underlying cultural continuity with the past despite the differences between past and present farming systems, their crops, their personnel, and their material cultures. The agricultural past is not a foreign country to Angus; it is a familiar field. Hence, Angus's current research interests focus on aspects of seeds, soils, and society in relation to themes of land, labor, and livestock that are associated with the historical continuities and discontinuities of mixed farming technologies since the Middle Ages.
However, it was Angus's appointment as an Associate Lecturer that especially encouraged him to be more attentive to the fruits of human actions and the ideas integral to those actions. Indeed, teaching students made Angus more perceptive of people's individual and corporate strivings to realize their goals and hopes, even when he thought that they were misguided or fanciful. Teaching a wide range of students and presenting history to popular audiences also enabled Angus to understand more fully the pattern of the unfinished story, and thereby be more focused about relating the struggles that are common to humanity to the making of a better historical understanding that leads to a better future.
Rhys Isaac's book, Landon Carter's Uneasy Kingdom: Revolution and Rebellion on a Virginia Plantation(Oxford University Press, 2004), has enriched this experience and the concomitant need to attend more to the beliefs of past mental worlds and the links to the material culture of daily life. Rhys's unfolding of the story about the timeless issues and stories that surrounded Landon Carter and which informed the passionate narrative of his diaries has furthered Angus's desire to understand the past so that he may know how to act wisely in the present. Indeed, Angus considers that an understanding of the public storms and private furies that undermined the foundations of Landon Carter's patriarchal world and plunged it into revolution should encourage all of us to examine and attend to the changes and continuities of our own stories. After all, as Rhys exhorts us in his 'First Words' to Landon Carter's Uneasy Kingdom, 'We must know where our world comes from, if we are to plot or it a better future.'